Canadian envoy wants stronger ties with PH

John T. Holmes

FOREIGN ambassadors come and go. While saying goodbye to them may be hard for those people who have worked with them in the embassies, there will always be a good reason to welcome and be excited for those who would take their place.

Such is the case for John T. Holmes, the new Canadian ambassador to the Philippines, who was posted September 2016 replacing former Ambassador Neil Reeder.

With previous posts in the region, Holmes had served as envoy to Indonesia, with concurrent accreditation to Timor-Leste and the Asean. 

Prior to his arrival in Manila, he headed the Canadian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

He is accompanied by his wife Carol, a Cordon Bleu chef, and his son from Waterloo, “which has the best faculty, including engineering”. 

A chef of the Cordon Bleu (French for “blue ribbon”) kind denotes or relates to the highest class or standard of quality in culinary arts. 

Mrs. Holmes worked side-by-side with famous Canadian Chef Quentin Glabus during a master cooking class at the ambassador’s residence this week.

 

Trade and investments

With regard to doing business with the Philippines, Holmes said Canada wants to continue what it has done successfully so far, “which is to improve our trade and investment program.”

The two-way trade between the two countries is valued at more than C$2 billion but still, there are a lot of enhancements that can be done both ways.

He said that there are more Filipino products going to Canada, while more products and services from the North American country are coming here.

Canada is the Philippines’s sixth top partner for development assistance, and is a major trading partner. Close to 800,000 Filipinos are currently working and living there.

 

Infrastructure

Further, Holmes said there are many more Canadian businesses that can help immensely in the area of infrastructure, “not the big contracting [kind], but more of subcontracting in the areas of safety, security and engineering.”

The Ambassador also said that Canadian companies are investing in the business-process outsourcing industry in our shores.

“I think more Canadian companies are investing here. We have two major Canadian investment pools of money, pension funds and others. They are always looking for opportunities, particularly in the area of infrastructure.”

Holmes also said that the Embassy are inviting Canadian investors to come to the Philippines.

 “There are good opportunities and money to be made, and so [we can] come in, for example, via a tool-booth highway, or new airport projects.”

Going further, Holmes shared that pension funds were invested in these projects in other countries, and they have invested here in the past. “So, I think, this is an area where Canada has both the money and the expertise.”

 

800,000 Pinoy Immigrants

On matters of immigration, Holmes said Filipinos are the largest group of foreigners in Canada, numbering at 800,000: “That number will continue [to rise].  We want to see more Filipinos going to school in Canada, graduate in our country, spend a couple of years there, and then come back to the Philippines and help its economy.”

For the next three years of his posting, the Ambassador said that the team from the embassy and the diplomatic sections would be staging three-pronged events which are in relation to the 150th anniversary of its confederation, as well as in celebration of 40 years of ties with ASEAN.

Holmes further said that three Canadian artists are coming over to Manila to kick off the yearlong activities – Deepa Mehta, director of the Oscar-nominated film Water; Jeremy Dutcher, an up-and-coming Toronto-based composer and vocal artist and Chef Quentin Glabus, who specializes in Canadian cuisine with aboriginal influences or what he calls “modern indigenous cuisine”.

“We are proud to bring these Canadian artists to Manila to officially start our activities for Canada’s 150th birthday,” Holmes said.

He concluded: “Beyond excelling in their respective fields, these Canadians are fine examples of the welcoming and empowering cultural mosaic upon which our society is built. We are honored to welcome them to the Philippines, so they can share their experience and their evolution as artists.”

 

Trade Irony 

For his part, Senior Trade Commissioner Michel R. Belanger, who will end his three-year stint in the country this July, said bilateral trade within Asean was at C$2.2 billion. 

The Philippines is the third-largest partner, after Indonesia and Thailand, though the amount still varies year-to-year.

Belanger said that Canada’s biggest exports to the country are agricultural products, where products such as wheat, pork and beef, among others comprise 40 percent of such.

Asked what we buy from them, Belanger noted a bit of irony in this aspect, saying: “We are supposed to be a more developed country, while the Philippines is a developing one; [but] what we export to you are agricultural products, and you produce for us electronics.”

“That is your top export, manufactured in Peza [Philippine Export Processing Zone] sites by Japanese, which is interesting. I’m sure it is similar to what other countries are receiving, as well.(With reports from Business Mirror)

 

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Monday, 19 February 2018
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