Press Release
November 22, 2015

Villar Welcomes APEC Countries Renewed Call for Poverty Reduction, Support to MSMEs, Disaster Management, and Food Security

Senator Cynthia Villar expressed satisfaction that leaders of the member-countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) are very much attuned to the issues and threats confronting the region. And that they are strongly committed and united in fast-tracking solutions and courses of action as indicated in APEC leaders' Declaration in Manila.

"Our region's leaders mean business in their declaration here in Manila. Of course, we would like to believe that those will be backed by urgent measures and courses of action. The concerted efforts of APEC member countries will really boost the impetus of further growth and development happening now in Asia Pacific," said Villar.

Villar said she is particularly pleased that more focus will be given to poverty reduction, micro small and medium enterprises or MSMEs, disaster management and food security. All aimed at making growth of economies more inclusive. Although 300 million people were already lifted out of poverty in the APEC region as a result of fast-growing economies, it is still deemed not inclusive.

The APEC Leaders' Declaration cites, "We are mindful that despite the unprecedented economic growth that has lifted millions of people out of poverty, it continues to be a reality for millions of others in our region. We call for more intensive efforts for its reduction and eradication...We recognize the significance of enabling the full participation of all sectors and segments of our society, especially women, youth, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, low-income groups, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), to achieving inclusive growth."

MSMEs, which comprise over 99 percent of businesses in the Philippines, according to Villar, are not only an "engine of growth" but make the growth truly inclusive as they promote economies of scale--as APEC leaders also acknowledged. Thus, APEC now adopts the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs and instructs Ministers to implement actions laid out in the Agenda and report their progress by 2020.

Villar, a staunch advocate of entrepreneurship, also supports the growth of MSMEs, particularly agriculture-related ones that will help ease poverty in the agriculture sectors. She urges farmers and fisherfolks, who are still among the poorest in the country, to venture into businesses.

Villar has passed and continue to pursue legislation that will help them become entrepreneurs or at least become more efficient in managing their farms and increasing their production. And to help in the growth and development of the agricultural industries.

Among which is the extension until 2020 of the utilization of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) the increased productivity of farmers and fisherfolks; Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 for sugar workers to boost local sugar's competitiveness; Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2015 that declares smuggling of agri products as economic sabotage; Halal Export Development and Promotion Program; Farm Tourism Development Act; Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act; among others.

As the current chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Villar commends the APEC leaders for zeroing on the need for "improved sustainable agriculture, food security, food safety, and nutrition to build resilient communities across the region".

The leaders, in their declaration, instruct Ministers to implement the APEC High-Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Blue Economy Plan of Action in the areas of resilient oceans and coastal resources, fish loss reduction, and agri-business development. They also support the APEC Food Safety Co-operation Forum and its Partnership Training Institute Network and encourage progress on the APEC Food Security Roadmap toward 2020, to contribute to the achievement of APEC's food security goal.

Villar sponsored the amendments to the Fisheries Code of 1998 or Republic Act 10654 will prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The passage of the said law caused the lifting of the yellow tag imposed by the European Union (EU). If it were not immediately addressed, the tag would cause a ban on the Philippines to export fish products to one of the country's largest markets. In 2013 alone, the Philippines exported PhP9.4 billion worth of fish products to EU countries.

"Overfishing is a major concern globally, if sustainable fishing was not practiced and oceans are not given time to recover, they could become 'virtual deserts' by 2050 or barely 36 years from now. As it is, 90 per cent of the large fish are already gone due to overfishing," cited Villar.

Villar added the APEC should prioritize not only charting the future growth and development of the region, but one that is strong, sustainable and secure against all threats, including climate change, natural disasters, terrorism and other threats. "APEC leaders have shown that they are deeply committed and concerted in their goals and pursuing relevant solutions to issues, barriers and threats. But it all boils down to doing the actual work needed to turn those 'declarations' into concrete actions," the senator said.

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