Blog / To Society

#APEC2015: Potential misjudged

Key Takeaway: Notable issues aside, APEC is not, and should not, simply be hated or written off. It was established more than twenty years ago to do its part in the goal that we are commonly striving for, and there is progress being made. Let’s give it a chance, and let’s give ourselves as budding entrepreneurs a change as well.


Wow, the WordPress post writer has a new layout! It’s a pleasant and invigorating surprise especially when you’re feeling stressed as I am right now. This gives me a little boost of energy to do my things – such as write.

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Anyway, so yesterday¬†marked the conclusion¬†of the¬†APEC Economic Leaders’ Summit, the culmination of a year-long series of activities organized by APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, as hosted by the Philippines. The two-day event, held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, Metro Manila, was¬†attended by heads of state or government, or representatives of such, of the APEC member countries – those that, as the name implies, border the Pacific Ocean.

APEC_Ministers_Responsible_for_Trade

The APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade during their meeting in Boracay, Aklan, Philippines, on 24 May 2015.

Running under the theme “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World”, APEC 2015 is meant to be this year’s iteration of the international forum that seeks to promote free trade across the region and ensure no one gets left behind. This is supposedly particularly true for this year’s theme, one that social organizations like Gawad Kalinga and its affiliate Human Nature have been screaming out for years. This was manifested through several SME summits held, the last one just yesterday, as SMEs are acknowledged to be the country’s backbone – collectively, they drive 90% of revenues in the Philippines.

Sadly, the preparations leading up to yesterday’s event seem to have been anything but inclusive – as can be evidenced by the multitude of comments on social media, many of them negative and talking about traffic or inefficiency. One of my good friends even went so far as to call us hypocrites for keeping up appearances – a sentiment arising from the fact that the areas around the conference’s venues and delegates’ accommodations were cleared to look spanking clean and organized, at the expense of informal settlers and the commuting public. No wonder the general population don’t feel strongly about the program and the potential benefits it can bring to the Philippines and the region.

However, it is not in the best interests of purposeful living to judge rashly or harshly – or at all! – and as such we should step back and take a look at the big picture. Logistical nightmares notwithstanding, APEC shouldn’t simply be dismissed as an ivory tower of the rich and powerful, for it is anything but that. Those rich and powerful are meeting to discuss how to improve the economies involved, within and without, and especially with the theme this year, it’s supposed to make doing business better for¬†anyone who wants to do so, particularly those who want to use business to make a change.

It is true that the Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. However, it is also true that the growth has not trickled down to those who need growth the most, mainly concentrating in the pockets of the 1% richest in the country. True wealth is always inclusive and selfless, and if we really want to live lives of purpose, we ought to stop thinking only about ourselves (or just our families and close stakeholders!) but of the wider society in general, human or otherwise.

While I promote living lives of true higher purpose, my own personal advocacy includes social enterprise, or authentic business as I see it. With the upcoming ASEAN integration, the theme of this year’s APEC, and the growing ease of doing business here in the Philippines due to the likes of Senator Bam Aquino, I think it has never been a riper time to invest in true development in the Philippines. Again, it’s all about a change in mindset: where many would see problems, entrepreneurs would see as opportunities. And the fact that a lot of Filipinos complain about so many things only makes the grass greener: There are so many ways you can make an impact, according to what you love, what you feel most strongly about, and/or what you’re good at.

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ANC/Prim Paypon

The powerful photo of US President Barack Obama and Alibaba founder Jack Ma with Aisa Mijeno, a social entrepreneur behind SALT (Sustainable Alternative Lighting Technologies), which creates lamps powered only by table salt and water, is proof of this. Mijeno represents the hopes and dreams of the entrepreneurs-with-a-mission who are part of the 90% of the country’s economy, and as such has shut down the APEC haters who find the event more of a hassle than a potential avenue of true growth.

Perhaps the logistical issues have clouded our judgment. Or perhaps the tiredness at a government that does not seem to be genuinely caring about the plight of its constituents has helped lead to this belief. True, preparations could have been improved. But I think here’s where the phrase “haters gonna hate” has really proved useful.

My point: APEC is not, and should not, simply be hated or written off. It was established more than twenty years ago to do its part in the goal that we are commonly striving for, and there is progress being made. Let’s give it a chance, and let’s give ourselves as budding entrepreneurs a change as well.

Have a purposeful weekend!

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