Representing Canada
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Neil Reeder (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2016 - 12:00am

It has been an honour and privilege for me to represent Canada as ambassador to the Philippines since 2013. My family and I have greatly enjoyed our time here and learned much about your history, culture, nature, society, languages and cuisine. We made official and personal visits from Ilocos Norte and Cagayan in the north, to various parts of Mindanao and across the Visayas in the south. Around every corner there was something new and different, another sight to behold.

We have seen major advances in our bilateral relationship in the past three years. Important new investments in both directions will provide jobs and economic opportunities to further build our robust commercial links. We welcomed 10 incoming trade missions from Canada over the past year alone, and the Philippines is now a priority country for trade and investment for Canada. 

Development cooperation is a key area of collaboration and the Philippines is one of only 25 countries that are a development country of focus for Canada. We help Filipinos help themselves, promoting grassroots economic development, strengthening local government, assisting women entrepreneurs and working to reduce poverty. Canadian-supported programs like LGSP-LED, Great Women and JobStart have made an important impact.

High-level contacts have also flourished, with a successful state visit of former President Aquino to Canada last year. Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, visited Manila in November 2015 to attend the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting on his first overseas visit as Prime Minister.

At the core of this special relationship are people-people ties. It is remarkable how many Filipinos I have met during my posting have family ties to Canada. The Philippines is now Canada’s largest source country for immigrants and the Filipino community in Canada numbers more than 700,000. Filipinos are making an integral contribution to the Canadian economy and they enrich the diverse cultural mosaic that is contemporary Canada. Growing numbers of tourists travel back and forth including Filipinos enjoying the vast Canadian spaces, from the Rocky Mountains to our cosmopolitan cities.

More than 350,000 foreign students study in Canada each year, and I am delighted that more and more Filipino students are choosing Canada as a high-quality, world-class, multicultural and cost-effective study destination. 

Filipinos and Canadians share a strong humanitarian impulse and desire to help others. Canada recently announced $4.1 million in funding to help meet the health and nutrition needs of women and children in Camarines Sur, to reduce the risk of stunting and maternal-child mortality. After Typhoon Ruby, I visited eastern Samar where I have vivid memories of seeing local fishers heading out to the sea in fishing boats provided by Canada, and villagers producing chicken and eggs with livelihood support from Canada. After Typhoon Yolanda, a 360-member military and civilian contingent from my country, working with Philippine armed forces and police personnel, deployed to Panay Island for six weeks to provide emergency assistance. Canadians and their government provided nearly $200 million in assistance. 

Canada has also responded to assist those displaced by conflict in Maguindanao and Zamboanga, including providing emergency shelter.  

As a longstanding ice hockey fan, I find it remarkable to see an Olympic-sized hockey arena in Manila and to witness the steady growth in the Philippines of Canada’s favourite sport. The Philippines has now obtained membership in the International Ice Hockey Federation and your ice hockey teams expect to participate in the SEA Games in 2017, and other international competitions.

We are confident that this exceptional relationship still has much room to grow under the new government of President Duterte in the coming years. 

Farewell, au revoir and Mabuhay!

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