A visiting Cabinet member of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had some good news to Filipino Canadians.
According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol, things have fundamentally changed since Duterte took over on June 30, 2016 following his landslide victory in the last election.
“This president is an unusual and extraordinary president,” Piñol said about Duterte.
Piñol, for one, noted to Filipino Canadians in Toronto that the Philippines is “safer now than it has been”.
Piñol made the remarks after he laid a wreath at the bust of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal in Toronto. The event was held in October at the Earl Bales Park.
Piñol was welcomed by Ambassador Petronila Garcia. Also at the event were Consul General Rosalita Prospero, Deputy Consul General Bernadette Therese Fernandez, and officers and guests of Knights of Rizal and Kababaihang Rizalista.
Among the “fundamental changes” cited by Piñol is the fight against corruption in government.
According to Piñol, the campaign does not spare members of the Cabinet, whom Duterte constantly reminds that they have to be honest.
“This government is a clean government,” Piñol recalled the President telling Cabinet members.
Piñol also cited Duterte’s move for a ceasefire agreement with communist rebels under the National Democratic Front.
According to Piñol, the ceasefire has brought peace in many regions in the Philippines.
The Cabinet secretary also told Filipino Canadians that while Duterte has a “compassionate heart” for people, he does not negotiate with terrorists like the Abu Sayyaf group in Mindanao.
The Abu Sayyaf had previously beheaded two of their Canadian hostages: Robert Hall and John Ridsdel.
On the campaign against drugs, Piñol said that there are now almost one million people who have turned themselves in to seek cure for their addiction.
Piñol said that drug rehabilitation centres are being built in the Philippines to treat addicts.
Regarding agriculture, a major economic sector in the country, Piñol said that for the first time, farmers do not have to pay for irrigation.
Piñol also said that he has sat down with farmers and fishermen to listen to their concerns.
On foreign policy, Piñol said that Duterte has wisely ignored calls from some for the Philippines to enter into a conflict with China.
He recalled that in a recent visit to China, Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping that “among us Asians, we could settle our differences”.
The Philippines and China are parties to a multi-nation dispute over a number of islands in the South China Sea.