Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is scheduled to visit Canada in May. In addition to Ottawa, Aquino is expected to stop in cities where the Filipino population is heavily concentrated, like Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Aquino’s visit is going to be the latest high-profile visit by a foreign leader in the run-up to the October 2015 federal election.
This April, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed Narendra Modi, the first sitting Indian prime minister to visit Canada in more than 40 years.
Aquino’s visit is tentatively slated for the first week in May. Aquino and Harper are expected to will explore free trade talks during the visit.
Elected in 2010, President Aquino is the son of Corazon Aquino, who led the Philippines’ democratic revolutionin 1986.
The Filipino population is growing in Canada. Statistics Canada now says it’s the country’s third-largest source of immigrants.
Philippine Star columnist Babe G. Romualdez wrote: “The timing of the visit is opportune in light of the upcoming Canadian elections where the Fil-Canadian population, estimated at 800,000, can help shore up votes for the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“According to data, the Philippines has become the third biggest source of immigrants to Canada, with areas such as Bathurst and Wilson even dubbed as “Little Manila.” (Incidentally, Jollibee is set to open a branch in Toronto – in fact the first in Canada – which has sent the Fil-Canadian community abuzz with excitement).
“Sources say that high on the agenda will be trade talks between President Aquino and Prime Minister Harper whose Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP) has listed the Philippines among the top 20 priority countries. Under the GMAP, Canada will identify markets with high growth potential that would advance the interest of Canadian businesses in specific foreign markets.
“Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder says Canada is, in fact, an “ideal partner” for the Philippines, pointing to the two-way trade between both countries estimated at $1.7 billion annually but which the Ambassador says has very good potential to grow even more. A big number of Canadian companies, among them insurance giants such as SunLife and Manulife (which have been here for over a century), provide employment to a significant number of Filipinos.
“Aside from trade and commerce, an equally important aspect would be the people-to-people linkages as pointed out by the Ambassador who, shortly after his arrival in October 2013, found himself deep in humanitarian and relief efforts due to the strong earthquake that hit the Visayas followed by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Canada’s development program is focused on providing assistance that would promote sustainable economic growth by improving the investment climate and advancing economic opportunities for the poor, with special attention given to the SME sector, agribusiness and tourism in isolated areas that have great potential, among them South Cotabato and its T’boli weavers with their “T’nalak” designs and patterns that have become globally recognized.”
Finally, Romualdez also noted: “Canada believes this country has overwhelming potential, which is why it has designated the Philippines as a country of focus for international development efforts and is looking for ways to expand the relationship beyond trade links and explore partnership via investment and innovation, Ambassador Reeder said.”