Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General

APEC Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting
Radisson Blu Hotel, Cebu City
07 September 2015 (Day 1)

Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers of the 21 member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, our development partners from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and The World Bank, my colleagues from the Philippines, good morning.  I am very pleased to welcome all of you and open this momentous occasion.

It has been more than a decade since APEC economic leaders have realized the importance of structural reform in sustainable growth.  In Chile, the leaders agreed on an agenda to implement structural reform (LAISR).  This was subsequently expanded in 2010 during the first ministerial meeting on structural reform in Australia under the APEC New Strategy on Structural Reform (ANSSR).  Since then, we have seen tremendous changes in the economic landscape within the Asia-Pacific region, especially for emerging economies like the Philippines. In this light and in this current environment, our strategies for Structural Reform and its pillars are even more crucial in maintaining a development path that promotes competitiveness, inclusiveness and resilience and is also geared for the long term.  Also, the structural reform process has been changing the way governments respond to the needs of the private sector, so that local and global markets can become more efficient, accessible, and integrated. 

Therefore, in our discussions today, we hope to tackle the dynamic scenarios and challenges that we have been and will be confronting in our efforts on structural reform.  First, in our goal towards inclusive growth, we are always facing the challenge of bringing down the benefits of growth to the level of smaller geographic areas, groups, firms, and individuals. Initiatives to equalize opportunities should be strengthened to reduce gaps between sectors of our societies in terms of capability and accessibility. We need to underscore the critical role of human capital development to unleash the potential contribution of several sectors to our economies. We note that human capital development contributes to greater innovation, which improves productivity that is vital for the survival of firms.  We encourage the APEC members to invest heavily in education, health, infrastructure support, and also help lagging areas in the region through increased development collaboration.

We would like the APEC to continue its reinvigoration of the services sector in the region. We recognize the capacity of the sector to bring in technological progress that fosters innovation and develops new growth areas for economies. Moreover, services is one of the major drivers of growth in several economies. Enhancing innovation and the services sector will definitely give Small and Medium Enterprises or SMEs in each of our economies a better access to our

envisioned regionally-integrated markets. Thus, prioritizing services in the region’s development agenda and eliminating barriers and restriction in its growth, efficiency, and productivity is clearly in line with APEC’s goal of inclusive development. 

We will also discuss our set of priorities that are to be included in the Phase II of the APEC New Strategy for Structural Reform, which will be implemented from 2016 to 2020. This five-year strategy, which is proposed to be called Renewed APEC Agenda for Structural Reform or RAASR, is built along three pillars. The first pillar is open, transparent, and competitive markets. Second is a deeper participation in those markets by all segments of society, including SMEs, youth, women, persons with disabilities and older workers. Third is sustainable social policies that promote such participation, enhance economic resiliency, and are well-targeted, effective and non-discriminatory.  These pillars will guide us in continuing and enhancing what has been successfully done in ANSSR in terms of reducing “behind-the-border” barriers in the Asia-Pacific region. Thus, we are encouraging APEC’s 21 member-economies to actively engage with us in fine-tuning our collaborative and coordinated strategy that will set the tone for structural reform in the next half-decade in the region.  

Thank you and may we all have a fruitful journey ahead.