President Aquino delivered a SONA (state-of –the-nation) -like speech apprising the community of economic accomplishments, reforms and successes under his Straight Path (Daang Matuwid) program of government. Photo taken at the Vancouver Convention Centre where he was given a rousing welcome by over 1,200 Fil-Can members during the final leg of his state visit to Canada.
President Aquino visited Vancouver over the weekend amid the raucous cheers of over 1,200 countrymen and women who welcomed him at a community meeting at jampacked Vancouver Convention Centre.
Speaking in pure Filipino, the President delivered a SONA (state-of –the-nation) -like speech apprising the community of economic accomplishments, reforms and successes under his Straight Path (Daang Matuwid) program of government.
Mixing Pinoy humor with economic statistics, the President described what he proclaimed as Philippine transformation from a corrupt country to a rapidly growing economy steered by good governance.
“Aminin ko ho, maski ako, pagkaupo bilang Pangulo, naisip ko ring parang imposibleng solusyunan ang mga problemang minana natin. Para po kasing kada araw, panibagong anomalya at dagdag na problema ang ating nadidiskubre. Pero hindi po tayo sumuko. Sa abot ng ating makakaya, tinutupad natin ang ating panata: Ipamana ang Pilipinas na di hamak na mas maunlad, kaysa ating dinatnan,” the President said.
He also highlighted reforms in the economy, infrastructure development, justice system, technical education and skills development, trade, weather forecasting system, and Armed Forces modernization.
Part of the presidential entourage were Secretaries Cesar Purisima of Finance, Rosalinda Baldoz of Labor, Gregory Domingo of Trade, Arsenio Balisacan of Economic Planning, Herminio Coloma Jr. of Presidential Communications Operations, Julia Abad of Presidential Management Staff, Jose Almendras of the Cabinet and Undersecretary Laura del Rosario of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia and Philippine Consul General to Vancouver Neil Frank Ferrer.
Canadian officials who took part were Minister of Defense and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, Minister of International Trade Edward Fast, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, Ambassador Neil Reeder and key federal, provincial and municipal officials.
In his speech, President Aquino thanked the Canadian government for the hospitality and economic opportunities extended to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos living and working in Canada. He also described Premier Clark as a “partner” of the Filipino people and cited the Memorandum of Understanding concerning Cooperation in Human Resources Deployment and Development, which the Philippines signed with the Province of British Columbia earlier in the day.
Premier Clark meanwhile, commended the Filipinos for being strivers. “People with a sense of adventure, people who are brave, people who are loyal and patriotic, people with resilience and a capacity for hard work and, most of all, the thing that we know the Filipino community best: strivers,” she said.
She also announced the opening of “a million new jobs” in the province in the next seven years and referred to temporary migrant workers as “potential new Canadians.” Canada is home to about 700,000 Filipinos, with nearly 140,000 Filipinos residing in British Columbia.
Her remark resonated with the appreciative crowd that included community leaders from BC, Alberta, and as far away as the Northern Territories and Yukon.
For his part, Minister Kenney, also welcomed the growing population of Filipinos in Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and thanked them for their contributions to Canada’s economic growth and cultural development.
He said that Canada will continue to work closely with Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, whom he and Clark lauded for efforts to protect the rights of migrant workers in Canada.
Kenney said the Philippines will be the top country for Canadian humanitarian development assistance and a priority country for investment and trade. He also disclosed ongoing discussions on the possibility of forging a free trade agreement between the Philippines and Canada.
“One of the decisions we have taken is to support the Filipino communities who are working hard to send remittances back home for their families, and so we decided to set up a framework for accountability, for remittance companies to put forth greater transparency, to encourage them to lower their remittance fees so people can send more of their support back to their families,” he said.
President Aquino also thanked the Canadian government for making the Philippines their “Country of Focus” to receive bilateral assistance from Canada.
Vancouver was the final leg of President Aquino’s three-day state visit in Canada. He also visited Ottawa and Toronto.