The culminating activities of the second-to-the-last leg of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (Apec) ministerial and financial meetings in Cebu were a joy to behold. A veritable feast of sights and sounds awaited more than 3,000 delegates who flew to Cebu.
For the show on Sept. 10, the Marquee Ballroom, Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa, was transformed into a tropical paradise, with the brilliant stage design of renowned scenographer Gino Gonzales.
“Floy Quintos, the director, wanted a very tropical look. So we lifted the images from the surroundings of Mactan and Shangri-La Hotel. The anahaw, the banana leaves, even the malunggay leaves—all endemic to the island. So it’s simply quoting from the surroundings of the venue,” says Gonzales.
ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Salonga, interpreted the festive beats of Sinulog, Cebu’s traditional celebration to honor the Señor Santo Niño.
The Sandiego Dance Company of Cebu performed Philippine dances. Jed Madela sang pop medleys with the 5th Gen.
Doing a capella numbers were the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Ballet Philippines also wowed the guests.
Lani Misalucha did a heart-stopping performance of Mozart’s “The Magical Flute” and the Broadway hit, “Summer Me, Winter Me.”
The shadow-play group, El Gamma Penumbra, which won the Asia’s Got Talent’s grand prize, treated the delegates to images of scenes iconic to each of the 21 member economies of Apec.
“They (the organizers) wanted it short, sweet, and impactful,” says Quintos.
The big challenge of hosting thousands of delegates was not lost on the new general manager of Shangri-La Mactan, Nicholas Smith: “This city has enjoyed a month’s worth of meetings, it’s great for us to be here at the forefront of the activities of Apec. Especially with the president coming here for a visit. I think it’s a recognition of the facilities that we offer.”
Budget Secretary Butch Abad, who was in Cebu, expressed his views on how the Philippines is perceived by the international community, and why the delegates and ministers are now looking to our country as a financial model.
Our brief talk with him:
How did the Philippines become the best measure of economic resiliency?
Well, everybody is rebalancing toward more and more consumption—they want to have a consumption-driven economy, away from being trade-dependent, especially the commodities-dependent economies. In our case, we are doing the reverse, we are a consumption-driven economy.
Last year, we had $27 billion in OFW remittances, and about 18 billion dollars in BPO revenues, that’s $45 billion, basically the backbone of our economy. Although I think it’s also important that we attract investments and to expand manufacturing, because you do need quality employment.
Your thoughts on the Apec and why the international community is looking at us now?
The Philippines is now the darling of Asia. We now naturally attract a lot of interest. We’ve become a model in the region. We eliminated inefficiencies or bottlenecks in the government—that is what we’ve been doing the past five years, and if we can continue to do that, you depend less on external resources. With this, you are able to insulate yourself from the volatilities of the financial market.
Look at the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) last year. The FDI increased by 66 percent —we were the best in Asia in terms of performance, and the fourth best in the world.
And if you look at benchmarks on corruption-perception, ease of doing business, competitiveness, economic freedom, we are the most improved company in the world. And so people want to find out what’s happening in the country.
Five years ago the Philippines was the sick man of Asia and now what’s happened? And I think at the bottom of that is really good governance…
So, I think they are seeing a new model, a new paradigm of growth. That even if you don’t do structural, economic, and political changes, but instead you push vigorously anti-corruption and good governance programs, and, therefore, earn the trust of your people—that’s something that can lead to sustainable growth in the economy.
How do you see the government maintaining this for the next few years?
I think the secret really is when the state gives priority to the interest of the country. And not to be influenced or distorted by crony capitalism, or vested interests. I think when that happens, the confidence—not just that of the citizens, but even the investing public—gets eroded. And so I think that’s very important.
We must keep the credibility of the government. Because at the end of the day, if there is no credibility—you know in Brazil, everybody is looking at Brazil. When Lula left Brazil, he had 80 percent approval rating. Obama said he was the most popular politician in the world, and in a few years, they lost it.
So things can really unravel so fast unless growth is founded on strong credibility. I mean look at this (Aquino) president. This president is going to exit as the most accomplished and most trustworthy president we ever had, since post martial law. That has a lot to do with governing well and honestly.