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(11) We are supportive of PH Government's development agenda - Ambassador Neil Reeder

03 April 2014 - In the second Ambassador's Forum for 2014, His Excellency Neil Reeder of the Embassy of Canada presented Canadian's government assistance for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, its support for the peace process, and continuing efforts to increase trade, investment and people-to-people linkage between the Philippines and Canada.


Below is the transcript of Ambassador Reeder’s talk:

I came to the Philippines a week before Yolanda. Some accused me of having brought the typhoon with me (laughs). I mentioned this because it really did shape the first two months of my work at it shaped the country at the aftermath of Yolanda and all it is all implied. It’s the first time.  I’ve been into this and that, but I’ve never actually been in a humanitarian crisis like we saw in Yolanda.

Cananda’s Assistance to Yolanda Victims

It was really quite a learning experience for me when we had the trip (to Tacloban). And Canada was really, really quick to assist the Philippines in the hour of need, and one of the first countries to come in with assistance, and the longest countries to stay. We provided $20 million of humanitarian assistance. We set-up a match from the government of Canada; any dollar  donated by Canadians to charitable institution is matched by  the Canadian government.

We expect that those additional funds will be for (victims of) Yolanda’s early recovery which will be based on the matching-fund so we are very pleased . We are also the fifth largest donor to  the Central Emergency Relief Fund  to the UN. In that respect, we provided direct assistance to the Philippines , as well.  Another decision that was taken that time, we provided $50 million to the creation of mobile field hospital, which was deployed by the Canadian Red Cross to Ormoc. Twice at Ormoc because that time due to Yolanda, the main hospital of Ormoc was flooded. All the operating rooms were of six feet below water. It wasn’t able to do any operations.  The field hospitals were deployed. We assisted with emergency surgery, gynecology , deliveries and cesarian operations. I was here with the Ministry of International Corporation of Canada. We rented a superior doctor. There was a baby in his arms. That was the contribution of Canada at that time until the hospital of Ormoc began to recover and rebuilt. And two weeks ago, we donated the field hospital to the Philippine Red Cross for future calamities.

We also deployed 360 members of our Disaster Assistance Team. They were deployed to for humanitarian relief to the island of Panay. They covered all four provinces in the Island for over a month of crisis. We were very close to the Philippine Armed Forces, Philippine National Police, to the local and municipal authorities. The Canadians came to clear hundreds of kilometers of roads. The hi-ways were impassable. There were trees, debris, telephone poles will snap like that. Metal poles were bent like a fork.  The force of the wind completely destroyed the top-end of the island. So Canada assisted in the building of bridges and generators. We also transported from Canada a number of C-130’s.  They were to provide medical teams. These are Canadian doctors (who worked) with the AFP to treat some 6,500 number of patients, also across Panay Island. A lot of these patients suffered because they haven’t seen  a doctor in two weeks after the typhoon. And the first to aid assistance were the Canadian doctors.

There were 15 days of office. I was deployed with the Canadian forces, who were descendants of immigrants to Canada from the Philippines . They spoke the dialects. Some of them were actually from the island. So they were able to go into the communities before the other helicopters arrived with assistance. And, of course, it was quite a cultural shock for those who suffered from the trauma to see Filipino Canadian forces and some in AFP uniforms speaking Tagalog to them, in a city in Antique or Aklan, or Ilo-ilo.  It was a very nice statement about the diverse character of Canada, and also that  people can talk to us in their own language.

We also established a major water-purification program where we produced 500,000 liters of water to the island. At that time, there was no fresh water available. We established so we can purify water in 48 hours, from resources except salt and sewage water. This was used to provide water to the North Panay. We also distributed 300 tons of food and relief supplies from the UN and humanitarian agencies, using these helicopters . I’m very proud of the contribution of Canada. I wanted to mention that because it not only marked two months my presence here  but it  also marked Canada’s relations to the Philippines. Recently, we had a visit from the UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs who spoke about catalyst operations as the best example of civilian-military cooperation that she had ever seen.

We are going to work with the Philippines in the early reconstruction phase, as I was saying, expect us to have more announcement in the very near future.


Philippines-Canada Relations


In terms of the relationship between Canada and the Philippines, this is  a relationship that began 54 years ago. We’ve had a series of high level visits here in the past two years. PM Harper was here  in November 2012. This is the first visit by a Canadian leader in the Philippines in 15 years. Ironically, I was here on the last visit of a PM which I think was in 1996. I was counsel at the time when I was working for the foreign policy adviser to then PM Chretien, and I was asked to join his trip. All I remember of Manila is the Peninsula Hotel. All I did was work. I’ve been running speeches. I’ve been organizing some of the activities. I never really got to see Manila. I remember the traffic. I did know the Peninsula Hotel very well; I didn’t see much of the city. Now I’m back 15 years later.

PM Harper was the first G8 leader to visit the administration of President Aquino.  We’ve also had visits with Foreign Minister John Baird, as mentioned by our Development Minister, who was the first development minister to  come from abroad at the time of typhoon Yolanda.

A couple of points I'd like to mention about our relationship: International development is very important in this country. We began a couple of development cooperation (programs) following the restoration of democracy in 1986. We ensure that our efforts are completely aligned with the Philippine’s development plan. We support sustainable economic growth by improving the climate for investment and protecting the economic interest of the poor.

We are also focused on working with the LGUs and trying to strengthen the capacity of the local governments to administer their regions, to simplify business processes, their regulations and trying to assist them in a strengthened  capacity of government, which, I think, is critical for development. We also has done a lot of work with grassroots organizations. Last weekend, I was in General Santos and in Lake Sebu monitoring projects that our development agency is funding: assisting women entrepreneurs from the T’boli and other indigenous groups in Lake Sebu, who are building capacity through micro-entrepreneurship, micro-credits, to be able to bring handicrafts to central facilities to market those products. (This will help boost) tourism as Mindanao is seeing a resurgence of tourism. And this way, women can find outlets for their products. We set-up cooperatives that are marketing their products. We help them build tourism circuits so tourists will have 3 or 4 places to  visit on a circuit,  help build infrastructure, so tourists will have a comfortable visit, and also training tour guides. In this respect with are helping the  tourism sector. I think this is a good project as it helps in building capacity at the micro level.

We are also working with governments and NGOs to deliver programs to help the poor develop business skills, and improve access to financing and markets. It’s wonderful they have a  good handicraft industry because (if) you can’t market it, you can’t go very far.


People to People Linkages

canada_audience-2.jpgEverybody I meet in the Philippines has a family connection to Canada. Many of you have come from countries that may have family connections (here). But as you know, we’re a very multi-cultural society. We estimate 800,000 Canadians of Filipino origin. This is the largest and the fastest growing community in Canada at present.

I had a visit last January from Tobias Enverga who is a very interesting individual. His grandfather was a governor in Luzon. And he is the first Filipino-Canadian senator so it was a very historic moment. He’s a leader of the Filipino Canadian community.

Canada continuous to be an important destination for Filipinos looking to immigrate, to work, or to study. This is now the second busiest visa office in the world. As of 2012, it has reached 33,000 visas for permanent residence in Canada, over 8,000 foreign workers, and over 30,000 temporary residence and visitor visas. I mentioned this because the foreign worker program is very important to us because there are gaps where there’s not enough labor, or people are not available to take certain jobs. And now things are doing well in Canada due to temporary jobs from abroad including from the Philippines.

Tourism is very important. I talked about the tourism promotion that we were doing in local micro-economy here. Canada is one of the top 10  sources of tourists in the Philippines in excess of a 100,000 (tourists) annually. The tourism promotion board expects that it will grow 10 percent more annually, in the next 5 years.

There is also a reverse tourism based on Filipino ties to the Philippines, that is, Filipinos coming back from Canada. We have 275 in January. They’re escaping the Canadian winter.  They came over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to rediscover their roots. Some of them haven’t been here in 20 years, some for years. They went to Boracay, Ilo-ilo, Manila. They met President Aquino, we had a reception for them. And it was a very heart rending moment. If you consider, they’re groups that have not returned for two generations while  in Canada. For the first time in 40 years, they go back to where they grew up, their hometowns. So, I think it is very touching so I think we’re gonna see more of that in the future.

I have to mention the education file. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to advertise. We have 250,000 foreign students in Canada. This is a huge number. Across the country, that includes university, college and high school students. And we’re a major magnet for international students. We encourage international students.  We have a safe environment, a multi-cultural environment. You have a modest cost of education because we have state-funded universities. We have no private universities in Canada. It’s funded by the state, the tuition fees. And with all respect to our cousins in American, (our tuition) are half the price in the United States so keep that in mind if you’re planning to apply for masters . We have good MBA programs. We have masters in finance, human resources, international business. The university programs are based on university entrance (exam), but at that level, the universities in Canada are quite open because their wanting the lot of masters and PhD students.

And I mention this to you because it’s an issue, we got a lot of Latin-American in the past 9 years. I was very conscious that parents are looking for safety for their children. If you’re coming out from Colombia or Mexico, or countries like that, people are looking for safe environments for their kids. And Canada is certainly is where people can feel safe so I wanted to mention that. Some 250,000 foreign students were finding study (or has) interest in going to Canada. Those numbers continue to increase.

On the demographics, I should mention, the other flow of Filipinos permanently residing in Canada (is language). Tagalog is the fastest growing language in Canada, and if you go  across western Canada, you will run into the service sector, in restaurants, in McDonalds, everywhere you go in the country, you will hear Filipino dialects spoken. It’s quite interesting.

We’re a multicultural country. There’s a hundred languages spoken on the streets. We’re a bi-lingual country. We speak French but we have different languages spoken. Vancouver is now 50 percent  Asian. On the basis of outflows from Hongkong, Taiwan , China, and now from the Philippines. There are 200,000 Filipinos in Vancouver itself. So it’s a very significant language group and it’s certainly growing. We also hope that this demographic will generate more business, investments and trade between the two countries over time.


Canada’s Support to the Development Agenda of the Aquino Administration


Maybe, just a touch on the Aquino administration agenda. We are very supportive of their work on reform and economic development. Canada has supported an effort for the development of private-public partnerships   in the Philippines. This is a very a high priority. We provided assistance on freedom of information. We were also very sensitive about the Bangsamoro Peace Process. Canada provided   expertise from the Canadian World Mountain Police to develop a proposed police structure for the Bangsamoro entity. That will be unveiled in about two weeks but we’ve provided assistance as part of our commitment to the Bangsamoro. And I will be there at the signing ceremony tomorrow along with 1500 others. This is what our government, all governments want to support.

Our message to the government is that this is important in itself because you’re ending 40 years of turmoil, 175,000 deaths. It’s the longest running insurgency in the history of South East Asia. We want to see is a new Bangsamoro opportunities in the south. What it really does is, if it holds and is implemented, and people put up to it, is that it provides investment in the poorest region in the country. It also provides opportunity for development assistance. The doors have been cautious in the part of the UN and in the part of Mindanao for security issues and other factors. So, in that respect, tomorrow’s event will mean a lot.


Trade and Investment

We have $1.5 billion dollars in bi-lateral trade. It’s not a bad figure. We would like to see that increase. Our exports into this market is about $700 million annually. It’s funny , cause we have a very high tech modern economy in Canada but  in terms of this trade and relationship, the lot of it is primary products, for some reason. I’m from western Canada so I’m pleased to see weed exports, barley exports, lentils, specialty crops. Pork exports are also significant. This is our 8th major export market for pork. We know, Filipinos love pork and we love to sell pork. Your lechon is better than ours. We’re looking at the beef market, as well, the upper-end of the beef market retail.

We also have a lot of significant Canadian investments. The two largest and long-running insurance companies Manu Life and Sun Life are both Canadian. Sun Life has been here for 121 years. It’s a remarkable record. Manu Life has been here over a hundred years. We also have major investments in the BPO sector.That’s in both Manila and Cebu. And over 20,000 people in the country are employed by BPO operations. Bombardi Aerospace, for example, is the third largest aircraft manufacturer has opened a BPO in Cebu, and employed 400 people. And they do all the back-office financial transactions for Bombardi Aerospace world wide so you go into this office in Cebu, there’s Brazil desk, Mexico desk, a Middle East desk, and they’re all doing financial transactions, or those branches of Bombardi abroad. And these are all 400 young accounting graduates of Filipino schools, we’ve got accounting degrees, business management. They speak good English. They’re well educated. It’pleasing to see that. Because this means  we’re offering  through investments, opportunities  for the young people of the Philippines, to work and to stay.

Canada and Asia-Pacific 

I think I’m giving you a flavor (of) the Asia Pacific identity of Canada. I’m a product of European migration to Canada. Canada is a product of first, French (colonialism), then the English (colonialism). We have French as the official language but in some places it’s their first language, primarily in Quebec. That was an earlier history. That was amplified, taken the 20th century by waves of immigration, particularly from eastern and central Europe, during the two wars. And the convulsion of the Soviet Union led outflows into Canada. My father ran a construction company in my hometown, Saskatchewan. Canada. And all his staff were Europeans. They came, they learned. They came from Hungary, from Napole, from Ukraine, from Russia. They were expelled by various period of turbulence. In that period, their families left because of the soviet invasion and they could not tolerate that regime. And, therefore they moved to western and central Canada.

Canada has taken a very strong position in the situation at Ukraine, offended by what Russia has done. This is a violation of international laws. We are very cautious of the fragility of Ukraine because of the fact that there’s a million Canadians of Ukrainian descent. In western Canada, they have a very strong presence. And that has lead us to be preoccupied of the situation. I mentioned that because it was a European focus to our identity earlier. But recently, we are becoming an Asia-Pacific entity, and very active in Asian affairs.  We are a founding member of APEC in 1989. We’re involved in 30 other APEC forums. We’re also a founding member of ADB, it was here in Manila, and we’re the seventh largest shareholder in the ADB. We are going to support their work on reducing poverty across the region.

Canada and the ASEAN

With the ASEAN group, we became a dialogue partner in 1977, one of the only 10 countries that has that partnership with the ASEAN. We became a very significant partner of them, with co-operations on the political security, on regional integration, economics interests, inter-faith dialogues, crime and  terrorism, and disaster risk-reduction. We have reported our first ambassador to ASEAN in 2009. In 2010, we signed a tribute amity and a joint declaration on trade and investment. We’re trying to work with ASEAN on trade and investment in both directions. For example, Petronas in Malaysia, which has brought in gas sector in British Columbia, very soon, to export back to Asian Markets. We also created the ASEAN-Canada Business Council. This was launched by international trade ministerto  advance private sector co-operation.

We are also assisting ASEAN on issues relating to financial sector integration, and on dealing with natural disasters, which is a central area of concern. We have just approved a $4.5 million grant to the ASEAN-PPP infrastructure center in Singapore. This center is for assisting ASEAN countries in developing PPPs in their countries to meet the infrastructure challenges, and help them find and deploy pools of capital out there. What we found is that a lot of this countries cannot finance the major construction projects themselves. The PPPs are good one. Canada has almost 60 PPPs running. We have a lot of best practices we can share with them. We also have $2million for the PPP center in Manila. I was asked to go to this APEC meeting in China last month. The APEC will form an advisory panel for the PPP which  will also provide assistance starting with the PPP center in Jakarta. We’re also looking into other countries wish to develop an expertise to help them develop the structure that they all need. We’re also engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is a huge undertaking. 

We think it’s a good opportunity to strengthen partnerships in Asia-Pacific, but also drive regional economic integration. Canada is a strong free-trading country. We are the most transparent economies of the world. We have very large free-trade agreement, starting with the United States, the original FTA which became the NAFTA. We have five to seven FTAs in Americas. In Asia, we are pursuing discussions with India and Japan, and soon, Thailand. PM Harper was in Seoul two weeks ago. We signed an FTA with South Korea. That’s our first FTA in Asia so we’re very pleased to see that. Our exports in Asia has doubled since 1995.  Our foreign investment has doubled in that same period. While Asian investment to Canada has increased 4 times. We’re seeing the progress of trade markets, helping to reduce poverty and emerging paths  in a number of countries in Asia,and of course, in China. We great potential for Canada to engage in the economic expansion of the region, but we’re also engaged beyond the area of trade and investment.  There’s a lot of hi-level political interest with Canada, in the region. A hundred visits of cabinet level, and our PM in four years. We also doubled the number of diplomatic and cultural offices in China and India.

I mentioned earlier, the people-people tally between Canada and the Philippines, but if you talk about Canada and a larger Asia-Pacific Region, 60 percent of all new local residents in Canada emerged from Asia. Some 60 percent of all foreign students in Canada are from Asia. In 1970, the figure was 20 percent. It tripled since then.

We are also contributing to peace and security on the region. And in development program, we have a bi-lateral development assistance program in seven countries in Asia-Pacific, a regional program for SEA. We’ve provided in the last fiscal year, $800 million to the region, excluding Pakistan and Afghanistan which has a separate fund. We’re also working to prevent natural disasters and calamities, working with ADB for a disaster risk-reduction trust fund. 

And finally, on the security and counter-terrorism side, we made a lot of work through the Shangrila dialogue, the rim of the Pacific exercise, and counter-terrorism consultations. In the Philippines, we contributed $1.4 million to train a thousand first-responders to deal with any threat of biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive incidences. Canada is trying to assist so  that governments are prepared for those kinds of eventuality. As you see, it’s a wide-ranging relationship.

To watch the video of this forum, click here.


About the Ambassador's Forum @ AIM 

The Ambassadors’ Forum @ AIM is a venue for the professional exchange of knowledge and skills related to international development issues and trends. Its objectives are : (1) to broaden the regional and global perspective of AIM students taking up both the Master in Development Management and the Masters in Business Management,  (2) to provide a venue for the exchange of information for foreign ambassadors in Manila, and (3) to educate the community at large on internal relations and development issues and trends as they affect the Philippines and the region. Through the forum, ambassadors and embassy officials have been invited to discuss their countries’ views on Asian issues including political regimes, economics, finance, trade systems, demographics and migration, climate change and energy, strategic security, and world view.   

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