The Commission on Filipinos Overseas, led by CFO Executive Director Astravel Pimentel-Naik, successfully touch-based with the Filipino-Canadian youth and Fil-com leaders during the week-long Ugnayan sa Canada, held from May 10-18, 2018 in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, the top three provinces in Canada with large concentration of Filipino migrants. There are 837,130 Filipinos (based on ethnicity) working and living in Canada, representing 2% of the 35 million total population. CFO records since 1980 also shows that Canada is the second preferred destination of Filipino emigrants, next to USA. In just a few decades, Filipino community has grown from less than a thousand residents to become one of the country’s largest immigrant demographics.
Given the policy pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte of bringing government services closer to overseas Filipinos and as part of its mandate of strengthening relations with the Filipino community overseas, the series of activities were conducted in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Embassy in Ottawa, Philippine Consulates in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, ABS-CBN TFC, Rise Tribe, Multicultural Helping House Society and Pathways to Canada.
|Youth Forum in Toronto|
|Sentro Rizal Inauguration at PCG Toronto|
The activities, fully supported by Chairman Virgilio Alamario, Ambassador Petronila Garcia, and Consuls General Rosalita Prospero, Gilberto Asuque and Neil Frank Ferrer, include the Inaguration of Sentro Rizal at Philippine Embassy in Ottawa and Philippine Consulate in Toronto, and series of youth fora and Fil-com meetings, as well as site visits to migrant settlement organizations. Filipino music icon Joey Ayala also graced the events.
During the gatherings, Usec. Pimentel-Naik and her team discussed CFO programs and services (such as pre-departure program, 2018 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas, Youth Leaders for Development, Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino program and BaLinkBayan One-Stop Web Portal for Overseas Filipinos) and provided updates on the accomplishments of the government under President Duterte’s administration, which include the inclusion of overseas Filipinos in the Philippine Development Plan, Marawi City Rehabilitation, TRAIN Tax Law, increase in the base pay of the Military and Uniformed Personnel in the government, extension to 5 years of the driver’s license validity, extension to 10 years of passport validity, creation of the Overseas Filipinos Bank, free tertiary education in state colleges and universities, Boracay rehabilitation, signing of bilateral agreement between Philippines and Kuwait on the Protection of OFWs, signing of a proclamation declaring Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) as a marine protected area, enhancement of the 4PS Pantawid Pamilya Program, and the Build Build Build Program, among others. She also gave a briefer on the proposed shift to federalism in the Philippines, which is an advocacy of President Duterte and his political party, PDP Laban.
|Fil-Com Meeting in Ottawa|
|Fil-Com Meeting in Vancouver|
|Youth Forum in Calgary|
The team also visited settlement organizations catering to overseas Filipinos, and met with some outstanding Filipino-Canadians like Justice Steve Coroza, first Filipino-Canadian to be appointed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice; Dr. Eileen de Villa, Public Health Officer of Toronto Public Health, Canada’s largest local public health agency; Marivel Taruc, award-winning journalist and host of Our Toronto, CBC News; Carlos Bustamante, actor and TV host of Entertainment Tonight Canada and Global Television Network (TBC); Louroz Mercader, one of the founders of Rise Tribe; Tomas Avendaño, Presidential awardee and founder of MHHS; and Mable Elmore, first Filipino-Canadian Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
Ugnayan sa Canada also served as a platform to identify issues and challenges of Filipino-Canadian youth and the Filipino community in general (which include high incidence of secondary school drop out among youth, problem in integrating to the society, non-recognition of skills, underemployment, intergenerational gap between the parents and children, not utilizing the services of settlement organizations, breaking barriers in penetrating the industry, non-existent of programs for LGBTQ migrants, family and senior abuse, excessive immigration consultancy fees for migrating Filipinos to Canada, among others); and engage them on how to be partners of Philippine development; strengthen relations/partnership with the Filipino communities and support network groups; and inform the participants of the various government programs and services for migrants.
Initiated in 2012, UGNAYAN is a regular activity of the CFO, in partnership with DFA, Philippine Foreign Service Posts and other migrant serving agencies and organizations, which aims to reach out to more overseas Filipinos in various regions of the world to discuss means of cooperation for diaspora engagement and Philippine development and governance initiatives, identify and address issues of the overseas Filipino communities, and enhance and strengthen government services for the welfare and well-being of migrants.