Philippine Ambassador Petronila P. Garcia hosted her first national day reception marking the 117th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence at the National Gallery of Canada on 9 June 2015. Distinguished representatives from the federal government, diplomatic corps, private sector and Filipino community filled the National Gallery’s Water Court foyer to capacity.
Travelling to Ottawa from a global economic forum known as the Conference of Montreal, the Honourable Rolando Tungpalan, Deputy Director General of NEDA, joined Ambassador Garcia in entertaining guests.
Colorful tableaus of Philippine folk culture painted by acclaimed Filipino artist Manuel Baldemor complemented the reception’s tasteful ambience along with Filipino classics performed by the Mamaril-Gauthier string trio and Filipino hors-d’œuvres prepared by Canadian hands.
A story of deepening friendship
In her welcome remarks, Ambassador Garcia recalled recent milestones which propelled Philippines-Canada relations to a new high: the establishment of a Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) to expand mutually beneficial aspects of bilateral ties, the unprecedented humanitarian assistance from Canada in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan; the designation of the Philippines as a Country of Focus for Canadian development programs and as a Priority Market under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP); and the state visit of President Benigno S. Aquino III which opened up a vista to exploratory talks on a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and to a Review – with the intent to improve – an existing Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) in addition to agreements guiding development cooperation and collaboration to create safer workplaces in the Philippines.
DDG Tungpalan echoed Ambassador Garcia’s positive outlook for the Philippine economy on the strength of good governance and strong investor confidence. He cited reforms underway to address the challenges to the country’s inclusive growth, including the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law for enduring peace in Mindanao as well as emerging policies on disaster management and energy security.
Speaking on behalf of the Canadian Government, the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, conveyed the greetings of Prime Minister Harper and Foreign Minister Robert Nicholson on the occasion of Philippine independence day. Minister Fast acknowledged the Philippines as THE fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia with a very young population which bodes well for future growth going forward. With the Philippines and Canada as the only two countries having direct air links and code sharing arrangements, Minister Fast affirmed the Philippines’ present position as Canada’s natural gateway to the ASEAN region. He also recalled the outcomes of President Aquino’s state visit and looked forward to creating incentives to grow economic ties between the Canada and the Philippines.
Beyond commercial relations, Minister Fast also pointed to the deepening partnership between our countries especially in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda and on the back of shared values and the strong people-to-people ties forged by over 700,000 Filipinos in Canada. For the benefit of Canadians sending money abroad, he announced the federal government’s investment of CAD 6 million to help reduce the cost of remittances and promote transparency in order to bring about the best value.
Quoting Shakespeare, Minister Fast concluded that it was incumbent upon both countries to ride the full sea leading to fortune.
“The Philippines marks its 117th anniversary of independence with a renewed sense of pride in our history as a sovereign nation and a more positive outlook for future generations of Filipinos. To be sure, I am privileged to represent my country at a time when Philippines-Canada relations can be said to be as robust as ever. From the highest levels of government to big, small and medium businesses, the Philippines and Canada are closely engaged as like-minded partners for inclusive growth and prosperity. At the grassroots, our shared affinity for family and democratic values, a common language and multicultural identity catalyze the good chemistry between Filipinos and Canadians.
With more milestones freshly set and new ones to reach, it is a good time to be Philippine Ambassador to Canada – a very good time to grow official and personal connections, meet new enablers, create synergies and reinforce existing relationships as well as people-to-people ties,” Ambassador Garcia observed.