Canadian CEOs pledge investments in PH after Aquino visit
VANCOUVER, Canada – President Aquino is flying home with pledges of more investments from Canadian CEOs, a package of initiatives boosting trade and labor relations with Canada, and expressions of goodwill from its leaders.
As he wound up his three-day state visit Saturday night (Sunday morning in Manila), the President got a good send-off from Canada’s top officials, who praised him for his reformist leadership.
“I think we have solidified relationships,” Aquino told reporters while on board the presidential plane from Ottawa to Toronto, summing up the gains of his state visit.
In Vancouver, the last stop of his three-city swing, Luigi Aquilini and David Negrin, founder and president, respectively, of the Aquilini Investment Group, committed to expand its investments and businesses in the country.
The Aquilini group has invested more than P1.3 billion in a waste recycling and energy conversion facility in Cebu that will open in the third quarter, according to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
A day earlier in Toronto, CEOs of other Canadian companies, upbeat about the Philippine economy, also expressed interest in investing in the country when they sat down with the President.
“Ultimately, these things (investments) will only realize their potential if you continue to succeed with your strong vision of a more prosperous, secure and peaceful Philippines,” Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister for multiculturalism, told Aquino in a Filipino community gathering at the Vancouver Convention Center Saturday night.
“Some are caught in a bad system, but you, Mr. President, are a reformer, trying to reform those systems, trying to fight, and succeeding in fighting corruption, reforming education and bringing peace to the Philippines, reforming the military, promoting international investment, and promoting tourism,” he said.
“And thanks to your leadership, we know that the men and women of Philippines are on their way to realize their full potential. As a land of great freedom and prosperity, Canada will be there, cheering you on every step of the way,” he added, drawing cheers from the crowd of Filipinos.
In Vancouver, Aquino and British Columbia (BC) Premier Christy Clark witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the employment of Filipinos in BC, where 136,000 Filipinos reside at present.
“I can say Premier Clark is a partner of our people. Proof of this is our commitment to the memorandum of understanding concerning cooperation in human resources, deployment and development,” Aquino said.
This came a day after Aquino and Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to explore the possibility of forging a free trade agreement between the two countries, whose bilateral trade nearly totals $20 billion.
As it looks to engage Asia Pacific more, Canada has designated the Philippines as a priority market.
During the state visit, both countries also signed a framework agreement on mutual accountability spelling out their countries’ commitment to reduce poverty in the Philippines, and a memorandum of understanding expanding collaboration on occupational health and safety to create safer workplaces in the Philippines.
In a roundtable forum hosted by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in Toronto last Friday, TD Bank Group Chair Franck McKenna said Canadian business was impressed with the Philippines’ ascent in global competitiveness because of transparency and good governance policies.
Donald Guloien, Manulife Financial CEO, said Canadian business was upbeat about the Philippine economy, Coloma said, sharing his notes with journalists.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima pointed to robust opportunities for investments in infrastructure development, calamity insurance, asset management, and agribusiness in the country, he said.
Doug Murphy, President and CEO of Corus Entertainment, expressed interest in tapping Filipino talents for the animation and creative industries, Coloma said.
Foreign Undersecretary Laura del Rosario said the government has many initiatives to promote innovation such as its tie-up with the De La Salle University in the Toon Boom animation innovation project.
Murphy said that his company would consider collaboration with the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) industrial park to increase its footprint in the creative industry, according to the Secretary.
Sunlife Financial CEO Dean Connor wondered how the Philippines would sustain its fast economic growth, Coloma said.
In response, the President outlined several measures, including the K to 12 basic education program, intensified technical-vocational skill training, and job matching, and social protection programs such as conditional cash transfer, universal health care and socialized housing, he said.
Anna Forgione, general counsel of D2L, shared her company’s experience in working with Globe Telecoms in enhancing technology use in education.
Aquino said the Department of Science and Technology has been tasked to improve public Wi-Fi connectivity and that public high schools in the Philippines were already using computers extensively.
Stewart Beck, APFC Chair, said the 700,000-strong Filipino-Canadian community has been underpinning the vitality of bilateral relations.
The MOU, signed by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and British Columbia Minister for International Trade Teresa Wat at Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, also seeks to enforce existing regulations meant to protect the workers.
It’s geared toward the eventual elimination of barriers on the certification, recognition, and matching of skills and qualifications of Filipinos.
“There will be a million job openings in British Columbia, and all of you should be part of that,” a fired-up Clark said when she also addressed the Filipino community at the Vancouver Convention Center Saturday before Mr. Aquino did.
“I know, Mr. President, that one of your efforts is wanting to make sure that Filipino diaspora finds its way home. And I very much see a future, where people as global citizens, can be part of our country, and the country of their origin, without having to sacrifice your roots for your future. They can be and one and the same,” she added.
Clark said BC was working every day to support the immigration’s efforts to bring more Filipinos.
“There are those who call the program temporary foreign workers. You know what I call it? Potential new Canadians,” she said to applause and cheers. “Let’s build those strong ties, Mr. President. Let’s even make them stronger.”
The President thanked his hosts for their hospitality and generosity.
Then turning to the Filipino community, Aquino harped anew on the gains of his administration from adopting a policy of good governance, mainly the country’s major economic turnaround.
“Let’s carry on with the reform agenda. We’re solving problems now so we don’t have to pass them onto the next administration,” he said. “We can achieve our dreams if we choose the right leaders.”
“My bosses, it’s an honor for me to serve our Filipino country. You remain my strength, and you’re the one introducing change. And you continue to prove that the Filipino is worth dying for, living for and fighting for.’’
The President and his delegation left Saturday night for Manila. SFM/AC
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