Dodwell's blog 4 on SOM3 in Cebu

September 02, 2015

Wed Sep 2 2015
One of the minor miracles of APEC is the skill of officials in driving significant region-wide cooperation in spite of the many foreign policy frictions that so colour the pages of the international media. When I arrived in the lobby of Cebu’s Waterfront hotel, and looked up at the ceiling, I realized immediately why so many of the more sensitive meetings have been located at the Radisson Blu, and not the Waterfront: the magnificent mural of a 17th century Spanish explorer’s map of the world shows the Philippines as arguably the hugest national landmass in the Asia-Pacific, sprawling over what is today Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and of course trampling all over China’s “nine-dotted line” map that stakes claim to a large part of the South China Sea.
Of course, we can’t blame 17th Century Spanish explorers for today’s political incorrectnesses, nor the Waterfront for being proud of the Philippines’ early history, but it was surely sensible to fix the majority of our meetings away from the start of this marvelous mural.

APEC’s Senior Official Meeting (SOM) clusters are not simply challenging for the range and diversity of the subject matter we have to concentrate on. Intellectual stamina is not the only requirement of officials who spend more than a few days in the meetings. A second serious challenge is food. So much of it. Buffet breakfasts. Buffet lunches. Official hosted dinners. And most corrupting of all, coffee and tea break “snacks” midway through every morning and afternoon.
With most meetings at the Radisson Blu, the virtuosity of their chef has put us all to test. Apart from delicately parceled sandwiches and tantalizingly skewered cakes, we are assailed with mango, pineapple and avocado smoothies, fresh fruit juices, and a huge array of delectably but terribly naughty traditional Philippine snacks.
For someone like me, so vulnerable to such temptation, it is essential to miss lunches, and to plunge guilt-ridden into the gym and swimming pool as often and as energetically as possible. Maybe someone in the Health Working Group (which is meeting for a total of six days her in Cebu) needs to measure the danger we are in, and give us some advice on how to manage this calorific challenge.

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