MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines’ successful hosting of the 45th annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has put the country “back on the radar screen” of the international community, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said yesterday.
“The success of this event highlights the parallelism of goals of the country and the Asian Development Bank, which is to achieve inclusive growth in the region,” Purisima said in a statement. The four-day conference ended yesterday.
“I would like to congratulate all of our colleagues in government, our partners in the private sector, and the many volunteers who willingly lent their time and smiles that made this event such a success,” Purisima said.
“We have truly shown that the greatness of the Philippines rests in the greatness of the Filipino. As President Aquino said, the Filipino is indeed our nation’s greatest resource,” he added.
In a statement, Purisima said the meeting highlighted the need for nations to be always on guard to protect their gains.
“This meeting magnified one thing: challenges still linger around us and there’s no room for complacency. I believe we should continue to work as a region bound by a goal of integration in the short term and a sustainable, equitable, and inclusive economic expansion in the long term if only to make sure that the prosperity we achieved will not be eliminated by a wisp of ambivalence,” he said.
In the closing press conference, ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said the “Manila 2012” attracted a record number of more than 5,000 participants, beating all other annual meetings, including the one previously held in the country in 1999.
Of the 5,000 delegates, 507 were members of the media and 450 were from civil society groups. The Philippines had only expected some 4,000 delegates.
“In closing, let me reiterate our sincere thanks to the Philippines for making this a very successful event,” said Kuroda.
Purisima, meanwhile, encouraged the delegates to enjoy their stay in the Philippines and to visit the country again in the near future.
“We hope this will not be the last time and I encourage you to see more of the Philippines and experience the warmth, hospitality, creativity and efficiency of the Filipino people in our 7,107 islands,” he said.
“We hope you had fun and we look forward to your next visit to the country when I am certain you will have more fun,” he said, apparently borrowing from the official tourism slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., for his part, said the Philippines is looking forward to further concretizing and implementing the agreements reached during the meeting.
“The 45th annual meeting of the ADB Board of Governors has again showcased the strength of cooperation among Asian economies and how far we have come to understand the needs of the region,” Tetangco said.
“Developing regional safety nets, enhancing surveillance and strengthening domestic capital markets are all lessons we, as a region, learned during the Asian financial crisis in 1997,” he said.
“As a regional group, we have come to believe that we should mobilize our own resources to help shield us against external vulnerabilities,” he said.
“The thrust of this year’s meeting has been inclusive growth, which dovetails quite perfectly with our own advocacy at the BSP to reach the traditionally unbanked and underserved, to strengthen financial consumer protection, and to promote and deepen financial education,” he added.
During the four-day event, Investors Relations Office (IRO) executive director Claro Fernandez told The STAR that the Philippines was able to showcase its resiliency amid the economic uncertainties in the United States as well as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
“This event gives the Philippines a chance to highlight its huge potential for growth, being among the few countries in Asia that showed resilience during the recent global economic turmoil,” Fernandez said.
The Philippines managed to eke out a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.7 percent last year albeit at a slower pace compared to the 7.6 percent booked in 2010, due to weak global demand and cautious spending by the Aquino administration.
This year, the Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee is looking at a faster GDP growth of between five percent and six percent.
Fernandez said delegates and visitors of the conference, which kicked off last May 2, would help boost the country’s tourism receipts through their hotel bookings, food, and even with their shopping sprees.
“We believe the spending of delegates and visitors is substantial, but the bigger benefit would be felt over the longer term. The government is hopeful that this event will give the delegates and visitors – many of whom would not be here if it were not for this ADB meeting – will bring home a more optimistic view of the Philippines,” he added.
“The more believers, the better for Filipinos. These are not regular tourists or visitors, these are decision makers and influential individuals in their organizations and countries,” he said.
Finance Assistant Secretary Teresa Habitan said the Department of Finance had an approved budget of P150 million for the ADB conference. She said the private sector helped sponsor the event.
She added that Asian Carmakers Corp. (ACC), distributor of BMW vehicles in the country, as well as Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI), were of tremendous help in the success of the occasion.
ACC lent a fleet of around 90 units of BMW 5-Series, while HARI fielded 50 units of its 10-seater Grand Starex for the transportation needs of the participants. “The whole event is showcase and a coming-out party for us,” Habitan said.
Delegates interviewed by The STAR noted the Filipinos’ warmth and hospitality, with some saying the event in Manila would be difficult to replicate.
“This has been very well-organized and the seminars and discussions were also very good,” said former ADB president William Thomson, who has been attending the annual meetings since the 1970s.
Purisima said he found the seminars and discussions enriching.
“The Philippines is the home of ADB and that is why we wanted you to feel at home. We hope to see you again in your home away from home,” Purisima said in his message to delegates from ADB’s 67 member-countries.
Finance Undersecretary and secretariat head Rosalia de Leon said the event gave the Philippines an opportunity to showcase its good governance reforms and anti-corruption efforts.
The event was mainly held at the Philippine International Convention Center but delegates also had to shuttle to the nearby SMX Convention Centers for the private sector-led parallel activities.
The ADB annual meeting formally opened on May 2 with a welcome ceremony in the morning at the SMX Convention Center led by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
In the evening of May 2, local and foreign guests were treated to welcome cocktails at the SMX Convention Center, the highlight of which was a performance by noted singer Gary Valenciano.
On Friday night, delegates were treated to cultural performances showcasing the music, dances and traditional wear from different parts of the country.
The delegates’ companions, meanwhile, were treated by the Department of Tourism to organized tours to different historical sites in the country such as Corregidor, Intramuros, Taal in Batangas, and Pampanga.
“We credit the Philippine government for a great turnout,” said ADB spokesperson Ann Quon during the closing press conference.
“We at the BSP are privileged to have been part of the hosting of this year’s ADB Governors’ Meeting. And we look forward to further concretizing and implementing the agreements during the meeting toward a more inclusive and sustained growth in the region,” Tetangco said.
“I thank the ADB Board of Governors for holding its meeting in the Philippines, ADB’s home, after more than a decade. Again this highlights the continued partnership between the ADB and the country in its 45 years of existence,” Purisima said. - By Lawrence Agcaoili and Iris Gonzales