Canadian envoy seeks more linkages with city, province

Canadian Ambassador Peter MacArthur (left) visits Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas at the City Hall Wednesday. (Arnold Almacen/CMO photo)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Canada’s top envoy in the Philippines said on Wednesday that he hoped to increase linkages between universities in the city and province of Iloilo for several key degree programs, as well as to learn how Ilonggos are using mangroves to prevent massive flooding.

In his first visit to Iloilo during the pandemic, Canadian Ambassador Peter MacArthur shared that he had met with Central Philippine University (CPU) and is setting to meet with West Visayas State University (WVSU) and the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) for linkages with potential Canadian counterparts.

MacArthur expressed his fascination with CPU’s software and packaging engineering programs, as well as WVSU’s nursing program.

He mentioned that the Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promoting education as a means of migration to their country, citing an upcoming summit of their universities in Metro Manila in November this year.

“[CPU] recently has had cooperation agreements with 3 Canadian colleges, to exchange, faculty, students, information, and curriculum. I was able to explain to them that in November this year, Canadian universities and colleges will be coming to Manila, and it’s a great opportunity for the universities here,” MacArthur said.

He added that the Canadian Embassy is interested to have more cooperation with educational institutions in terms of agricultural sciences and indigenous studies, citing the University of Saskatchewan’s and the Dalhousie University’s respective focus in the Philippines.

“We think that agricultural sciences would be a good area to see more cooperation, and similarly indigenous studies. Fisheries management is very important for Iloilo, for your fisherfolk, and value-added processing of your fish,” he stated.

The ambassador also said that he raised with CPU administration the possibility of a summer semester where Canadian students could study tropical biodiversity, marine science, culture and history, and indigenous peoples.

He cited the Philippines’ and Canada’s histories, being rich in indigenous culture but colonized by Western nations, as well as membership with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and a long-standing partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Philippines was colonized by Spain (1565 to 1898) and the United States of America (1898 to 1946), while Canada was colonized by France (1535 to 1763) and the United Kingdom (1763 to 1867) and is currently a Commonwealth realm under the latter country’s Queen Elizabeth II.

MacArthur also mentioned that Canada is seeking to ink a Free Trade Agreement with the ASEAN within this year, which would allow them to have greater exports into the country.

“We both have long coastlines and our fisheries, we depend on a lot of protein supply for our food. We both have indigenous peoples before colonizers came. We’re both democracies. We’re both treaty allies of the United States, members of the APEC, and we have had a 45-year partnership with the ASEAN,” he said.


MacArthur also met with Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, respectively.

During his visit to the capitol, he mentioned a Canadian Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company, Telus International, which he says continues to grow here in Iloilo City.

“I asked Telus International why they chose Iloilo when they expanded in the middle of the pandemic. They said it’s because of the people who live in Iloilo. They were happy with the inputs required, and universities and colleges here produce talent that a BPO needs,” he told the capitol press corps.

He praised the city government’s initiative of rehabilitating and further greening Plaza Libertad and the city plazas as part of their redevelopment.

He also praised the lush greens of Panay Island, particularly that in Iloilo province as close to the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan.

“I am happy to see that old Spanish plazas are becoming greener. I think that it is good not only for the citizens of the city but also for tourists to learn about the Spanish history of the city. Rejuvenating the plazas with trees and greenery will be very good for the citizens and the environment. It will also draw more tourists from other big cities,” MacArthur told the city government in a press release.

“When I flew along the coast of Panay, I found the greenery, farmland, and rice cultivation to be very impressive,” he added.