MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Malacañang on Saturday, November 10, to talk about bolstering trade and defense relations.
Harper’s visit marks the first time in 15 years that a Canadian official visited the Philippines.
The last time a high-ranking Canadian official came to the Philippines was in 1997, when former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien brought a business delegation to the country.
“Now, the significance of the visit is that, we keep saying that the Philippines is open for business under new management. And I think, it’s a recognition of the change of atmosphere in the Philippines that we are honored by the presence of Honorable Prime Minister and his delegation. We do see increased commercial trade ties between our countries. Things that hindered the development of those ties in the past, under new management it will cease to exist,” Aquino said in a press conference.
Noting that Canada is aggressively expanding commercial relations in the Asia-Pacific region, Harper promised that their government will invest in the Philippine economy to help boost its growth.
“Canada and the Philippines share a long-term commitment to economic growth and the prosperity of our citizens. And so I’m pleased to announce that the government of Canada will make further investments here over the next 3 years with the focus on sustainable economic growth. With implementation assistance from the Asia Development Bank, these funds will help create new opportunities across the Philippines,” Harper said.
The Canadian Prime Minister said he is pleased to see the many “ties that bind” the Philippines and Canada as bilateral trade between the countries reached nearly $1.5 billion in 1995.
Aquino said the country’s “close bond” with Canada is based on the strength of people-to-people ties, with more than 800,000 Filipinos working or residing in Canada as of 2012.
“Let me note that the Prime Minister’s delegation included Filipino-Canadians who have not only assimilated into Canadian Society, but are also helping their fellow Filipinos in Canada, and in their motherland. I believe that their example is a fitting symbol of the increased cooperation between the Philippines and Canada, which can only redound to the benefit of both our peoples,” he said.
The Philippines is Canada’s largest source of migrant workers. Just recently, Canada’s latest census found that Tagalog is the fastest growing foreign language in the area.
Harper also made a special mention of the first Filipino-Canadian senator, Senator Tobias Enverga Jr, who was appointed to the Upper House in September this year.
MOA on defense
One of the highlights of the visit was the the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on government-to-government transactions in defense and military-related procurements between the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Department of National Defense
“This agreement will create new opportunities for Canadian businesses in our defense and security sector,” Harper said.
The agreement was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Canadian Minister for International Trade Ed Fast.
Aquino said the MOA will put the Philippines in a position to access Canada’s expertise and skills, as part of efforts to improve the defense force’s “outmoded equipment.”
To provide an example of how much reinforcement is needed to strengthen security equipment in the country, Aquino said in jest that there is a “100% increase” in the country’s air transport capability.
“I’m pleased to note, a 100 percent increase in our air transport capability because previously, we have one C-130 operational; we now have two. It’s still a long way to go,” he said.
Aquino said Harper also expressed Canada’s support for the recently-signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. – Rappler.com