Many Filipinos criticized their government’s hosting of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting during November 18-19 because of the disruptions it caused in Metro Manila, the nation's premier urban center.
APEC is a network of 21 countries in the Pacific Rim whose goal is to promote economic integration and free trade. Twenty heads of states, including United States President Barack Obama, attended the APEC meeting in Manila.
Many netizens questioned the designation of special lanes (exclusively for APEC delegates) on major roads, the procurement of luxury cars, and the allotment of 10 billion pesos (roughly 200 million US dollars) to host the event.
The hashtags #APECtado, a play on the word affected, and #APECfail, a pun alluding to “epic fail”, were used by netizens to vent their anger over the traffic jams, cancellation of airplane flights, the sluggish Internet connection, and loss of wages from the special holidays due to the summit.
APEC lane inspired ‘Walking Dead’ memes
The photo below went viral as it symbolized the inconvenience caused by the APEC summit on the lives of Metro Manila residents:
This is what APEC truly means to most Filipinos (also a representation of almost everything in this country) pic.twitter.com/Qe2xRHyGdq
— Richard Bolisay (@richardbolisay) November 16, 2015
This photo inspired the posting of memes featuring “The Walking Dead”, a popular American TV show about a zombie outbreak:
Tweets from #APECFail hashtag
Below are some of the tweets reflecting the anger and disappointment of residents affected by the APEC event:
Bagal ng net these past few days. Akala ko ba hindi maaapektuhan ang net speed kahit ipinagkaloob ang 8kbps sa APEC delegates. #APECtado
— Carlota Malagueño (@CarLilaLala) November 19, 2015
The net is so slow these past few days. I thought net speed will not be affected by the 8kbps allotted for the APEC delegates. #APECtado
The sun has set, the jeep has still not arrived. I fell asleep in the jeep [referring to the jeepney, a public transport vehicle in the Philippines], we haven't even reached half of the way. #APECtado
— James Allan Sayson (@jamesayson) November 11, 2015
Netizens likewise criticized the ostentatious and lavish expenses by the government of President Noynoy Aquino for the APEC summit to welcome foreign dignitaries amidst the persistence of poverty, inequality, hunger, joblessness endured by many Filipinos.
Crazy how Aquino shows off PH's best food for his masters in one evening while millions can't even taste those in their lifetime. #APECFail
— Hapis (@mikmikgarrido) November 18, 2015
The government acknowledged the inconvenience caused by APEC, but it described it as necessary to show “hospitality” to foreign guests:
— APEC 2015 (@apec2015ph) November 18, 2015
Not amused by #APEChotties hashtag
Meanwhile, not everyone was amused by how the mainstream media played up the #APEChotties bandwagon by asking who is sexier between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto:
— Krissy Conti (@chronikrissys) November 17, 2015
— Emmi de Jesus (@emmidejesus) November 18, 2015
Thousands of activists and organizations of workers, indigenous peoples, farmers, women, and students took to the streets in defiance of a government ban on rallies to oppose APEC’s “free trade globalization” agenda, which they claim have enriched big countries like the United States at the expense of poor countries like the Philippines.
— mai uichanco (@thereforeiammai) November 18, 2015
Some non-Filipinos participated in the anti-APEC rally:
— Jeoff (@jeofflarua) November 19, 2015
The police tried to stop activists from holding a program during the rally by playing songs by American pop star Katy Perry:
— Vencer Crisostomo (@venzie) November 20, 2015
The protest culminated in a big march reaching just a block away from the APEC meeting venue at the Philippine Convention Center on November 19, the last day of the summit, amidst police barricades, violent dispersals, and attempts to drown the protest out with loud dance music.