Speech of Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder
Speech of Ambassador Neil Reeder
to the Rotary Club of Manila
November 6, 2014
Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat. (Good afternoon to everyone.)
I am honoured to be here this afternoon to speak before the esteemed members of the Rotary Club of Manila and I thank Babe Romualdez, Frank Evaristo and the leadership of the Rotary Club of Manila for inviting me to speak today.
I am aware of the important role your organization performs in civic citizenship throughout the world including the initiatives Rotarians are doing in Canada.
Your efforts in improving the lives of the local communities you’re operating in are much appreciated. I was just in Tacloban City less than two weeks ago to oversee the turn-over of hospital equipment and supplies collected by the Rotary World Help in Vancouver to the newly rebuilt Tacloban City Hospital.
Rotarians in Canada have been assisting various local Rotary groups in the Philippines for the past few years. Since last year, around 20 containers of humanitarian aid have been sent to the Philippines.
The Philippines is one of the highest recipients of donations from Rotary World Help out of the 57 developing countries it has been serving around the world. Each container has an estimated value of $350,000.00 to $500,000.00.
Aside from Tacloban, Rotarians in Canada have also sent assistance to Bohol, Cebu, and the City of Manila.
My remarks will touch on the dynamism of the special Canada-Philippines relationship that continues to grow by leaps and bounds every year.
Canada started out with a modest trade office in Manila in 1949, and today we have more than 165 staff in our Embassy in Manila – making it Canada’s 9th largest mission in the world. We also have a newly-appointed honourary consul in Cebu to provide consular services to the many Canadians in the central and southern parts of the Philippines. All in all, we estimate that there are around 15,000 Canadians living in the Philippines.
Reference to Visayas Earthquake and typhoon Yolanda
It’s been a year since my wife Irene and I arrived in the Philippines, and we continue to be overwhelmed with the warm welcome we receive wherever we go.
I arrived in the Philippines to take up my duties in late October 2013, a few weeks after the strong earthquake that struck the Visayas and exactly one week before the landfall of Typhoon Yolanda. I was, and remain, deeply saddened by the scale of the devastation and the level of human suffering seen in the Visayas in the aftermath of both calamities.
Canada was quick to assist the earthquake victims – providing $1 million in emergency assistance. This funding was provided to humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF, the Red Cross, and World Vision, striving to meet the needs of the people affected by the earthquake.
The twin disasters made my first few weeks on the job focused on managing Canada’s response to the tragedies, and those times were surely amongst the most meaningful of my career.
In the days after the arrival of Yolanda, I was also proud as a Canadian to see over 360 members of our Armed Forces stationed on Panay Island for nearly six weeks, providing humanitarian assistance, and helping thousands of people across the four provinces on the island.
Canada continues to deliver on our commitment of support to Yolanda reconstruction and recovery.
Last April, Prime Minister Harper announced that the Canadian Government would be matching the Cad$ 85 million given to charities by Canadians for Yolanda relief, making our total contribution more than $170 million. From that amount, Cad$ 65 million has already been allocated to projects undertaken by Canadian and international NGOs and humanitarian organizations that have expertise in reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The remaining $20.6 million will be used for longer-term reconstruction and disaster risk reduction activities, over the next three years.
Canada remains one of the top bilateral donors for Typhoon relief, according to the United Nations.
I have been personally engaged on behalf of my Government, travelling numerous times to Panay Island, and across the eastern Visayas, to Tacloban and Ormoc.
Our response to Yolanda is part of the long history of Canada’s development assistance to the Philippines.
We resumed bilateral assistance with the restoration of democracy in 1986 and have provided nearly $800 million to Philippines partners since that time.
Canada’s development program enjoys a strong reputation in the Philippines notably in donor coordination and harmonization, and for our long-standing support to decentralization and local governance, private sector development, as well as in promoting gender equality.
Our assistance focuses on promoting sustainable economic growth by improving the investment climate and advancing economic opportunities for the poor.
We are also engaged in promoting growth and learning in the SME sector, in agribusiness and in tourism, including building up tourism skills and tourism circuits in isolated regions of the country with great tourist potential.
Such as South Cotabato which I visited several months ago, where we are supporting the Dream Weavers and Tiboli women market their beautiful handicrafts.
Canadian development assistance has also helped more than 35,000 micro-entrepreneurs, smallholder farmers and low-skilled workers (71% of whom were women) to improve their skills and bring products to market. Canada believes in the overwhelming potential of the Philippines, in the right of its people to lead healthy, dignified lives, to have hope for the future, and to be able to stand tall in the world. That is why we are proud to support of the Philippines in its efforts to become more self-sufficient.
And that is why a few months ago, Canada has designated the Philippines as one of the 25 countries of focus for our international development efforts.
90% of our bilateral development assistance is focused on those 25 countries and we expect this will be a key next step, not just in our development cooperation, but for our overall bilateral relationship.
The development focus on economic growth also reflects the tremendous potential of the Philippines as it takes its place in the international trade and investment stage.
Trade and Commercial Relations
Let me know say a few words about our important commercial relationship which is maturing but where we need to explore ways of expanding beyond trade links to investment and innovation partnerships.
It’s no surprise that Canada has also designated the Philippines as a priority emerging market under its Global Markets Action Plan.
Under this plan, Canada will concentrate its efforts on markets that hold the greatest promise for Canadian businesses.
Canada represents an ideal partner for the Philippines. We’re a country that has dramatically reduced taxes on our companies, the job creators.
We’re among the best educated countries in the world, with a rich talent pool.
We have one of the soundest and most stable banking systems in the world.
And we are fiscally prudent – we expect to return to balanced budgets next year, the first country in the G-7 to do so.
Here in the Philippines, our commercial program will focus on export opportunities in agriculture and agri-food, defense and security, education, Information and communications technologies, infrastructure, mining and sustainable technologies.
The Philippines recently joined 20 other countries as priority emerging markets for Canada, through our GMAP or Global Markets Action Plan which will create economic growth through trade and investment. At the core of the GMAP is economic diplomacy – that advancing our commercial interests is a core function of Canada’s broader foreign policy.
Two-way trade in goods between Canada and the Philippines is about $1.7 billion annually, but we want to see an increase in our trading relationship.
And better draw upon the resources and knowledge of Canadians of Filipino origin, trading into this market.
Our exports into this market are valued at about $700 million annually.
Bilateral trade grew 15% over the past year.
Trade is critical to my country. Canada is a trading nation and our growth depends on exports – in Canada, one in every five jobs depends on trade, and 60% of our GDP is generated by trade in goods and in services.
On the investment side, Canadian companies are major employers in the Philippines. Major Canadian companies in the insurance sector, such as SunLife and Manulife, have been here for over a century.
Last week I attended the opening of the new Manulife BPO office in Mactan which will provide several thousand new jobs for young people in Cebu.
Bombardier Aerospace, the world’s third largest aircraft manufacturer, has a major BPO operation here in Cebu with over 200 employees. Telus, one of Canada’s largest telecoms companies, is a major BPO employer in your country.
Trade and people-people connections are also being facilitated by new air linkages. Last May, our two countries concluded an updated Air Services Agreement that doubled the number of flights between the Philippines and Canada from seven to 14.
Airlines from both countries can code-share with other airlines.
We’re also encouraged by Philippine Airlines’ recent announcement of new air service to New York through Vancouver.
We now have seven flights weekly between Manila and Vancouver, but as of mid-March, that will increase to 11 flights per week, four of which will continue on to New York.
The Philippines is the only ASEAN country with direct commercial air links to Canada.
Speaking of ASEAN, Canada is pleased that as of this year, it has established resident diplomatic missions in all 10 countries in Southeast Asia. This is of course aside from the appointment of a dedicated Canadian ambassador to ASEAN based in Jakarta.
We have also announced an additional Cad$ 14 million in funding toward projects aimed at helping address security issues of shared concern in Southeast Asia and to enhance the ASEAN connectivity agenda.
People to People Linkages
Canada’s development and commercial partnership with your country is only part of a larger story of our deepening relationship with the Philippines.
We enjoy very important people-to-people linkages. Canada has many prominent Filipino communities, and today we have over 800,000 Canadians of Filipino origin.
Canada continues to welcome Filipinos looking to immigrate to Canada, work on a temporary basis, or study.
Since 2008, Canada has enjoyed the highest levels of immigration in our history, with an average of 250,000 newcomers coming to our shores every year.
Over the past three years, the Philippines has represented the largest source of immigrants to Canada, and ours is the second busiest Canadian visa office in the world.
Last year, for example:
We issued permanent resident visas for nearly 30,000 Filipinos (3rd most in world)
We issued temporary resident or visitor visas, to 47,000 visitors.
Tourism is another important human connection. Statistics from the Department of Tourism indicate that Canada is one of the top ten sources of tourists to the Philippines, and that our arrivals are now in excess of 120,000 annually.
The Tourism Promotion Board in the Philippines has identified Canada as a key market, and projects that tourism from Canada could grow more than 10% annually over the next five years.
In the field of education, always of interest to this audience, Canada is welcoming a growing number of students from the Philippines for high school, university and post-graduate studies.
These numbers are small however and I would encourage students to consider studies in Canada – a safe, multicultural environment offering excellent educational facilities at a moderate cost.
We now have over 250,000 foreign students studying in Canada every year, so we must be doing something right!
We recently held an Education Fair in Manila that drew 3,000 students, and another Fair will take place in Manila and Cebu in February of next year.
This flow of Filipinos to Canada has meant that Filipino is now the fastest growing language group in Canada.
We are very proud of the many Canadians of Filipino origin who now live and work in our country. They contribute to Canada’s diversity, prosperity and its success as a nation.
Let me conclude with a few words about the political relationship and other activities.
Canada has supported the Aquino Administration’s broad agenda of reform, anti-corruption and economic development.
We are supporting the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) Centre in the Philippines, for example, through a $4.2 million capacity building program to help your country plan and execute PPPs to meet its infrastructure challenges.
We are also active on the promotion of democratic governance, respect for human rights including religion and sexual orientation.
And we have for many years been very active in promoting training and professionalization of media across the country, to try and support the important work of the Fourth Estate.
In support of the Bangsamoro process, Canada, in its discreet and modest way, has played a significant role.
A retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner, Randy Beck, took on the challenge of chairing the Independent Commission on Policing in Mindanao, for example.
Canada welcomes the continued progress in implementing the peace agreement and will remain engaged in important areas such as supporting the inclusion of women and youth in the peace process; enhancing conflict resolution skills; protecting women and children from violence; and, protecting children in armed conflict.
Canada and UNICEF will soon be announcing a joint project to lead engagement by the donor community and the Philippines government to protect and support war-affected children in Mindanao.
We have also funded projects across the conflict-affected regions in the southern Philippines to provide housing, sanitation and medical support to those displaced by past conflict, particularly in the Zamboanga area after the fighting of a year ago.
We believe, like the Aquino Government, that success in promoting security and bringing peace and good governance to the new Bangsamoro will help make the region safer for its people, and permit normal development programming and business investment to take place. This in turn will create the jobs and opportunities, and support the economic development that will gain the confidence of the local people and make theirs a better future.
And hopefully turn them away from the calls to arms and conflict that have so troubled this region for the past four decades.
I hope these remarks have given you a better sense of the great importance that Canada places on further deepening our ties with the Philippines. I am confident that Filipinos and Canada are ready to take this relationship to the next level, and in doing so bring greater prosperity to both our countries and their citizens.
Thank you. Merci beaucoup.
Maraming Salamat Po.