1 billion peso price tag for summits 'money well spent'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am

The series of Asian summits which wound up yesterday cost the Philippine government about 1 billion pesos (HK$160 million) and it was money well spent, a senior official said.

'We have not worked out the final numbers as yet but it should be around 1 billion pesos,' said Marciano Paynor, head of the summits' organising committee.

'What did it buy us? Goodwill and good publicity.'

The estimate covers both a hastily postponed meeting last month and the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, its meetings with dialogue partners and the 16-nation East Asia summit held yesterday.

The government of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came in for criticism for postponing the meetings in the resort of Cebu.

It cited an approaching typhoon, but foreign governments had issued warnings of terror attacks.

The government increased its security force from about 7,000 last month to 10,000 this month, drafting in police and military from all over the country.

No security incidents were reported and the meetings went off without major hitches, although journalists and some delegates complained of price-gouging by hotels on the resort island.

There were also transport headaches. Most meetings took place in the luxury Shangri-La hotel, well away from the purpose-built Cebu International Convention Centre (CICC) where the media and most summit staff were based.

Traffic jams were frequent as roads were closed for VIP convoys. Manila's price tag includes luxury hotel accommodation for all 16 leaders, their senior ministers and the 10 members of the so-called Asean eminent persons group.

National governments pay the cost of delegation members.

All landing and parking fees for official aircraft were waived and more than US$6 million was spent on buying a fleet of luxury BMWs.

A local Honda dealership lent 31 sedans and the Development Bank of the Philippines 60 utility vehicles.

'I think the whole show went off better than most people had expected,' Mr Paynor said.

About 2,300 delegates attended the summits, which were covered by more than 2,000 local and foreign journalists. Many hotels doubled their room rates.

The biggest cost for the Cebu provincial government was the convention centre, built in eight months.

The cost doubled from 250 million pesos to 550 million pesos and the roof leaked when it opened last month.

Local critics see the project - plopped next to shanties in a largely poor area - as an expensive folly. But provincial Governor Gwen Garcia believes it was money well spent.

The centre 'will not become a white elephant ... the governor will not let it happen,' her spokeswoman Beth Francia said.

'Already we have conventions and exhibitions booked for the centre going up to December.

'Our contribution to the summit was the CICC, which will have a long-term benefit for Cebu.'