Truly, 2015 has been a very memorable period for the whole Filipino community as we started the year with the Pontifical visit of Pope Francis and now we are ending the year with a blast, with the country hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting.
Established in the year 1989 through the leadership of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in Seoul, South Korea, the event has since been held annually, attended by each of the member economy’s head of state or prominent representatives. Members include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Canada, the United States, Chinese Taipei, Russia, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile and Vietnam. Furthermore, the event also welcomes key observers, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
APEC’s main objective is to provide and maintain a long lasting economic growth and prosperity for each of the Asia-Pacific region through economic cooperation. The group also adheres to Three Pillars, which include the trade and investment liberalization, the business facilitation and the Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH). Celebrated all year round starting with the ministerial meeting and ending with the APEC Leader’s meeting, the event also focuses on regional issues such as terrorism, climate change, human safety, global financial crisis, emergency preparedness and energy conservation and clean development.
HOSTING THE APEC SUMMIT
It’s the second time the country was given the privilege to host the summit. (The first one was in 1996). APEC Philippines 2015 was launched by President Benigno Aquino III during one of the group’s significant dinner meetings, held at Makati last December 8 and 9, 2014. Since then, many ministerial meetings have been held all year round in the country. Among the venues are Clark Freeport in Angeles, Pampanga and Subic Bay in Zambales where the first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM1) was hosted. Related meetings also took place from January 26 to February 7 in Boracay, Aklan where the second Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2) and related meetings and APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) are held from May 9 to 21 and May 23-24 respectively. Cebu City and Iloilo City are also used as venues especially for the third Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM3) and related meetings, the APEC Finance Ministers Meeting and other ministerial events.
Most recently, the APEC Economic Leaders’ was conducted last November 18 and 19 in the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay. With the theme “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World”, its main focus is to promote and advance comprehensive growth in the national, regional and macro-levels of each of the Asia-Pacific regions. Specific points discussed include Investing in Human Capital Development, encouraging Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in participating in regional and global markets, building sustainable and resilient communities and enhancing the regional economic integration agenda. The constituents also ponder on the issues of terrorism, climate change, poverty andthe need for continuous economic growth and world economic perspective.
Delegates who graced the event were Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Brunei Darussalam’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chile President Michelle Bachelet, China President Xi Jinping, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying, Indonesia Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Japan Prime Minister Shinz Abe, South Korea President Park Geun-Hye, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Peru President Ollanta Humala, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, former Taiwanese Vice President Vincent Siew, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, United States President Barack Obama, Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang.
Other events included during the leaders’ meeting are the CEO Summit held in Makati Shangri-La Hotel from November 16 to 18 and the dinner held in the SM Mall of Asia Arena on the 18th.
TWO CITIES. ONE GOAL
With the privilege of hosting the event, the country was also given the opportunity to showcase our potential as a growing nation and a country of cultural heritage. Two of the cities used in the conference were Manila and Makati.
One of the largest cities in the Philippines, Makati got its name during Governor-General Miguel López de Legazpi’s reign in the country. Today, it is known among the locals as the main business district, since many banks, corporations and foreign embassies are located in the area. Among the many edifices seen here is the Philippine Stock Exchange situated along Ayala Avenue, the Ayala Museum showcasing over a thousand pieces of pre-Hispanic relics, Shangri-La Hotel where APEC Philippines’ CEO Summit was held, and the Hagdang Bato whose antiquity dates back when General Emilio Aguinaldo crossed the area during the 1897 revolution.
Meanwhile, Manila, as many know, is the capital of the Philippines. The city is enclosed by the Manila Bay in the west, Quezon City and San Juan in the north, Mandaluyong in the east and Makati and Pasay in the south. Many of the metropolitan’s landmarks hold a historical tale that makes up its vibrant culture.
Among the many gems are Binondo, The Manila Hotel, University of Santo Tomas, and Tutuban. While Binondo is also known as Chinatown, historical records show it to be established in the year 1594 to serve as a residential area for the Chinese community. Its foundation was headed by Spanish Governor Luis Pérez Dasmariñas and is considered today as the world’s oldest Chinatown. Manila Hotel on the other hand was opened for public in 1912 and was once used by prominent individuals like General Douglas MacArthur, The Beatles, and President Richard Nixon. The University of Santo Tomas is known as of today as the largest university in Manila and was established in the year 1611. Meanwhile Tutuban was significant as the birthplace of Andres Bonifacio.
Also an iconic edifice everyone should never miss is the Manila City Hall. Located in Ermita, Manila, the building is designed by Antonio Toledo and was opened for public use in 1939. Its most distinct feature is the clock tower, iconic for its red face as well as a bell that is rung three times a day. It was finished in 1930 and is now considered as the largest clock tower in the country.
PRESENTING OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE
Other than these famous structures, two of the most historical edifices found in the capital are Intramuros, famous for being the Walled City, and the National Museum established in the year 1901.
Also known as Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas, National Museum is located along Padre Burgos Avenue and is under the ownership of the Philippine government. Aside from showcasing different significant artefacts, the museum also comprised of the National Planetarium constructed in the year 1974, the National Museum of Fine Arts designed in a classical architecture by Ralph Harrington Doane in 1918, the National Museum of Anthropology once known as the Museum of the Filipino People, and the on-going addition of the National Museum of Natural History set to be finished before the year ends.
Meanwhile, Intramuros is situated at the heart of Manila. First erected during the Spanish colonization, the Walled City’s main purpose is to protect the area from outside invasions.
Construction was headed by the Spanish engineer Leonardo Iturriano under the rule of Governor-General Santiago de Vera. While it’s seven bulwarks are the Tenerias, San Diego, San Lorenzo, Aduana, Plano, San Gabriel, and San Andres, its gates include Puerta del Parian, Puerta Almacenes, Puerta Sta, Lucia, Puerta de la Aduana, Puerta Isabel II, Puerta del Postigo, Puerta de Santo Domingo, and Puerta Real.
Today the area houses many institutions such as the Lyceum of the Philippines University, Mapúa Institute of Technology, and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Monuments that survived the war such as the Manila Cathedral, Aduana Building, and Casa Manila are seen up until today.
Moreover, a visit to Intramuros will not be complete without going to Fort Santiago. A fortress erected by the order of Miguel López de Legazpi, the edifice is a witness to many historical events as it was the place where the Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned before his execution in the year 1896 as well as once served as the war base of the Royal Navy during the British occupation. Fort Santiago also houses the Rizal Shrine where the different memorabilia of Jose Rizal during his lifetime are displayed for public viewing.
Aside from many sites seen in the cities of Manila and Makati, a trip to Palawan is also a must. Home of beautiful beaches and underground tunnels, Palawan is home to the native Palawano and Tagbanwa tribe. Among the favorite tourist spots in the island are the Coron Reefs, Ursula Island, El Nido Marine Reserve Park, and the world-renowned Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reef Marine Park. While Coron Reef is popular for its limestone cliffs and diving sites, Ursula Island is known for its vast migratory bird sanctuary. Meanwhile, visitors of El Nido Marine Reserve Park will have a good time by roaming around its white sand beaches and staying in the area’s highly recommended hotels and resorts. Take a boat ride as you enter the underground river of Puerto Princesa, declared today as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, and witness an exceptional marine biodiversity in Tubbataha Reef.
Wildlife sanctuaries of Calauit Game Preserve, Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area, and Rasa Island are also a must visit.
PAVING THE WAY
The Philippines truly is a magnificent country filled with both natural sceneries, cultural jewels and endearing people. We have proven ourselves as a nation after we welcomed Pope Francis in his Pontifical visit in January and hosting the APEC Summit in November. And now that the year is over, let’s enjoy the fruits of are labor by celebrating Christmas together with our loved ones. And with a smile in our faces, let us all hope for a better 2016.