Preparations underway for Aquino’s visit to Canada

Community News & Features Apr 22, 2015 at 8:16 pm


By Mila Astorga-Garcia

Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consulate General Toronto officials have been meeting with the Filipino community leaders to prepare for the visit of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Various sources have unofficially announced Aquino’s state visit sometime first week of May, although there has been no official statement yet from both the Canadian and Philippine governments on this matter, as of this writing (April 21, 2015).

Reliable sources from the diplomatic community, however, revealed Aquino will visit Ottawa and Toronto from May 6 to 9.

Canadian Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr. was reported to have mentioned the possibility of a May visit during the 10th anniversary of the Knights of Rizal, Scarborough, where he delivered a speech at the event, held Saturday April 18.

CTV News, quoting unidentified sources, also said the visit is slated for the first week of May.

CTV’s Richard Madan, reporting from Ottawa quotes his sources as saying that “top Canadian officials have been aggressively trying to arrange his (Aquino’s) Canadian visit as soon as possible,” adding that the visit “could score big political points for the Conservatives as political parties attempt to court voters from Canada’s significant immigrant population leading up to the fall election.”

The visit follows close to the heels of the recent 3-day visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also on the invitation of the Canadian government. Members of the South Asian Community came in droves to fill up Toronto’s Ricoh Centre to welcome Modi.

The CTV news report quoted officials of the opposition parties who viewed such visits of the heads of state as Ottawa’s attempt to court votes from the ethnic community groups, which are among the largest in Canada, in light of the federal elections come October 2015. Next to the Chinese community, South Asians from India and Filipinos are respectively the second and third largest source of immigrants to Canada.

“I imagine the prime minister is hoping some of the aura of the current Philippine president is going to rub off in the Canadian context”, CTV quoted NDP Immigration Critic Andrew Cash.

“It is obvious we’re going to have an election in six months, and there are significant ethnic groups in this country – ethic groups and others – that are being courted,” CTV quoted Liberal MP Marc Garneau.

Meanwhile, the Filipino community media have been intentionally kept out of the community meetings at the Philippine Consulate, such as the community briefing, Saturday April 18, of Filipino community leaders and members.

Phone messages to the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa and the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto were not returned. When The Philippine Reporter visited the Philippine Consulate Tuesday (April 20) afternoon to request for a one-minute conversation with Consul Bolivar Bao, he refused to be seen and instead sent a message to the receptionist to relay to the paper that he had nothing to say, while awaiting any official confirmation.

When the Reporter asserted to be given the courtesy of an appropriate response from a consulate official, Noy Fedelicio, Communications and Information Officer replied: “On behalf of the Philippine Consulate… we cannot give an advisory as we don’t want to preempt the statement of the Canadian Government in announcing the visit.”
He said that the media will be informed and invited to the community meetings once an official announcement is made. He however confirmed that the publisher of Filipiniana newspaper was present at the Saturday (April 18) community meeting, although the latter and all other media representatives were not invited. He denied any act of discrimination. He explained that the meetings with community groups were merely intended to engage them in mobilizing Filipinos for the presidential visit. An advisory will be issued once the preparations are firmed up, he said.