Press Release
September 7, 2014

Is traffic-choked NCR ready for APEC summit 14 months from now?
Gov't asks for P4.6 B for APEC hosting needs

Are we ready for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit?

With 14 months to go before 21 heads of government will converge in Metro Manila for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, Sen. Ralph Recto wants to know if government preparations ranging from fixing roads to putting more cops on the streets are on track.

"If Barrack Obama and Vladimir Putin will hug and pose for a selfie in November next year, will they be doing it in a metropolis that international reporters covering the APEC summit would hail as safe and clean?" the Senate President Pro Tempore asked.

"Or will the traditional 'class picture' of APEC leaders have cargo trucks stuck in traffic as background?"

The U.S. president and the Russian premier are among those who are expected to attend the annual gathering of leaders of Pacific rim economies which have banded together in a forum which seeks to promote free trade.

Reports said up to 10,000 delegates, journalists and support staff will descend into Manila for the 27th edition of the APEC leaders confab.

Some 21 meetings and ministerial conferences have also been slated on the run up to the summit.

The site and date of the latter, as well as those of the pre-summit meetings, have not been officially announced. News reports however said the summit and most of the preparatory conferences will be held in Metro Manila.

Despite the sorry state of the capital region's infrastructure, "as evidenced by the monstrous daily traffic jams," Recto believes that the Philippines, "at the end of the day, will be remembered for hosting a memorable APEC summit."

But to be able to pull it off, "we must however work double time in seeing to it that all bases are covered - from accommodations for 10,000, to security, to fixing the airport, to repairing our roads," Recto said.

The senator is proposing that the House and Senate hearings on the proposed 2015 national budget be used "to audit APEC requirements."

For hosting the APEC meeting, the government has put in a request for P4.6 billion, booked under the "International Commitments Fund" section of next year's national budget.

Recto, however, surmised that this is for hosting requirements alone and does cover "outside-of-venue needs like sprucing up the airport."

He said evidences of a "crash Metro Manila makeover" are found in the 2015 budget.

"There is a P1.9 billion allocation for the rehabilitation of EDSA, there is another P1.9 billion to repair flyovers. There is a P600 million for the repair of NAIA. In the budget of the DPWH, there is at least P30 billion worth of projects which will be implemented in NCR," Recto said.

"At present, Roxas Boulevard and Luneta are being improved at a cost of P457 million," the senator pointed out.

In the case of NAIA, Recto said that the Manila International Airport Authority's annual net income of P3 billion should prompt the agency to plow back some of it for passenger comfort facilities.

"In addition, privately-funded road projects like P15.5 billion, 7-kilometer NAIA expressway and the Skyway Stage 3 project are proceeding smoothly," he said.

Eleven other big ticket items ranging from overpasses to rail line extensions are on the drawing boards.

Not all of these are attributable to APEC, Recto quickly clarified. "But just the same, those which are scheduled to be finished before APEC must be done so. And for those which are not, then some kind of a traffic management program for each must be developed because we don't want media coverage on the APEC to focus on how bad traffic is in Metro Manila."

Recto said if "APEC is what led government to ask more funds for Metro Manila, then so be it because after the guests are gone, then the area is left with new or better infrastructure."

"If it's the fear of bungling the APEC hosting duties which drives the government to go on a building-spree, then it is alright for as long as it will leave dividends to be enjoyed. Whatever the motivation is for as long the end is good," Recto said.

"After the likes of Obama and Putin have left," Recto said government should sustain the projects of easing traffic in Metro Manila, building more rail lines and roads, buying more trains, and building in-city housing for the people "because with or without APEC, it is its obligation to do so."

"The improvements we all want to see in Metro Manila are real, not cosmetic," he said.

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