Press Releases Archived (June 2015)

image

The East Asian Development Network (EADN) held its annual forum on May 28 and 29, giving the podium to its young research grantees to elaborate on the progress of their individual work. Since 1998, the network has sought to develop the research capacity of participating institutions and individuals by providing the resources to carry out development-focused and policy-relevant research. The Philippines, on its fifth year as EADN Secretariat, welcomed research grantees and mentors from all over Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand, China, and Malaysia.

The focus of the research studies at the EADN forum this year spanned diverse development issues, among them agriculture, migration, human capital formation, and finance. This diversity, according to the welcome remarks of Philippine Institute for Development Studies President (PIDS) and EADN Chairman and Regional Coordinator Gilberto Llanto, proves that there is still much to be explored in the field of development.

At the threshold of regional economic integration, what cuts across these development issues is the opportunity for regional cooperation. Llanto added that EADN plays a crucial role in enabling the creation of well-informed policymaking. PIDS board member Atty. Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla delivered a timely keynote address to demonstrate the value of research in various development areas.

In particular, Lotilla highlighted the need to cooperate for the sustainable development of the seas of East Asia, with opportunities ranging from management, exploration, and exploitation of resources; preservation of the environment, and coordination regarding science and research. Majority of the public discourse focuses on the political aspects and territorial disputes, specifically when it comes to the South China Sea. But it is undeniable that everyone benefits from addressing its challenges, whether they may be environmental, social, or economic.

He said that the level of trust within the reason must be raised. To answer the sustainable needs of the people in the region, policymakers, aided by policy research institutes and networks like PIDS and EADN, must help identify areas of concern and opportunities for cooperation.

Fisheries and trade is one ideal area for cooperation. Depletion due to overfishing, destruction of habitat, and pollution threatens to damage the industry and contribute to the long-term breakdown of the ecosystem. A potential security issue could as well arise in the event that a plunge in fish and revenues for traditional fishermen pushes them to enter piracy or human trafficking chains. Coastal governments on an individual level, Lotilla warned, may not be able to address this alone. Everyone has a stake in protecting and promoting sustainable development of marine resources in the region.

The profile of research studies presented at the forum evoked the theme of Lotillas speech, with each one looking into development policy areas critical to the respective countries of the researchers. Each researcher was assigned a discussant to mentor them and provide guidance to mold their approach, improve their methodologies, and whittle the scope.

The EADN country coordinators included Dr. Sun Xuegong, Dr. Carunia Firdausy, and Dr. Siew Yean Tham. Dr. Mohamed Ariff , EADN representative to the Global Development Board of Directors, was also in attendance.

The cross-national discussion and exchange of expertise and insight ensured that each study received recommendations that encouraged the author to meet international standards and incorporate regional perspectives.

image

Policy researchers at the APEC Study Centers Consortium (ASCC) Conference 2015 held on May 12-13 in Boracay Island deliberated on the importance of enhancing trade and investment patterns and supply chain connectivity to fully reap the benefits of global value chains.

The conference was part of the Second Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings of APEC 2015. It was organized by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine APEC Study Center Network in collaboration with the Ateneo de Manila University and the Asian Development Bank Institute.

Trade is central to the world economy and a main driver of global integration. Production chains mean that most products or services are assembled with inputs from many countries. Supply chain connectivity then is vital for the efficient flow of trade among APEC economies by allowing firms to source materials from any part of the world and to deliver products and services to consumers anywhere in the world.

Supply chain connectivity covers trade facilitation, physical infrastructure, and people-to-people exchanges and networks. Coordination and collaboration among producers, suppliers, consumers, and third-party service providers are crucial in supply chain management.

The gains from regional integration"and how extensive the scope of these gains will be"largely depend on the volume and quality of trade and investment patterns, infrastructure, and connectivity in the APEC region. Supply chain barriers cause higher operating and capital expenses, increased risks, and lower trade volume.

The experiences of Thailand and Viet Nam presented by Chanin Mephokee of Thammasat University and Anuwat Chonlapaisan of Dhurakij Pundit University show that gross domestic product per capita (which reflects a country`s purchasing power), real interest rate (which affects the cost of doing business), degree of openness, and exchange rate (in the case of Viet Nam only) influence the trends and patterns of foreign direct investment (FDI). Policies that promote investments and reduce trade transaction costs were found to be crucial to the FDI inflows in both countries. Among these factors, degree of openness is the most important factor that explains FDI behavior, Mephokee and Chonlapaisan added.

Moreover, Nam Sang-yirl of the Korean Information Society Development Institute emphasized that tariff barriers, which are traditional barriers to international trade, have decreased rapidly under the multilateral trading system of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade under the World Trade Organization. She added that APEC has played a leading role in addressing technical barriers to trade (TBT) as well as specific trade controls, particularly the conformity assessment procedures that create unnecessary obstacles to trade.

Further cooperation among APEC members is needed to reduce TBT, facilitate international trade, and enhance economic growth in the region, Sang-yirl said.

Nothing can connect economies more significantly than participation of firms in a global network of production activities. Supply chains will continue to have a beneficial impact on economic growth and development in the APEC region. Removing impediments to freer flows of goods, services, capital, and labor has thus become more urgent than ever. ###

image

Access to finance is the lifeline of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Majority of Asian economies, however, have bank-dominated financial systems that are cautious to lend to SMEs despite their contribution as source of more than two-thirds of jobs in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region.

This challenge confronting SMEs was underscored by policy researchers present at the APEC Study Centers Consortium (ASCC) Conference 2015 held on May 12-13 in Boracay Island. Organized by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine APEC Study Center Network, in collaboration with the Ateneo de Manila University and the Asian Development Bank Institute, the conference was part of the Second Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings of APEC 2015.

The absence of credit data and the perceived risks in lending to SMEs are concerns inherent to SMEs. But Naoyuki Yoshino of the ADBI and Keio University in Japan said a credit rating system for SMEs may solve these issues.

A useful model is now being used in Japan wherein 52 credit guarantee corporations from the government collected data from Japanese SMEs. The data are now stored in a private corporation called Credit Risk Database (CRD), which now contains information on 14.4 million SMEs, including default data from 1.7 million SMEs.

If similar systems could be established in other parts of Asia to accumulate and analyze credit risk data and to measure each SME`s credit risk accurately, banks and other financial institutions can use the information to categorize SME customers based on their financial health. SMEs would also benefit as they could both raise funds from the banks more easily and gain access to the debt market by securitizing their claims, Yoshino explained.

Development of SMEs in the APEC region is a key to attaining resilient national economies. The ongoing Euro crisis and economic uncertainties require policymakers to develop resilient SMEs that could stimulate the growth of their industrial sector.

Meanwhile, Eunsook Seo of Sangmyung University in South Korea suggested that the definition of SMEs must be worked out, by having a unified criteria for standard SMEs and innovative SMEs. She added that the high-growth, innovation-based characteristics of small companies most suited for equity market financing are not covered by the standard SME definitions.

There is a need to establish an equity market-based support system that specifically caters to the needs of SMEs. It is also important to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of equity markets in individual countries, and to explore what kind of system will be needed under financial cooperation, Seo noted.

image

The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters could seriously hamper the efforts of economies gearing up for higher and sustained growth. Policy researchers who attended the APEC Study Centers Consortium Conference 2015 held on May 12-13 in Boracay Island underscored that it is time for governments to have provision for disaster funding.

Repeated disasters constrain public finances and contribute to the cycle of poverty in affected communities. A disaster-prone country like the Philippines has an average of 20 typhoons each year; five of these are likely to be devastating. The Philippine government has estimated that for the past 30 years, direct losses alone from natural disasters account for an average annual loss of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product, which can be mostly attributed to typhoon losses and damages. Located in unsafe urban settlements, the poor suffer the most. Disaster funding is therefore crucial for both poverty alleviation and sustained economic development.

During the conference session on building sustainable and resilient communities, policy researchers present agreed that regional cooperation through APEC is a useful mechanism to promote the development of financial systems to help reduce fiscal burden arising from disasters.

Alex Robson of Griffith University presented Australia`s innovative model in disaster funding. According to Robson, disaster relief payments in Australia are included in the federal budget along with other expenditure programs. While Australia does not have a formal natural disaster insurance scheme, disaster funding is financed by a combination of private insurance, government funding, voluntary charitable donations, and self-insurance.

Robson noted that the key strength of the Australian scheme is that expected costs are estimated and reported separately in the national budget. Total expected expenditure under this arrangement for five years (2012-2016) has been estimated to be AUD 6.2 billion. In each annual budget, the Australian federal government also gives details of overall contingent fiscal liabilities in its statement of risks. This statement sets out risks on both the expenditure and revenue sides of the federal budget. Included are contingent liabilities, contingent assets, and other fiscal risks with a possible impact greater than AUD 20 million in any one year, or AUD 50 million over the next four years.

The Australian government also engages in self-protection activities. In the 2013-14 budget, the government directed AUD 100 million to natural disaster mitigation and to lower disaster risk and insurance premiums.

As APEC economies continue to commit to deepening regional integration, reducing vulnerabilities to shocks, such as natural and manmade disasters, has clear benefits for sustaining growth and productivity, and reducing poverty in the region.

The ASCC Conference was part of the Second Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings of APEC 2015. It was organized by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine APEC Study Center Network in collaboration with the Ateneo de Manila University and the Asian Development Bank Institute. The annual conference provides academics and scholars from the different APEC study centers with a venue to discuss and exchange ideas on the APEC themes and to identify areas for research collaboration. The outputs of the conference may serve as inputs to the different APEC working group discussions and may be integrated in the Leaders statement.

image

Discussions of possible pathways to the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) were one of the highlights of the recently concluded APEC Study Centers Consortium Conference 2015 held on May 12-13 in Boracay Island.

In promoting and advancing regional economic integration, APEC seeks to create a community that is more economically integrated, where goods, services, and people move seamlessly across borders, and a dynamic business environment is further enabled. This is what APEC is hoping to achieve with the FTAAP.

The FTAAP has a big potential to boost economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Once in place, it could dwarf all other economic arrangements ever made given its size and scope. The 21 APEC member-economies control half of the world trade and account for 60 percent of the global economy. They are home to nearly 3 billion consumers in some of the worlds most vibrant economies.

The FTAAP is at the top of the APEC agenda. In their 2010 declaration, APEC Leaders announced that they have agreed to explore possible pathways to achieve the FTAAP. To this end, they have `instructed APEC to take concrete steps toward the realization of the FTAAP, which is a major instrument to further APEC`s Regional Economic Integration (REI) agenda.` The idea is that the FTAAP should be realized as a comprehensive free trade agreement that could be built through regional undertakings, such as ASEAN+3, ASEAN+6, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

To date, there are three proposed pathways to the FTAAP: the United States-led TPP, the ASEAN-based Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) process, and the Pacific Alliance.

Both TTP and RCEP could eventually converge into an FTAAP. But if no such convergence occurs, the FTAAP project would be incomplete, since the two major world economies, United States and China, would not be linked by any agreement. This was underscored by Camilo Perez-Restrepo and Adriana Roldan-Perez, assistant and associate professors, respectively, at the Asia-Pacific Studies Centre, Universidad EAFIT in Colombia.

The different pathways leading to the FTAAP are interdependent. According to Perez-Restrepo and Roldan-Perez, an ideal pathway would be one that provides improved market access for the manufacturing sector in the emerging economies while also offering substantial benefits for services, investments, and high-tech industries in the advanced economies.

The Pacific Alliance (PA) is a regional integration process that involves Colombia, and three APEC economies"Chile, Mexico, and Peru. PA has been attracting the attention of the international community. The group currently has 32 observer countries, eight of which are APEC members.

Perez-Restrepo and Roldan-Perez said that based on the provisions negotiated among the PA members on the areas of tariffs, trade facilitation, services and investment liberalization, and new issues such as intellectual property, environment, labor, and public procurement, the PA offers an intermediate level of integration. `The PA is not as ambitious as the TPP and thus could be more interesting and lenient for APEC economies that are not ready or not willing to commit to TPPs high-level conditions. At the same time, the PA offers a deeper form of integration than the RCEP,` they added.

Whatever pathway is chosen, researchers present during the conference were all in agreement that APECs role is to serve as incubator of innovative approaches to economic cooperation and as breeding ground and mechanism for communication, exchange of best practices, and capacity building.

The APEC Study Centers Consortium Conference was part of the Second Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings of APEC 2015. It was organized by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine APEC Study Center Network in collaboration with the Ateneo de Manila University and the Asian Development Bank Institute. The annual conference provides academics and scholars from the different APEC study centers with a venue to discuss and exchange ideas on the APEC themes and to identify areas for research collaboration. The outputs of the conference may serve as inputs to the different APEC working group discussions and may be integrated in the Leaders statement.

image

Enhancing the capacity of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to resist, absorb, and recover from the effects of natural disasters in a timely and efficient manner is key to achieving inclusive growth in the APEC region.

SMEs are considered engines of growth and employment in the APEC region. Over 97 percent of businesses in APEC are SMEs, providing jobs to more than half of the workers in the Asia-Pacific region. However, APEC member-countries are prone to intense natural disasters. APEC`s 21 member-economies, which account for 52 percent of the earths surface and 59 percent of the worlds population, experience over 70 percent of global natural disasters.

According to Marife Ballesteros, senior research fellow at state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), disasters can compromise capital, supply chains, product markets, and labor, and in turn, business continuity and recovery.

In her presentation at the 2015 APEC Study Centers Consortium Conference titled `Building Philippine MSMEs` Resilience to Natural Disasters`, Ballesteros noted that `SMES are more vulnerable (than large enterprises) because they have limited coping mechanisms. SMEs usually have no or limited disaster insurance and limited access to credit, and most of them have no business continuity, emergency management, or disaster preparedness plans.`

Ballesteros cited the case of the Philippines, where approximately 98 percent of all enterprises are micro to small. She noted that the country has a well-developed policy framework and action plans for DRRM. However, this disaster response strategy has not been effectively translated into local and business plans.

`The DRRM plans of the Philippine government are operationalized primarily for search, rescue, evacuation, and relief operations. Restoration of economic activities is handled only in the medium to long term as part of the rehabilitation efforts. There is also no strategic programs to operationalize action plans for SMEs and no small business development centers to address disruption and needs,` she explained.

In addition, she pointed out the insufficient recovery funds for farm-based and urban-based small industries such as the availability of loan and grant for these businesses.

Another issue highlighted by Ballesteros is the absence of specific policies for workers` protection in times of calamities. She emphasized the importance of the people side of business during disaster. `Resilient supply chain begins with resilient citizens and employees and it is a concern of both business and government,` she stated.

She cited the business continuity plan of Albay Province as a model for implementing DRRM for SMEs. Albay`s model covers both households and local businesses. It encourages local businesses to develop contingency plans based on vulnerability and hazard maps as well as land use zoning. This kind of local initiatives should be scaled up and replicated in other localities.

At the national level, Ballesteros recommended the establishment of key transport hubs and strategic communication systems that take into consideration extreme weather events.

She also highlighted the need for predisaster agreements as disruption of public sector operations and services can occur during times of calamities. One of these is the creation of networks or partnerships between national and local, and public and private entities, and the adoption of flexible regulations on labor as well as laws on importation and exportation.

In addition, government must support the development of financial security instruments such as catastrophic insurance, micro insurance, or a business disaster fund. She also suggested the integration of DRRM in the Magna Carta for SMEs and BMBEs as well as in the MSME Development Plan.

In the APEC region, Ballesteros called for cooperation to strengthen supply chain resilience. She proposed that `SMEs should continue to build partnerships with other multinational organizations inside and outside of the APEC region, especially in the areas of information sharing and promotion of regional resiliency assessment programs. APEC member-economies can also have dialogues, capacity-building activities, and cross collaboration in resource and technology sharing such as in hazard mapping and information technology infrastructure`.

The APEC Study Centers Consortium Conference 2015 was held on May 12-13 in Boracay, Aklan Province, as part of the Second Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings of APEC 2015. It was organized by PIDS and the Philippine APEC Study Center Network in collaboration with the Ateneo de Manila University and the Asian Development Bank Institute. The annual conference provides academics and scholars from the different APEC study centers with a venue to discuss and exchange ideas on the APEC themes and to identify areas for research collaboration. The output of the conference discussions may serve as inputs to the different APEC working group discussions and may be integrated in the Leaders` statement.

image

BORACAY ISLAND"Research plays a crucial role in raising awareness and facilitating discussions of important Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)-related issues and processes to help support the vision and goals of APEC.

In his keynote address at the opening of the 2015 APEC Study Centers Consortium (ASCC) Conference in Boracay Island on May 12, Deputy Director-General Rolando G. Tungpalan of the National Economic and Development Authority noted that the APEC study centers have been instrumental in fostering regional cooperation among tertiary and research institutes in the APEC region through the promotion of increased academic collaboration on key regional economic challenges.

According to Tungapalan, the analytical work that the APEC study centers put in will be valuable in sharpening policymakers` tools for addressing cross-cutting issues especially on services, trade and investments, supply chain connectivity, and enhancing regional economic integration through the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. He added that through careful analysis of these issues, APEC will have a better chance at putting ideas and plans into action, and will be able to craft more effective solutions and anticipate problems before they occur.

In the case of the Philippines, Tungpalan cited the numerous studies conducted by the Philippine APEC Study Center Network (PASCN) that have provided policy recommendations that aided policymakers in formulating national plans and strategies.

The PASCN, which is being led by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), have produced a number of scholarly publications containing research studies on competition policy, coalition building and APEC, Chinas economic growth and the ASEAN, education and globalization, sustainable tourism, and the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, among other topics. In 2014, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs also commissioned the PASCN through the PIDS to undertake the Research Project APEC 2015 that sought to provide the analytical framework for the substantive priorities and initiatives that the Philippines will advance as the APEC host economy this year.

`Without a doubt, the APEC Education Leaders` Initiative launched in 1993 and the motivation behind the establishment of the APEC study centers in the different APEC member-economies has lived on. The study centers are steadily gaining ground and will continue to do so with the support of the APEC Secretariat,` Tungpalan emphasized.

He likewise emphasized the critical importance of advancing the APEC agenda at the local level. `Mainstreaming the agenda not just in national development plans but also in local development plans is necessary, and this can be achieved through continuous education, information dissemination, and advocacy.` He challenged the academic and scholars comprising the APEC study centers to serve as `envoys on APEC-related matters`.

`Your direct interaction with your students, fellow educators and researchers, and program implementers and decision makers in your localities make you excellent go-betweens between APEC and the local communities,` Tungpalan noted.

Meanwhile, Fernando Aldaba, Dean of the School of Sciences of the Ateneo De Manila University, highlighted the growing importance of regional cooperation through APEC.

In his opening statement, Aldaba noted that despite the moderate economic growth experienced by most countries, the world is still confronted with the twin problems of poverty and inequality, and recently, disasters and catastrophes caused by climate change.

Aldaba added that the inputs and discussions on the APEC subthemes are critical ingredients in the formulation of truly inclusive and sustainable economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

APEC Secretariat Executive Director Alan Bollard, represented by Dr. Akmad Bayhaqi, said the 2015 priorities of APEC reflects the strong emphasis it gives to development issues within the framework of regional economic integration. He added that the global economic outlook for this year shows ample opportunities. However, the International Labour Organization noted that global unemployment increased by 5 million in 2013 and is reaching 200 million because of uneven economic recovery and modest growth.

Dr. Bokhwan Yu, Deputy Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), emphasized that for growth to be truly inclusive in the APEC region, governments, together with the private sector, academe, and civil society, should work together.

`Achieving inclusive growth in the region is hampered by various issues and there is no single solution to solve all these problems,` Yu stated.

The ASCC Conference, he said, provides an opportunity for researchers in the region to share knowledge and find solution to make growth more inclusive.

According to Yu, there are more than 5 million people who are still living below poverty in Asia alone, with income inequalities also rising in recent years.

`One solution to solve poverty and achieve inclusiveness is through the development of SMEs, which have the potential to provide jobs to people. However, SMEs must be able to participate in the global value chain to benefit more from greater integration,` Yu explained.

The ASCC Conference provides an opportunity for academics and scholars to discuss and exchange ideas on the APEC themes and to identify areas for regional collaboration among the APEC study centers. Outcomes of the conference may serve as inputs to the different APEC working group discussions and may be integrated in the APEC Leaders` statement. There are over 50 study centers in 20 of the 21 APEC member-economies.

Conference details and updates may be accessed from ascc2015.org, pids.gov.ph, @PIDS_PH, and https://www.facebook.com/PIDS.PH.


image

Enhancing the ability of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to take advantage of trade opportunities and be able to participate in the regional and global markets is one of the highlights of this year`s conference of the APEC Study Centers Consortium (ASCC).

Slated for May 12-13, the ASCC Conference serves as an avenue for researchers and scholars to discuss and exchange ideas on the APEC themes and to identify areas for regional collaboration among APEC Study Centers. The conference is organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and the Philippine APEC Study Center Network (PASCN) in cooperation with the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI). It is part of the Second Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings of APEC which will be held in Boracay, Aklan.

SMEs account for more than 97 percent of all enterprises in the APEC region and employ more than half of the workforce in the region. However, the sectors share of gross domestic product ranges from only 20 percent to 50 percent in most APEC economies. SMEs contribute only 35 percent or less of the direct exports. Enhancing the management capabilities of SMEs, strengthening their access to financing, and creating an environment that allow easy access to overseas markets will result in increased exports and more jobs from SMEs.

One of the papers to be presented at the ASCC conference, authored by ADBI Dean Naoyuki Yoshino, looks at ways to improve SMEs` access to financing. SMEs face difficulty in borrowing money from banks because of the absence of credit rating data. Yoshino suggests that an efficient credit rating scheme that rates SMEs based on their financial health will reduce banks` aversion to SMEs and encourage them to lend money to small businesses.

Meanwhile, a paper by Eunsook Seo of Sangmyung University, Korea, looks at how financial cooperation through the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN+3 can expand SMEs` access to finance in the region. However, Seo cautions that a more open financial market could worsen problems of information asymmetries, with agency cost likely to be magnified on an international scale due to national disparities in terms of firms` credit worthiness and credit rating system, among other things. To overcome these issues, Seo recommends looking at the European Unions experience in crafting policies for financing SMEs.

PIDS Senior Research Fellow Marife Ballesteros will discuss how to better prepare SMEs for natural disasters through business continuity planning. Ballesteros` paper underscores that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are highly vulnerable, and have weak adaptability and limited access to a broader set of coping strategies. Thus, it recommends that disaster risk reduction and management be embedded into the business sector. It also examines the role of APEC in promoting MSMEs` resilience.

The paper of ADMU Economics Professor Alvin Ang completes the lineup of presentations on SMEs. Ang highlights the advantages of having a local economic development and competitiveness indicators system for SME locators. According to Ang, establishing a competitiveness index ranking for cities and municipalities provides a critical decision information on locating a business and, at the same time, addresses the issues of productivity, efficiency, facilities, and interconnectivity.

For more information about the ASCC Conference, visit www.ascc2015.org.

image

Researchers from across the Asia-Pacific region will share their analyses and insights on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) issues at the 2015 APEC Study Centers Consortium Conference on 12-13 May in Boracay Island, Philippines.

The conference is part of the Second Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings of APEC and organized by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and the Philippine APEC Study Center Network (PASCN), in partnership with the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI).

The PASCN, which is being led by PIDS, is one of the 20 APEC Study Centers (ASCs) in APEC member-economies. ASCs undertake research, disseminate information, and facilitate discussions on APEC-related issues to support the attainment of APEC`s vision and goals. The PASCN was established in 1996 through an administrative order as the Philippines` response to the APEC Leaders Education Initiative, which aims to develop regional cooperation in higher education and research. It is composed of the Asian Institute of Management, Ateneo De Manila University, Central Luzon State University, De La Salle University, Mindanao State University, Silliman University, University of Asia and the Pacific, University of San Carlos, University of the Philippines, Xavier University, Department of Foreign Affairs-Foreign Service Institute, and PIDS.

The annual ASCC Conference provides academics and scholars a venue to discuss and exchange ideas on the APEC themes and to identify areas for regional collaboration among the ASCs. The output of these discussions may serve as inputs to the different APEC working group discussions and may be integrated in the Leader's statements.

Discussions at this year`s ASCC Conference will zero in on the APEC 2015 theme of `Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World`, specifically on the four APEC 2015 priorities: enhancing the regional economic integration agenda; investing in human capital development; fostering SMEs participation in the regional and global economy; and building sustainable and resilient communities.

Discussions on how to enhance regional economic integration in the APEC region through the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), address issues pertaining to services, trade, and investment patterns, and improve supply chain connectivity are among the highlights of the conference.

The conference program also includes paper presentations on how to enhance participation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the regional and global economy. For example, a researcher from the ADBI will discuss the internationalization of SMEs while another scholar from Korea will present ways on how financial cooperation can help SMEs` financing in Asia. A PIDS researcher, meanwhile, will discuss how micro, small, and medium enterprises can better prepare for natural disasters through business continuity planning.

Also included in the agenda are discussions on human capital development, and building sustainable and resilient communities in the region.

PIDS President Gilberto Llanto, Ateneo School of Social Sciences Dean Fernando Aldaba, ADBI Deputy Dean Bokhwan Yu and APEC Secretariat Executive Director Alan Bollard will speak at the opening ceremonies. More than 100 participants are expected to attend the two-day conference.

APEC is a 21-member association of economies from the Asia-Pacific region working together to advance regional economic integration and prosperity. Attending the ASCC Conference will be representatives of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Peoples Republic of China, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States of America, and Viet Nam.

For more information about the ASCC Conference, visit www.ascc2015.org.