WINNIPEG (May 21, 2012) Ambassador Leslie Gatan, in his first
visit to Winnipeg, was warmly welcomed by Filipinos at the Community
Meeting held at PCCM on May 21.
Held from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, the community forum was attended by
members of the Filipino community eager to meet and listen to
the Philippine Ambassador.
His Excellency, Ambassador Leslie Gatan, began by declaring, “I’m
here to have a conversation with you.”
He complimented Manitoba as a model province, especially in the
field of labour supply. He had thanked the provincial government
during an earlier meeting with Premier Greg Selinger, for giving
all the necessary support to Filipino immigrants.
He also related that, during a meeting with Minister Jason Kenney,
the Minister of Immigration had explicitly expressed his delight
with Filipinos in Canada because of their work ethic, loyalty,
patience, and ability to work in team situations.
The highest-ranking Filipino diplomat in Canada spoke of his mandate
as a government representative, and this constitutes the three
pillars of service: national security, economic diplomacy, and
protection of Filipinos abroad.
He clarified that even if consular offices are autonomous, he
can set policies to improve personnel efficiency and responsiveness.
He encourages consular staff to be flexible in dealing with their
publics. He also announced a bill that would extend the validity
of a Philippine passport to ten years - this was met with loud
applause by the audience.
He tried to justify not having a full-fledged consular office
in Winnipeg, citing reasons such as lack of budget to set up such
He relented to further explore the establishment of a regular
consular post in this city, in response to community clamor.
Ambassador Gatan proudly reported on the economic progress being
made in the Philippines, saying, “The Philippines is bursting
with very good economic forecasts. It is predicted that by next
year the Philippines will be self-sufficient in its rice supply
-- it will no longer be importing rice but exporting instead.”
Moreover, he emphasized that the Philippines has lots of mineral
resources, and that policies and guidelines are being formulated
to protect them from being exploited by foreign powers. Expressing
optimism that more tourists would come to the Philippines, he
urged those present to join the Ambassador’s four-day tour
of scenic spots in the Philippines this coming July.
The forum proceeded with a Question and Answer portion, with the
majority of questions dealing on the need to put up a consular
office in Winnipeg. The Ambassador assured the members of the
community that his office will review the many suggestions offered
and refer them to top Department of Foreign Affairs officials
in Manila for decisions.
The Filipino community in Winnipeg remains hopeful that the Philippine
Embassy will seriously consider the plight of Filipino immigrants
who wait for days just to ensure that their consular needs are
completed by the visiting consular team.
Among those who attended and asked questions were former MP Dr.
Rey Pagtakhan who wanted to know about Philippine economic policies,
and how they could generate trade and investment of Canada in
the Philippines, and MP Kevin Lamoureux who spoke of the need
for corporate friendship between Canada and the Philippines.
The Filipino-Canadian community expressed its appreciation to
Ambassador Gatan for putting Winnipeg in his priority list of
cities to regularly monitor and visit in the future.
(Gemma Dalayoan for Ang Peryodiko/Photos by Alan Canlas)