Tell it to SunStar: Cebu as witness to the dynamic Canada-Philippines relationship

·3 min read

I am delighted to be in Cebu today—my first official trip outside of Metro Manila since the pandemic started—to connect with government, businesses, journalists, civil society organizations and (most of all) the people of Cebu.

The Queen City of the South, with its diverse economy, vibrant culture and young population, has Canada’s attention. Canadian companies such as Manulife have operations here, creating hundreds of well-paying local jobs. Local companies export seafood and other products to my country. Moreover, thousands of Canadians choose to visit or live here every year. It is not by accident that we have an Honorary Consul here–the ever helpful Katherine Goshulak-Rivera who works closely with our Embassy in Manila to provide local assistance to Canadians in distress.

Cebu is also a vital source of talent for Canada. The Philippines is now the third largest source of immigration to Canada–there are now more than 1 million Canadians of Filipino origin. Last year, despite the global pandemic, more than 10,000 Filipinos became permanent residents of Canada, and many arrived as temporary workers or international students. Filipino seafarers have likewise continued to rotate through Canada despite the pandemic, providing much needed income for families here while maintaining vital global supply chains. It is because of this demand that we operate a Visa Application Center here in Cebu, our only one outside Manila.

Canada and the Philippines are bound together not just by our robust people-to-people linkages, but also by our shared priorities and interests: the global struggle to defeat Covid-19 and spur economic recovery; democracy and a rules-based international order; reducing inequality, helping refugees; regional security and stability; and, most importantly, climate change.

It is particularly appropriate that my visit occurs as the COP26 Summit wraps up in Glasgow. Canada and the Philippines are both counted amongst the 10 most affected countries by the climate crisis. Fighting such climate disasters can only happen if we get off coal and cut emissions. We recognize the urgent need for dramatic change if we are to protect our vast and fragile marine ecosystems, mitigate the worst impact of natural disasters, and seize on the opportunities offered by new technologies.

My discussions in Cebu coincide with our celebration of 35 years of partnership in official development assistance. Since 1986, Canada has provided more than a billion Canadian dollars in economic assistance to the Philippines. Through our assistance, we have contributed to efforts to improve the investment climate, promote human dignity, and advance economic opportunities for youth and women.

This includes initiatives like JobStart, an Asian Development Bank-implemented project that supports youth in obtaining the technical and life skills necessary to secure well-paying jobs. And through the Philippines Commission on Women, we have been assisting women entrepreneurs to access financing and know-how to help grow their businesses. Both these initiatives, by working closely with government partners, have made a difference here in Cebu.

We have also stood with you in times of crisis. When super-typhoon Yolanda struck in 2013, Canada was there, supporting relief, rehabilitation and livelihoods in communities in northern Cebu. And today Canada is donating Covid-19 vaccines through Covax along with personal protective equipment. Canada and the Philippines have much to offer each other. Cebu is ideally positioned to play a leading role in advancing our cooperation. Despite the pandemic and the challenges of the new normal, there will be many opportunities to expand our cooperation. Let’s seize them.

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