MANILA, Philippines – The APEC Business Advisory Council Philippines (ABAC PH) will push a focused, four-point agenda to leaders and fellow businessmen as they join President Rodrigo Duterte and his top economic managers in the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea next week.

“We will take advantage of the avenues made accessible in APEC as its overall agenda is consistent with Philippine interests. Our continued engagement with APEC is critical in achieving the shared goal of inclusive and sustainable growth,” ABAC PH chair Tomas Alcantara said in the pre-APEC Summit meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry.

The agenda, developed with the guidance of DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, advances the following: (1) growing globally competitive MSMEs, (2) accelerating economic growth through infrastructure, (3) championing the services sector for a strategic global economy, and (4) harnessing digital innovation as the key to the future economy.

These areas, presented in the Council’s letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, are “strategic complements to the Philippine Development Plan, thus will create more businesses, generate more jobs, and increase incomes to further reduce poverty.”  The letter contains the relevant issues highlighted by ABAC PH from the recommendations of key private sector representatives in the region to APEC Leaders, listed in the 2018 ABAC Report to Leaders.

ABAC PH will focus on the four-point agenda in their dialogue with APEC Leaders and in discussions with their private sector counterparts in the region. The council will also use the APEC platform to put the Philippine agenda on the map in APEC’s priorities for 2019 and beyond.

Secretary Ramon Lopez noted that APEC will help in addressing issues at home.

“APEC priorities support the Philippine agenda. Open trade and investment, infrastructure, and innovation will strengthen our industries especially our MSMEs, and the services sector. Physical and digital infrastructure connectivity will ensure efficient delivery of goods and services, and help address the availability and affordability of items such as food.”

APEC is the most important multilateral and non-binding trade forum for the Philippines. In 2017, it accounted for 84% of total trade of the Philippines with the world; with exports to APEC making up for 82% of total exports, amounting to USD 56.3B.

Structural and regulatory reform remains key, however, in unleashing the potential of the Philippines’ cooperation with other economies – such as in APEC.

According to Mr. Alcantara, “For the Philippines, at the end of the day, the issue is competitiveness. While fiscal reforms are being deliberated as we speak a lower-hanging fruit that should be urgently addressed is red tape. If we make advances on ease of doing business for foreign and local firms, big and small, that will have tremendous impact to generating jobs and increasing incomes.”

The government looks forward to gains from recently enacted reforms. “On addressing red tape, we expect the implementation of the new Ease of Doing Business law with the establishment of the Anti-Red Tape Authority and the Central Business Portal will significantly reduce the processing time for business permits, applications and other transactions with government,” Secretary Lopez said.♦

Date of release: 09 November 2018