Top left to right: Moderators, Dr. Sulpecia Ponce (Mindanao State University) and Dr. Francis Mark Quimba (Philippine Institute for Development Studies). Middle left to right: Session 1 speakers, Dr. Ma. Kristina Paler (University of San Carlos), Mr. Jovito Jose Katigbak (Foreign Service Institute), and Ms. Eylla Laire Gutierrez (Asian Institute of Management). Bottom left to right: Session 2 speakers, Dr. Lilly Eurwilaichitr (National Science and Technology Development Agency of Thailand), Ms. Nguyen Thu Quynh (APEC Policy Support Unit), and Dr. Patrick Schroder (Chatham House).

Switching to a circular economy and adopting a regenerative and restorative industrial system are steps toward sustainable economic growth.

This was the central theme of this year’s virtual Philippine APEC Study Center Network (PASCN) Symposium titled “Circular Economy in the Philippines and the APEC Region: Perspectives, Experiences, and Pathways,” held on 17 May 2022. The event was organized by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), in partnership with the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). Experts and distinguished speakers were invited to present their research and share their thoughts and insights on the circular economy and sustainable development.

The symposium was divided into two sessions to provide a more comprehensive discussion on the circular economy and sustainable economic development. The first session highlighted the local experiences, while the second offered a regional perspective.

Dr. Ma. Kristina O. Paler from the University of San Carlos talked about her research on microplastics in mangrove areas around the island of Cebu. Her study emphasized the gap between scientific research and government policies in the Philippines. She stated that policymakers must rethink their approach to mangrove protection and ensure that solid waste management policies are adequately implemented.

Ms. Eylla Gutierrez, from the Asian Institute of Management, moved the debate forward by explaining how the circular economy could transform the tourism industry. In her discussion, she stressed that the circular economy model offers a compelling paradigm and set of tools that may assist stakeholders in achieving an innovative, balanced, and resilient tourism industry. She also added that the tourism industry can boost the circular economy by enabling a safe, clean, and sustainable environment while showcasing various eco-tourism destinations in the Philippines.

Mr. Jovito Jose Katigbak from the Foreign Service Institute ended the first session by giving an in-depth look at the laws and policies of the Philippines that deal with the circular economy. Mr. Katigbak’s discussion brought to light the different laws and policies in the country that prioritize sustainability. Mr. Katigbak noted that while there are laws and policies in place, there is no national strategic framework for the circular economy.

The second session featured studies centered on circular economy practices and experiences in the Asia-Pacific region.

The session began with Dr. Lily Eurwilaichitr of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) providing an overview of the Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model (BCG), a new economic model for inclusive and sustainable growth promoted by the Thai government. The model employs technological innovation while leveraging the country’s ecological and cultural assets to transform the economy into one that is value-based and innovation-driven. Dr. Eurwilaichitr emphasized how important science, technology, innovation, and research are for supporting and putting the BCG economic model into action. She also emphasized the need for ASEAN to take collaborative action in promoting and implementing sustainable development at local, national, and regional levels.

Ms. Nguyen Thu Quynh of the APEC Policy Support Unit discussed the environmental and economic consequences of the waste crisis in the APEC region. Ms. Quynh elaborated on how the circular economy can be a more ecological-friendly alternative to the more prevalent linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economic model. She used the 9R framework to highlight the circular economy’s advantage over the current linear economy in closing material loops that would reduce waste and conserve energy.

Finally, Dr. Patrick Schroeder, a senior fellow at Chatham House, discussed the financing of an inclusive circular economy. He began by stating that circular economy finance is becoming more sophisticated as a result of surging investor demand for sustainable finance. Even with this new development, the current levels of investment are not enough to support a large-scale global transition to a circular economy. He noted that financial and policy instruments are critical for a successful transition to a circular economy because they reduce risks and offer incentives to investors and financial institutions that support the development of a circular economy.

The annual PASCN Symposium is part of PASCN’s information dissemination activities where researchers can present key findings of their studies and solicit comments from various stakeholders.

The event was streamed live via FSI’s Facebook page and PIDS’ Facebook and YouTube channels.