Canada, the Philippines and GK

Article excerpt

THIS episode concludes our Gawad Kalinga-Canada series which draws inspiration from the admirable qualities of caring, sharing and daring of Filipino-Canadian communities, and their generous support for GK programs. The enthusiastic response mobilized among our "kababayans" in Canada should be credited not just to GK alone, but equally to others: International partner ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor); the Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver organizers; and our Ambassador in Canada, "Chito" Brillantes and his career Consuls-General Alex Mosquera in Toronto, and Ruth Prado in Vancouver. Edda Pangilinan, retired nurse, serves as Honorary Consul in Winnipeg.

In the mindset of many Filipinos - and wrongly so - Canada is seen as mere appendix of its great US neighbor not realizing that Canada, which occupies 41 percent of North America, is the world's second largest country next to Russia. Canada is slightly smaller than all of Europe, 1.3 times bigger than Australia, and 1.1 times bigger than the US. Canada is also rich and productive enough to merit membership in the G-8 group of highly industrialized countries, owing to its vast natural resources (hitherto mostly untapped) and energetic/innovative multi-cultural people who number only 33,000,000 - or a little more than 1/3 the population of the Philippines. Talk about potential, competitiveness and space for future generations of high quality people - Canada has all that, and much more!

RP-Canada relations

Numbering about 440,000 - with an average influx of 20,000 immigrants from the Philippines annually, the Filipino community in Canada is the third largest among the ethno-linguistic groups, after the Indians and Chinese. The Canadian federal government, together with its provincial components, is remarkably supportive of Filipinos. Prime Minister Stephen Harper - who was reelected last October 14 - praised Filipinos for "their values of hard work, cooperative support, and great united efforts... that make Canada even stronger," during the 10th anniversary of the Multi-Cultural Helping House Society (a Filipino initiative) in Richmond, British Columbia in May, 2006.

Canada is one of our top trading partners, ranking 22nd overall in 2007, counting bilateral trade at 522 million USD, with the balance slightly in Canada's favor. Our major imports from Canada consist mostly of non-coniferous wood products, copper concentrates, wheat and chemicals, while Philippine exports are mainly electronic components, fresh and processed foods, design-driven products (giftware, decor, furnishings, furniture, garments), and IT and health services. Consistently ranking within the top ten in foreign arrivals in the Philippines, Canada is also a priority market for tourism.

In official development assistance, Canada has been a generous donor through its Canada International Development Agency (CIDA). Its current ODA focus is in good governance through institution-building at the LGU level, particularly in Mindanao, and in strengthening the private sector by promoting entrepreneurship. At end-2006, CIDA's portfolio involved 10 grant-assisted projects, totaling 71.1 million CAD or US$60 million.

GK in Canada

Gawad Kalinga is well on its way to reaching its medium-term goal dubbed "GK777:" 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in seven years. With the help of various civic, business, government and individual partners, Canadian presence in the Philippines continues to improve the lives of the poor with 47 Canadian GK villages (more than 2,000 homes) and 850 sponsored children.

At the GK Heroes' Night in Winnipeg last October 26 during which awards were given to deserving organizations and citizens, Tony Meloto summed it all fittingly: "Finally, a higher cause called GK has inspired Filipino organizations to rise above conflict and division, and unite to help our Motherland. The combined efforts of all to forge cooperation and partnership by joining our Canadian roadshow manifest our faith in the Filipino, wherever he/she is in the world. …