Apec should not inconvenience Filipinos–Fidel Ramos
The government could have avoided inconveniencing millions of Filipinos during the Philippines’ hosting of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit had the officials considered conducting the prestigious event in Clark or Subic, former President Fidel V. Ramos said.
Fidel Ramos, who was the president when the country first hosted the Apec Summit in 1996, said that Clark or Subic was the best option being the country’s booming investment hub outside the already congested Manila.
“The suggestion of some of us, who were not asked, we were just giving USA (unsolicited advice) because that is our job as elders of the country, is to do it at Clark because that is the twin component of our best platform for investment and inclusive growth – Subic and Clark,” Ramos said at the Veterans Day celebration in Taguig City last week.
Located in Central Luzon, Clark Freeport Zone and Subic Bay Freeport Zone are both former military bases converted into major duty-free and tax-free investment hub.
Equipped with international airports and well-connected thoroughfares, the port of Subic is one of the country’s busiest ports, while Clark is developing into an aviation and logistics hub.
The 1996 Apec Summit, which was participated by 18 member economies, was hosted in Subic by the Ramos administration.
Nineteen years later, the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III opted to host the economic event in the country’s capital, amid heavy traffic, numerous flight cancellations at Manila airports, and disruptions in the routines of the masses.
“[S]ana ang gobyerno ay huwag nang maglagay ng mga hadlang dahil sadly, the people are not enjoying the event because of so many obstructions, disruptions, restrictions, cancelled flights, traffic inhibition,” Ramos lamented.
“The people who are looking forward to an enjoyable hosting by the Philippines of Apec are being turned off.”
Thousands of passengers are affected as hundreds of flights in Manila airports were cancelled by local and international carriers to give way for the arrival of world leaders attending the summit.
Heavy traffic, road closures, and disruptions in the operations of train lines are also foreseen this week.
The government suspended classes and declared special non-working days in the National Capital Region to lessen the impacts of the event to the masses.
The public was advised to remain in their homes and avoid the Apec venues as the government tightened its security measures following the attacks in Paris, France.
‘Disappearing’ street dwellers, vendors
As the Apec week comes closer, numerous street-dwellers, beggars, and ambulant vendors whose day-to-day income heavily relies on the commuting public disappeared from the metro’s thoroughfares.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo earlier accused the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of plotting to conceal the street dwellers from the Apec’s foreign participants by offering them P4,000 to rent a temporary home.
DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman was quick to deny Pabillo’s accusation, saying that it is her agency’s year-round program to find shelter to homeless people.
Meanwhile, street vendors were also rounded up in an effort to decongest roads in anticipation of heavy traffic.
“Street vendors live by a hand-to-mouth existence. To deny them their daily earnings for three entire days without any alternative livelihood or government stipend is going to kill their families in a slow and painful manner,” Flor Santos, coordinator of Metro Manila Vendors Alliance said in a statement sent to INQUIRER.net.
The ambulant vendors claimed that local government units banned vending even in areas far from the routes and venues of Apec activities.
“As the Apec preaches to address inclusive growth, to the lowly vendors, these cruel measures are living proof that they contradict their own declarations. The three-day vending ban only exacerbates the poverty they intend to eradicate,” Santos added.
‘Apec is for everyone’
Saying he doesn’t want to be a Monday-morning quarterback, Ramos hopes that the public will cooperate with the government for the successful hosting of the Apec Summit.
“We should be a one country team helping to put Apec together because the people are the most interested stakeholders. Hindi lang ang mga opisyal sa Malacañang. Hindi lang ang mga pulis,” Ramos said.
“Tayo ang mga interesado na iyan ay maging matagumpay.”
Malacañang defended the P 10-billion hosting of the summit in Manila, saying it is the country that will benefit the most in the amount of investments that may pour because of Apec.
Asked why the Apec is being hosted in Metro Manila, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the metro has the logistic advantage.
“Manila can best accommodate the expected number of delegates. Around 7000 to 1000 ang delegates,” Valte told INQUIRER.net.
The Aquino administration also opted to conduct Apec activities in prime tourism and investment locations in the country like Iloilo, Cebu, Clark, Subic and Boracay Island.
The Palace also apologized for the inconvenience that the Apec hosting may bring to the public.
“While we are hosting, we continue to find opportunity on how to improve what we are doing. We are trying our best to have flawless, seamless and hassle-free hosting that our visitors will feel the warmth and hospital of the Filipinos and for them to know that ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines,” Communications Sec. Sonny Coloma said. Anthony Q. Esguerra/JE