MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Leaders from 21 countries and self-governing territories are gathering in Manila for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The meeting’s official agenda is focused on trade, business and economic issues but terrorism, South China Sea disputes and climate change are also set to be in focus. (All times are local.)
Large sections of central Manila’s busiest thoroughfares are closed to all but official vehicles during APEC. The nearly empty streets are a rare site in notoriously traffic clogged Manila. The government is advising residents to either take a holiday or stay a home during the meetings. The influx of foreign leaders into Manila and extra-tight security has also disrupted travel plans with hundreds of flights canceled or delayed. Manila’s international airport was deserted for stretches of Tuesday as airspace was restricted for the arrival of leaders including President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says the Paris attacks preoccupied foreign ministers as they met at the APEC summit. He says every minister that spoke at a ministerial meeting started with remarks about the attacks Friday that killed 129 people and expressed condolences to the families of victims.
“There was a common refrain from the ministers in terms of the Paris attacks,” he says. “There was a call for unity of nations and peoples and there was additionally a call to bring to justice those who perpetuated the horrific developments in Paris.”
President Barack Obama says the U.S. will transfer two ships to the Philippine Navy as part of an effort to boost maritime security for the Southeast Asian nation.
The U.S. has tried to boost security ties with the Philippines in a bid to check China’s territorial ambitions in disputed waters of the South China Sea.
Obama, in Manila for the APEC summit, says the U.S. will transfer a research vessel to help navigate territorial waters and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. He announced the transfer Tuesday after touring the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a Philippine Navy warship once owned by the U.S.
Philippine trade secretary Gregory Domingo says trade and foreign ministers who finished two days of meetings Tuesday have called for a comprehensive study and recommendations on a proposed free trade area encompassing all of Asia and the Pacific Rim. The work is to be completed by the end of next year with an initial report scheduled for January.
He says the ministers agreed that the proliferation of regional and bilateral free trade agreements, including the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, “are all building blocs that are actually good” for global trade.
Domingo says the profusion of agreements will eventually lead to bigger free trade blocs and even progress at the long-stalled World Trade Organization talks.
Twenty-seven shuttle buses running between Manila’s airport, hotel and media centers for the APEC summit are all new vehicles imported from China, a top Chinese newspaper reports Tuesday in a story emphasizing trade and business ties between China and the Philippines.
Chinese state media have accentuated China’s engagement with countries in the APEC bloc and its efforts to foster development in the region ahead of this week’s meeting, while playing down any rivalries with neighboring countries over sovereignty in the South China Sea.
The report in the People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, also noted a container ship terminal in Manila built by Chinese companies, as well as the use at the meeting of Chinese-made tablet computers.
(News assistant Dong Tongjian in Beijing contributed)
The draft APEC leaders statement seen by AP is warning that global growth remains fragile and that inequality is acting as a brake on economic development.
The draft statement says that “significant downside risks, including inadequate demand growth, financial volatility and stagnation in some economies threaten the current uneven global growth prospects.”
The statement by the leaders of the 21-member APEC forum that includes the United States and China is due to be issued Thursday at the end of their talks.
More than 300 protesters have tried to march to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, pushing and shoving with anti-riot police who blocked their way.
The farmers and youth activists wore head bands printed with “Junk APEC,” and chanting “U.S. government, terrorist!,” and “Down with Imperialism!”
The rally was underway as President Barack Obama touched down in Manila. The angry chants were in contrast to tweets of “Welcome to Manila@POTUS” and pictures of Air Force One taxiing on the runway and Obama being greeted by officials at a private hanger.
Leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit plan to condemn the Paris attacks, according to a draft of their declaration seen by The Associated Press.
The draft statement says: “We stand in solidarity with the people of France and all victims of terrorism elsewhere.” It says the attacks require a united global response.
The 21-member APEC forum that includes the United States and China ends Thursday.
The attacks on Friday killed 129 people and wounded 350 others.