President Benigno Aquino III’s state visit to Canada came to an end as he flew back to the Philippines. As he arrived home, he brought with him the good news that several Canadian firms were planning and committing to invest and start up businesses in the country.
“Ayon sa kanilang pinuno’t mga opisyal, interesado silang pumasok sa mga sektor ng enerhiya, turismo at agrikultura,” he said in his speech upon arrival in the Philippines.
(According to their leader and officials, they are interested in entering the energy, tourism and agriculture sectors.)
“Maski nga po ako, nagulat. Hindi lang kasi mais kundi pati pagtatanim ng blueberries at cranberries pinag-iisipan na nilang pasukin sa bansa,” he added.
(Even I was surprised. They not only considered planting corns [in the country] but were also thinking of planting blueberries and cranberries as well.)
Aquino also made several speeches in Canada reporting the reforms he initiated and the boom in the Philippine economy.
“Aaminin ko. Maski ako, pagkaupo bilang pangulo, naisip ko rin parang imposibleng solusyonan ang mga problemang minana natin,” he said. “Para po kasing kada araw, panibagong anomalya at dagdag na problema ating nadidiskubre pero hindi po tayo sumuko.”
(I admit. Even I, when I took over presidency, I also thought that it was impossible to solve the problems we have inherited. It seemed like every day, we discovered new anomalies and problems but we did not give up.)
“Sa abot ng ating makakaya, tinutupad natin ang ating panata: Ipamana ang Pilipinas na ‘di hamak na mas maunlad kaysa sa ating dinatnan,” he added, receiving applause from the audience.
(To the best of our abilities, we made true our promise: Hand down the Philippines as a better country than it was before.)
Aquino went to Canada with the aim to ‘improve the Canada-Philippines trade relations’ and at the same time be able to meet with the Filipino communities in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
Canada is the 10th top destination of overseas Filipino workers. At present, half a million of Filipinos have been granted permanent residency in the country. To this, Aquino claimed that with the rising Philippine economy, Filipinos no longer needed to seek greener pasture abroad.
Though Aquino’s state visit garnered relatively positive feedback, the Filipino community in Canada still had mixed reactions on the president’s words and claims.
“I have never been homesick yet. Pero nung narinig ko siya, parang, ‘Ba’t ako nandito (But when I heard him, I was like, ‘Why am I here?),” life insurance advisor Gina Garcia said.
“After what he’s told us about what he did, it’s a big invitation for me to go and see if it’s really true, another life insurance advisor Cel Sangalang said.
Some Filipinos, however, where not satisfied with what the Philippine government has done.
An advocate group urged Aquino to give assurance on the protection of Filipino caregivers and domestic workers in Canada.
“But if you don’t give protection to people, how can they contribute productively to the vibrant economy?” Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers committee member Lorina Serafico asked, adding that Aquino should ensure the rights of Filipino workers were protected.