THE Philippines will host the third leg of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Business Advisory Council (ABAC) meeting in Cebu from July 27 to 30, 2023, headlining the region’s private sector priorities on economic integration, sustainable growth, financial services, inclusion, and digitalization and innovation under the theme of “Equity, Sustainability and Opportunity.”

As the first international event within its borders since reopening after the pandemic, the Philippines will welcome top business leaders from the 21 Apec economies, who will be discussing ABAC’s approved 2023 Work Program.

Simultaneously, this is also a window for the country to present potential business opportunities while showcasing the beauty and heritage of Cebu.

“We are thrilled and honored to be hosting ABAC 3 in Cebu this year, and we look forward to not just tackling various areas of economic concern and urgency, but, more importantly, working together in a highly synergized way to produce meaningful insights and solutions,” Aboitiz Group president and chief executive officer Sabin Aboitiz said.

Aboitiz also serves as the vice-chairman of ABAC’s Sustainable Growth Working Group (SGWG).

The working group will lead discussions on effective responses to climate change, realistic decarbonization transition strategies, and efficient and sustainable processes across the regional food value chain.

Other initial areas of focus will be discussed by other working groups and task forces. The Economic Integration Working Group will talk about accelerating the realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, supporting the World Trade Organization and its advocacy for the rules-based multilateral trading system, improving trade resilience, and promoting trade and sustainability.

The Digital and Innovation Working Group will review the strengthening of cybersecurity, promoting coherent and interoperable digital identity systems, and facilitating cross-border data flows.

Meanwhile, the Finance Task Force is set to examine the facilitation of cross-border digital financial services, support for a just and affordable transition, financing of sustainable innovation, promotion of interoperable central bank digital currencies, and facilitation of cross-border data flows in financial services.

Finally, the Inclusion Task Force will tackle empowering women and engaging indigenous peoples in the economy, integrating ESG practice for micro, small and medium enterprises, as well as formalizing the informal economy and bridging generations through economic engagement.

PH representatives

Joining Aboitiz as part of the Philippine delegation is Tomas Alcantara, chairman of ABAC Philippines, and other ABAC members, Joanne de Asis, Francis Chua and Guillermo Luz. Together, the representatives will be raising key issues relevant to the Philippines, particularly energy security, food security, climate change, and digitalization and innovation, especially with regard to education and the future of work.

Hosting the prestigious international event is expected to bring positive buzz, not just to Cebu’s local economy but also to its cultural life. Cebu boasts a long history of being a center of culture and the arts, home to the centuries-old Sinulog festival. In 2019, Cebu City was also hailed as a “creative city of design” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Foreign dignitaries will also appreciate Cebu’s coastal and urban attractions, including the 8.9-kilometer Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway, which connects mainland Cebu to the historic island of Mactan, the country’s longest sea-crossing bridge.

The United States is the host country for this year’s Apec, and serving as chairman is US member Dominic Ng, chairman and chief executive officer of East West Bank. The first 2023 ABAC meeting was held in Auckland, New Zealand last Feb. 12 to 14. This is to be followed by the second meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam on April 27 to 30. The fourth and final ABAC meeting for the year will be in San Francisco, California, USA in November. (PR)