Toronto, CANADA (by Odette Montelibano) – The 4thGawad Kalinga (meaning: to give care) Summit held in Toronto, Canada, concluded June 9th, yet for the prime movers of GK Canada it is only the beginning of the huge task laid before them: to challenge Filipino-Canadians and Canadians to use GK as their gateway to the Philippines, seen as the next tiger economy in Asia.
Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder Tony Meloto, who has an economics background, cited indicators showing that the Philippines’ GDP grew by 6.4 per cent in the first quarter of the year, second to China’s growth, which, he added, “never happened before in the country’s history.” HSBC has also projected the Philippines to have the 16th largest economy in the world by 2050. Meloto said that based on these projections, the Philippine economy will equal to that of Canada by 2035.
The good news was surprising to most Filipino-Canadians attending the summit, but was certainly welcomed and signified renewed hope for community building efforts in the Philippines. Filipino-Canadians comprise the fourth largest urban minority in Canada, with a reported population of 400,000.
However, the same Asian Development Bank report stated that despite the sustained economic growth “the Philippines has failed to generate the inclusive growth…with problems of unemployment, poverty and low investments still remaining.” ADB had recommended industry and manufacturing as key to alleviating poverty in the country.
Meloto said Canada is already aware of this economic trend, and this is the reason why Sun Life Financial of Canada and Telus International, both Canadian firms, have partnered with GK for its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. A major gauge of Canada’s recognition is the presence of Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines, Christopher Thornley, in the summit.
An estimated 80 per cent of companies listed in the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) have invested in CSR initiatives to meet the expectations of stakeholders composed of investors, customers, employees, partners, suppliers, governments, NGOs and society, according to the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. This shows that Canada is not an exception to the prevailing global trend on the implementation of CSR strategies by corporations, FAITC added.
At present, a quarter of North American GK village sponsorships come from Canadian partners which account for 80 villages.
Meloto’s positive pronouncements on the Philippine economy bolster the business sense of investing in the Philippines since financial gains are seen aside from Canadian corporations gaining social licenses.
At the dawn of the Asian age in the global market, the next generation of Filipinos are facing the challenge of being producers instead of importers and of being the first patrons of Filipino products. Up to now, Meloto continued, 99 per cent of milk and 80 per cent of chocolate products are still being imported. “We should be creating world-class products with our proficiency in engineering, our honest government, and our honest people,” Meloto said, affirming the ADB recommendations on poverty alleviation.
Meanwhile, many Filipino-Canadians have expressed interest in participating in the 2013 Bayani (meaning: hero) Challenge where 100,000 volunteers are being targeted to join a nationwide build covering 30 provinces in the Philippines.
GK Canada plans to send volunteers for the build which is hoped to also serve as an immersion program for volunteer expatriates who will learn more than just building houses. About 700 delegates from North America, Europe and Asia attended the 2-day summit on June 8 and 9 at the Allstream Exhibition Centre, in Toronto.
Other summit sponsors include Saladmaster International, BodyBliss Alagang Kapamilya, The Filipino Channel, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes, Max’s of Manila, World Financial Group, Dr. Judith Nacua and Ed Roco, IA Clarington Investments and Industrial Alliance Insurance, Maria Louisa Diaz (Barrister and Solicitor), TVI Pacific Resources Inc., GMA Pinoy TV, and Imperial Travel and Tours.