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Opinion

Marking 35 years of Canada-Philippines partnership

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Peter Macarthur - The Philippine Star

This November marks 35 years of Canada’s bilateral development assistance partnership with the Philippines. So it’s an opportune moment to share highlights of the long-standing Canadian commitment to contribute to poverty reduction in the Philippines in partnership with government, the United Nations, civil society and the private sector.

Immediately following the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986, Canada designated the Philippines as a priority country for development assistance and pledged CAD100 million (approx. P 4.09 billion) in support of democratic development over five years. Since then, Canada has provided over CAD1 billion (approx. P40.8 billion) in international assistance to the Philippines. The Philippines is a friendly democracy which shares the Pacific Ocean with us: our goal all along has been to partner with Filipinos to ensure greater success and prosperity.

Inspired first by an innovative support program pioneered in Negros, over the years Canadian aid through then CIDA and now Global Affairs Canada in concert with partners in the Philippines has sought to strengthen governance and the peace process, encourage private sector development and job creation, and address socio-economic gaps including gender inequality.

Since the enactment of the Local Government Code in 1991, Canada initiated long-term funding in support of devolution, drawing on our own decentralized governance experience in a federation of 10 provinces and three territories. Working closely with the DILG, funding helped LGUs in areas such as leadership, planning and management, service delivery, revenue generation and community engagement. Today, Canada funds technical training to strengthen inter-governmental relations between the national and BARMM governments.

A peaceful and stable BARMM will help generate jobs and prosperity in affected communities. Since 2007, Canada has contributed to the multi-donor Mindanao Trust Fund for the socio-economic recovery of conflict-affected communities, and we look to build on these investments to further support the peace process and inclusive growth.

Promoting inclusive growth has been a pillar of Canada’s bilateral assistance. Starting in the 1990s, in line with the country’s national plan to assist SMEs, Canada contributed towards job creation and enterprise development by strengthening business support services including on business strategy, productivity, marketing, exporting, management and sustainability. Today, our support continues with an emphasis on assisting women to gain skills for the labor market and grow their businesses.

Indeed, Canada has been at the forefront of promoting gender equality. From supporting the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women in the late 1990s to mainstream gender equality policies and programs across government, to our partnerships with the Philippines Commission on Women, to our present day support for local Philippines women’s organizations, Canada believes that the empowerment of healthy women and girls is the most effective way to address the root causes of poverty and achieve AmBisyon Natin 2040.

Canada has been a friend and partner to the Philippines in times of crisis. In response to COVID-19, we were among the 10 leading supporters of the global COVAX Facility initiative for vaccine access. At last month’s G20 Summit, Canada announced a donation of at least 200 million COVID vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility by the end of 2022, starting with 10 million Moderna doses. Last year Canada’s ASEAN aid program donated PPE and helped fund disease tracking and treatment. We added to our ongoing aid programming with several new initiatives to mitigate pandemic-related disruptions to reproductive health services and children’s education. As we consider ways to control the pandemic in 2022, additional Canadian PPE deliveries to the Philippines are now planned.

Canada is a leading shareholder in both the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. These international financial institutions play a crucial role in issuing loans and providing technical advice to support the government of the Philippines. My country contributes billions of dollars to these multilateral efforts to face the two great issues of our time: the pandemic and climate change, two challenges that are inter-linked and require a global effort if we are to be successful.

When natural disasters strike, Canada has been there as part of the humanitarian response at the invitation of the Philippines. In response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), over 300 personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Disaster Assistance Response Team deployed to provide medical treatment, water purification and road clearance. The government of Canada also provided over CAD85 million (approx. P3.5 billion) to relief efforts, matching the support of private donations from Canadians, a clear manifestation of solidarity based on our strong people-to-people ties.

With the increasing frequency of climate change disasters, Canada will continue to contribute to humanitarian responses through UN and NGO channels. We are also significantly increasing our investments in climate action by doubling our climate finance commitment to CAD5.3 billion (approx. P216.4 billion) over the next five years to help developing countries, including the Philippines, transition to low-carbon, sustainable and resilient economies. Building on Canada’s ongoing support for disaster risk reduction research in the Philippines through the International Development Research Center, we will be looking for new partnerships to pool resources to meet the existential challenge that is climate change, particularly the need to shift away from coal to cleaner power.

In marking this 35th anniversary let me express Canadian appreciation to our Filipino and other partners in making progress together. That commitment remains strong, now more than ever.

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Peter MacArthur is Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines.

CANADA

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