MANILA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed up here Saturday with a $25 million cheque to help improve women's rights across Southeast Asia and to help young Filipinos find a job.
After a 40-minute meeting with Filipino President Benigno Aquino III, the two men also signed an agreement aimed at boosting exports by Canadian defence and security firms.
“Our government is taking action to aggressively expand commercial relations with the Asia-Pacific region,” Harper said as he stood beside Aquino in the Malacanan Palace.
“We are doing so to help create jobs, economic growth, and a better quality of life both in Asia and Canada.”
Nearly 600,000 Filipinos live in Canada and the most recent data from Statistics Canada show that Tagalog, the language most widely used by Filipinos, is the fastest growing language in Canada, a point that Aquino made in his remarks to reporters.
“Our ties are increasingly getting closer and closer mainly because of increasing people-to-people ties that we have in Canada,” Aquino said.
Harper announced that Canada would provide $10 million over the next five years to promote the rights of women in the Philippines and seven other Southeast Asian countries.
Harper also announced that Canadian taxpayers would provide $15.5 million over four years in an effort to help promote economic growth and employment in the Philippines, mostly by providing advice and assistance to a variety of Filipino government agencies.
During his day in Manila, Harper and his wife Laureen were scheduled to lay a wreath at the Rizal Monument, a memorial to the 19th century Filipino nationalist and martyr Jose Rizal.
The two also attended an official luncheon at the Malacanan Palace before spending part of the afternoon touring Fort Santiago, one of the most important historical sites in Manila. Harper concluded his day in Manila with a meeting of business leaders.
The Harpers end their week-long swing through Asia on Sunday in Hong Kong at a Remembrance Day ceremony at Sai Wan Cemetery, the final resting place for Canadians killed defending Hong Kong in the Second World War.