12 September 2013

Subic included in 10 Philippine sites short-listed for 2015 Apec meetings

TEN tourism destinations have been short-listed as various meeting sites for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum that will be hosted by the Philippines in 2015.

In an interview, Ma. Victoria Jasmin, undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation of the Department of Tourism (DOT), said the 10 “preselected” destinations are the National Capital Region, Tagaytay, Cebu, Clark, Subic, Legazpi, Iloilo, Davao, Bacolod and Boracay.

The DOT is a member of the Apec-National Organizing Council (NOC) set up by President Aquino to oversee the activities and programs that will be held under Apec in 2015 and ensure the successful hosting of the event.

Jasmin told the BusinessMirror “there are several meetings spread throughout the year, and I’m pretty sure that each [destination] will get at least one, barring some fortuitous events.”

The Apec summit which that gathers the heads of state of 21 member-economies, will be preceded by other activities throughout 2015, including the Senior Officials Meeting, the Ministerial and Sectoral Ministerial Meetings, as well as meetings of technical working groups that include the support staff for officials participating in the main Apec events.

Jasmin added there has been “no final decision yet” on where the summit would be held.

Separate government sources also said it was clear that the President “doesn’t want to build a separate facility” just for the Apec meetings.

The Philippines hosted the Apec summit in 1996 at the Subic Bay Freeport. Then-President Fidel V. Ramos built 18 Mediterranean-style villas in the so-called Apec Village, specifically for the use of the heads of state in the summit. The villas reportedly cost $50 million and used for only six hours by the Apec leaders.

But visitor arrivals finally crossed the 2-million mark in 1996, ending the year at 2.05 million, up 16 percent from the 1.76 million posted in 1995, indicating the increased attraction of a country as a tourism destination once a major international summit is held there, government sources noted.

The Philippines is targeting foreign arrivals to reach 10 million by 2016, by the time Mr. Aquino steps down from office.

A team from the NOC has been going around these past few months inspecting the 10 pre-selected Apec sites. Government sources said the inspection teams are checking the hotels in each destination, its MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) facilities, the local organizing committee headed by the chief executives of the local government units, etc.

“Specifically, they check the availability of [hotel] suites, the quality and number of rooms, as well as the indicative rates, and renovation or upgrade plans,” one source added.

The Apec-NOC was set up by the President through Administrative Order (AO) 36 issued on November 28, 2012. It is chaired by the executive secretary with the secretary of foreign affairs as co-chairman, and composed of the heads of the regular line agencies.

Among the main functions of the Apec-NOC is to “approve and recommend to the President a master plan for the Philippine hosting of Apec in 2015, including an estimated budget for the proper hosting of the Apec meetings,” according to AO 36. (Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror)