CANADA turned 148 years old last July 1. In the past, Davao City wouldn’t know any better, nor would it have anything to mark such day. But not when Davao is brimming with economic prospects buoyed by the prospect of Mindanao finally putting an end to the decades-long Bangsamoro confict.
Thus, last July 2 Davao City welcomed Ambassador of Canada to the Philippines Neil Reader in a special dinner event held at Seda Abreeza in Bajada. True enough, the Ambassador Reader talked of the greater interest in Davao and Mindanao although admitting that this will all depend on how government can sustain the peace. Earlier, the Canadian Minster of Trade Ed Fast and Senator Tobias Enverga Sr. led a trade mission in Manila and Cebu, Mindanao obviously excluded. That is because of peace concerns.
"Our actions towards doing a trade mission here in Mindanao depends on the progress of the peace process in the island," Reeder said during the special dinner. But he is optimistic of Canada having greater trade exchanges with the Philippines with a free trade agreement between the two countries. He said a similar line when attending the opening of the 2015 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Expo last July 3 at the Abreeza Atrium participated by 30 exhibitors.
“We expect Canadian investments to increase with the passage of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law). We continue to support the Bangsamoro peace process and all efforts to implement a comprehensive agreement,” Reader said.
He also lauded the start of the decommissioning process, which was marked with a ceremonial surrender of 75 high-powered firearms by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last June 16 at the old provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The decommissioning program is part of the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which indicates that the group's arms and forces will be put beyond use and their members will be assisted to return to civilian lives.
“The start of the decommissioning process demonstrates the willingness of both sides to pave the way forward for lasting peace and stability, development and long-term economic prosperity for the people of southern Philippines and all Filipinos who have endured decades of conflict,” Reader said.
The Canadian government has been working closely with the GRP and MILF peace panels.