08 May 2015

President Aquino’s state visit to Canada begins
(OTTAWA, Canada) President Benigno S. Aquino III flew to Ottawa, the first stop of his three-day state visit to Canada, on Thursday (Friday in Manila) after completing a successful one-day working visit to Chicago.

Shortly after his arrival in Ottawa, President Aquino traveled to Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada’s governor general, where he was welcomed by Governor General David Johnston and Mrs. Sharon Johnston with military honors, including a 21-gun salute.

After the official welcome at 2 p.m. (local time), President Aquino held talks with Governor General Johnston at the Large Drawing Room, Rideau Hall. The meeting was followed by a tree planting ceremony.

President Aquino planted a red spruce (Picea rubens) on the grounds of Rideau Hall to commemorate his state visit to Canada. It was located beside the red maple that was planted by President Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino, during her state visit to Canada in November 1989.

Later at 6:30 p.m. (local time), President Aquino will attend a state dinner at Rideau Hall hosted in honor of the President’s visit by Governor General Johnston and Mrs. Johnston.

On Friday (Saturday in Manila), the President will participate in a tête-à-tête meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They will also witness the signing of agreements that will strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries.

President Aquino’s visit to Canada will focus on building on people-to-people ties, strengthening trade and investment relationship, and expanding cooperation on development and regional security between Canada and the Philippines.

The three-day state visit, which will include stops in , Toronto and Vancouver as well, is President Aquino’s first visit to Canada since taking office in 2010.

Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia said the visit is a “reciprocation” of the visit of Prime Minister Harper to the Philippines in 2012.

Garcia said the visit is also an opportunity for the President to “reconnect” with the Filipinos in Canada, which is home to almost 700,000 Filipinos.

“This is a very important visit because it comes in a very good time. Canada is at the juncture where it is expanding its horizon towards Asia, and the Philippines is the fastest growing economy in the region,” Garcia said.

After Ottawa, President Aquino, accompanied by the Philippine delegation, will travel to Toronto on Friday (Saturday in Manila) after which he will proceed to Vancouver. PND (co)

President Aquino plants a tree at Rideau Hall
(OTTAWA, Canada) President Benigno S. Aquino III attended the ceremonial tree planting at the grounds of Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor general of Canada, when he arrived here on Thursday (Friday in Manila).

Accompanied by Governor General of Canada David Johnston and his spouse, Sharon Johnston, President Aquino planted a red spruce (Picea rubens) next to the red maple planted by his late mother, former president Corazon Aquino, during her state visit to Canada in 1989.

Governor General Johnston presented President Aquino the same spade used by his mother to heap soil on the base of his tree.
In his short remarks prior to the tree planting, Governor General Johnston said the tree symbolizes President Aquino’s first visit to their country and the lasting friendship between the Philippines and Canada.

“Today, you will, quite literally, follow in your mother’s footsteps, who not only visited Canada in 1989 as president, but who also planted a tree at Rideau Hall. Soon, you will plant your own tree by your mother’s to mark this visit,” Johnston said.

“What a wonderful legacy for your family. Reminds me of one of my favorite proverbs: ‘Blessed is the man or the woman who plants a tree knowing that he or she will not be there to enjoy its shade’,” he added.

There to witness the ceremonial tree planting were some members of President Aquino’s delegation — Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Arsenio Balisacan, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, and head of the Presidential Management Staff Julia Abad.

Planting a tree on the grounds of Rideau Hall is a tradition carried out by heads of state, members of the Royal Family, and other dignitaries who visit the Canadian governor general’s official residence.

The tradition began in 1906 and prominent guests who have planted their own trees include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Elizabeth II, and Japan’s Imperial Majesties Akihito and Michiko.

Former president Fidel Ramos planted an Ohio buckeye when he made his state visit to Canada in 1997.
Aside from Ottawa, President Aquino will also visit the cities of Toronto and Vancouver during his three-day tour of Canada. PND (jb)

Philippines, Canada agree to deepen bilateral ties
(OTTAWA, Canada) The Philippines and Canada have pledged to further strengthen their bilateral relations during the state visit of President Benigno S. Aquino III to the country.President Aquino arrived in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon and was welcomed by Governor General David Johnston and Mrs. Sharon Johnston with military honors at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor general of Canada.

The President is on a three-day visit to Canada, which will also have stops in Toronto and Vancouver.

In his short remarks following the official welcome ceremony, President Aquino said the Philippines is looking forward to strengthening its “robust relations” with Canada.

“I believe that if we continue engaging one another, as we have done in the past, then we can turn our collective aspirations of meaningful shared progress that is inclusive, into tangible realities sooner rather than later,” he added.

For his part, Governor General Johnston recognized Canada’s strong and growing relations with the Philippines.

“The dialogue we engage in is vital to the strength of our relationship. In our modern age, we must be able to communicate. We know this today, just as those who forged our initial links knew, that we would find more success when we work together,” he said.

The governor general said the Philippines and Canada have so much in common.

“Yours is one of the most vibrant and rapidly developing regions in the world, with great opportunities to achieve success and some new challenges to overcome,” he said.

“Canada, in turn, is pleased to support the Philippines’ long-term commitments in areas of security, disaster management, development and humanitarian aid,” he added.

The welcome ceremony was followed by President Aquino’s courtesy call on Governor General Johnston and the ceremonial tree planting at the grounds of Rideau Hall. PND (co)

President Aquino pays courtesy call on Canada’s Governor General
(OTTAWA, Canada) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday afternoon (Friday in Manila) paid a courtesy call on Canada’s Governor General David Johnston at the latter’s official residence, Rideau Hall.President Aquino held a cordial meeting with Governor General Johnston after the official welcome ceremony, held in honor of the visiting President upon his arrival here.

The courtesy call is part of President Aquino’s three-day state visit to Canada, which includes stops in Toronto and Vancouver—both of which are home to large Filipino communities—apart from Ottawa.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said Governor General Johnston expressed admiration “for the great strides made by the Aquino administration in terms of placing the Philippine economy on a high growth trajectory”.

President Aquino, on the other hand, attributed the country’s economic growth to good governance and treading the right path.

“President Aquino said that good governance and pursuing the righteous path were largely instrumental in enabling the Philippines to achieve a turnaround,” Secretary Coloma said in a statement.

He said the President also cited the significant gains from “doing the right things right” in infrastructure development, as well as in poverty reduction and social amelioration.

President Aquino also mentioned the government’s conditional cash transfer program, as well as programs to clear backlogs in classrooms and textbooks and in propagating universal health care coverage.

During the talks, the President thanked the governor general for his country’s significant assistance during the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013. He also cited Canada’s contribution to the advancement of the peace process in Mindanao.

President Aquino also lauded Canada’s National Research Council “for its scientific and technological breakthroughs, including those in acoustics and sound technology, that he himself has seen, being a music-oriented person.”

For his part, Governor-General Johnston expressed interest in the possible participation of Canadian companies in the government’s public-private partnership program.

The governor general also expressed interest in the further development of the Philippines as a center for the offshoring of communication services and for business process outsourcing.

Coloma said the two leaders exchanged notes on the promotion of small and medium enterprises, which Canada has also vigorously supported.

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, who joined the President in the meeting, shared the Philippines’ experience in setting up roving academies and training workshops, as well as setting up shared facilities for start-up enterprises in the coffee, coconut, and loom weaving industries.

Also joining the President were Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad, Coloma, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, and Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia.

Governor General Johnston was joined in the meeting by his spouse, Mrs. Sharon Johnston, Deputy Secretary Patricia Jaton, and Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder. PND (co)

Palace welcomes Philippines’ higher rank in travel and tourism competitiveness report
Malacañang on Friday welcomed the 2015 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, moving the Philippines up eight notches to the 74th position in a list of 141 countries with sound travel and tourism environment.Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte considered this an “improvement,” as the country was ranked 82nd out of 140 nations in the WEF’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index released in 2013.

Valte attributed the rise in the Philippines’ ranking this year to the many strides taken by the government toward the implementation of its tourism development plan.

According to the report, the Philippines fared prominently in the areas of price competitiveness (24th), prioritization of travel and tourism (27th), and international openness (29th).

“We continue to see this in the figures of visitor arrivals that we have because from 2010, it has consistently been going up. At the end of 2014, we logged in 4,833,368 international visitor arrivals for the year,” Valte said.

Valte meanwhile acknowledged that more work still need9 to be done as the Philippines continues to lag behind other countries in terms of ground and port infrastructure (93rd), and safety and security (128th).

“Tourism is not just the responsibility of the Department of Tourism, but also the responsibility of departments that have something to do with tourism, mainly the airports under the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications), and the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) for fixing roads that lead to tourist destinations,” she said.

She also mentioned that the national Tourism Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection (TOPCOP) program remains at work to make sure there is ample police presence in areas frequented by foreign visitors.

Other aspects where the Philippines needs improvement are environmental sustainability (122nd), health and hygiene (91st), and information and communications technology readiness (86th). PND (hdc)

New access road to Bukidnon tourist spot completed
A P150-million road leading to one of Bukidnon’s top tourist attractions has been completed, a Palace official announced on Friday.Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the new access road, built by the Department of Public Works and Highways under the Tourism Infrastructure Program, is located in Sitio Kalanganan, Barangay San Vicente in the town of Baungon.

Valte said the new road makes it easier for tourists to visit the Rafflesia Yard, which has been declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a critical habitat of the largest flower in the Philippines – the Rafflesia, known locally as ‘bo-o’ or ‘kolon busaw.’

“It is the second largest flower in the world, with a diameter that can reach up to 80 centimeters. Because of the new access road that has been built and completed, our visitors and our tourists will now have an easier time to access the flower yard,” she explained during a press briefing.

The Rafflesia in Bukidnon was reportedly identified by botanist Ulysses Ferreras as the Rafflesia Schadenbergiana Goppert that was thought to be extinct. The flower was last seen by German Alex Schandenberg on Mount Apo in 1881 before it was again found in Bukidnon 126 years later.

Aside from the rare flower, Bukidnon is also home to four of the country’s Top 10 highest peaks. These are Mt. Dulang-Dulang (2nd), Mt. Kitanglad (4th), Mt. Kalatungan (5th), and Mt. Maagnaw (8th). PND (jm)