By HELEN TARAWA
WE may not be as big a country as Vietnam and may not have the technology that Da Nang offers for the 21 APEC economies but we will deliver, “Prime Minister Peter O’Neill confidently told world leaders at the Chief Executive Officers conference in Da Nang, Vietnam recently.
I couldn’t get into the venue at Ariyana Hotel that morning on Nov 9 because the five-member PNG media team was only allowed three passes.
Hearing the words of the PM reinforced by an officer of PNG’s APEC Coordinating Authority who was on the same row as a colleague and I on the Vietnam Airlines flight to Hanoi (capital city) that morning brought tears to my eyes.
I had the privilege to be a member of the PNG media team, representing The National, at the APEC Leaders’ Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam last month.
My previous perception of Vietnam came from war movies such as Good morning Vietnam acted by Robin Williams as a radio DJ and First Blood starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo.
However, upon arriving on Silk Air that rainy Sunday morning of Nov 6, I quickly found the place to be unlike what I thought and quickly came to like the place.
The biggest challenge that hit us though was the language barrier, but we managed somehow to direct the taxi driver to our Grand Mango Hotel.
The hotel itself was built from the labours of a man who began in business by selling mangoes.
With Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) on the agenda of the APEC Leaders’ Summit, this was no doubt a perfect example of what we were looking out for.
After checking in we took a cab to the International Media Centre (IMC). In the pouring rain we stood at the entrance trying to find someone who could speak English.
As expected, security was tight and the fact that we had passes for the IMC didn’t mean automatic entry.
Colleague Gorethy Kenneth’s persistence paid off when a local journalist based in Hanoi finally came to our rescue and got us in.
Once inside, more challenges awaited us as we queued with journalists from around the 21 economies for accreditation cards and passes into the different meeting venues.
Going through these processes made me appreciate the fact that we were also learning from the Vietnam experience to be the hosts for APEC 2018.
A lovely young officer from the Vietnam Foreign Affairs department Le Thi An was assigned to us as Liaison officer for the duration of our time in Da Nang and we got to meet her the next day
With her at the helm, everything went as smooth as silk after that. But, there were instances where taxi drivers still took us to the wrong address and we had to use our best negotiating skills to get to the right place.
Despite these early hiccups, we quickly settled down to cover the APEC Leaders’ Summit from November 6 to 10, 2017.
With the restrictions on teams per venue, we resorted to the IMC as most of the presentations, debates and speeches were telecast live for the thousands of media personnel.
The IMC is fully equipped with laptops, free Wi-Fi and all the amenities required by journalists and their crew who represented all communication mediums.
At the IMC, we ourselves were making news when journalists from all over the world swarmed on us for interviews, we being from the next APEC host country.
Although PNG may be far from reaching the era of free internet, there is some heartwarming reassurance with representatives of the Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) highlighting at a press conference in Da Nang that the PNG government was working towards bringing the costs of internet down.
Looking into our country from Vietnam PNG ABAC officials said it was very evident that reliable, affordable broadband was a massive plus for the world economies.
Last Friday ABAC received the gavel (small ceremonial mallet) from APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko, who previously received it on their behalf at Da Nang.
It was a challenge for the business sector in PNG.
“Here is your chance now to hold it in 2018. So it’s a wonderful symbol and we will do an excellent job I guarantee you,” ABAC chairman Wayne Golding said.
O’Neill said emerging economies, including PNG, will continue to lobby support from larger APEC countries through inclusiveness, free and fair trade.
He said PNG was enabling investment opportunities in resources development as a result of being part of the APEC economies.
“PNG is honoured to host the 2018 APEC summit in the country and it will be the first time since joining in 1993.
“APEC provides opportunities to create investments in countries like PNG in many sectors across the economy, particularly resource development which is creating a lot of jobs for our people and opening up many business opportunities,” he said.
“That is why we are happy to participate here in Vietnam and look forward to receiving all the delegates in PNG in 2018,” O’Neill said.
Putting our hands up to host APEC came with its criticisms from all sectors and walks of life but that didn’t deter the government from pushing on.
Eventually, it’s at our doorstep, just next month and we will be in 2018 the beginning for PNG as host nation of the 21 world economies.
Next week: SME in Vietnam that PNG can learn from.