by Noel Tarrazona in Manila

When Filipino immigrant Edwin Nodora first landed in Vancouver, his future seemed promising. The value of Canadian currency was high as compared to the Philippine Peso (PhP). After getting employed at a mall, Nodora was excited about the prospect of saving enough money to support his family back home.

But this dream may no longer be a reality now that the Canadian currency has fallen to its lowest levels in 11 years.

Over the last 10 years, more than 400,000 Filipinos migrated to Canada to seek greener pastures and to provide better economic security for their children and their children’s children. But this future is threatened, now that the Canadian dollar has dropped from CAD 1.00: PhP 43.00 in 2011 to CAD 1.00: PhP 35.00 today.

The effect on Filipino immigrants

For most immigrants to Canada, life will need to face financial adjustments. For Nodora, an engineer who is celebrating his fourth year in Vancouver, the Canadian dollar devaluation adversely affected the Filipino immigrants’ remittances to the Philippines.

He said that for most Filipinos, they felt upset because the value of the Canadian-dollar remittances sent to their relatives in the Philippines has decreased. As a result, the fruits of their labour will be comparatively little help to their families back home.

“It is part of our culture to help our less fortunate relatives in the Philippines, so sending money to them is always part of the Filipino spirit,” Nodora said. “[Now] the money we send them will have less impact on improving their quality of life.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Devaluation did not stop immigrants from coming to Canada."[/quote]

The Vancouver Sun reported that Canada is one of the world’s greatest source of remittances and that the country remains a major source of remittances for the Philippines, totalling around $2 billion CAD a year.

The same sentiment was also shared by Filipino immigrant Joy Uy who has worked as a nurse in Saskatchewan after arriving in the province in 2011.

Uy explained that she was upset with the recent devaluation of the Canadian dollar, but remained hopeful that the currency will bounce back sometime next year. Despite the Canadian dollar devaluation, she said she is still witnessing increasing number of Filipino immigrants landing in Saskatchewan almost every week.

“This only shows that the devaluation did not stop immigrants from coming to Canada,” Joy added.

Canadian statistics show that Canada received 40,035 landed Filipino immigrants in 2014, increasing by around 30 per cent from 2013 when 29,545 Filipino immigrants arrived. Filipinos remain one of the the largest foreign-born groups in Canada since 2011, despite the struggling Canadian currency.

Hotel executive and Filipino immigrant Evelyn Yadao has been a resident of Vancouver for more than 20 years. She resigned from her Vancouver work in 2013 to volunteer in the Southern Philippines in her hometown of Zamboanga to help in the post-war rehabilitation.

During the war, 400 separatist rebels had stormed the city, causing the displacement of more than 100,000 locals including children.

After two months of humanitarian work in the Philippines, she flew back to Canada and immediately found a higher paying hotel executive job in Victoria, BC. She claimed that this kind of opportunity was what made Canada different from her hometown.

Even though she was in her early 50s, she was able to start a brand new career — an opportunity she doubts she would have been able to find back home.  

Yadao claims that despite the Canadian dollar devaluation, the other benefits of coming to the country will still outweigh any monetary challenges. She is confident that more prospective Filipino immigrants will land in Canada and is preparing to launch her immigration consultancy business in BC as well as a sister branch office in the Philippines that will cater to Filipino students and professionals who wish to land in Canada.

The other side of the coin

On the contrary, for some Filipinos planning to migrate to Canada, the maple leaf state is no longer a viable destination. Instead, potential immigrants are choosing to work in countries where their dollar goes farther.

Abdul Naing, who works as a hotel staff in Brunei, said he had planned to apply as immigrant to Canada as a skilled worker after his working contract expired in early September this year. However, after learning of the devaluation of the Canadian dollar, he dropped his application, choosing instead to renew his contract with his Brunei employment for another two years. 

A Brunei dollar currency is equivalent to PhP 35.00 when converted. In addition to his salary, Naing gets free food and accommodation from his company. As such, his earnings can all be set aside for savings, since almost everything is provided for in Brunei. According to Naing, these are advantages he could not avail of if he migrated to Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For some Filipinos planning to migrate to Canada, the maple leaf state is no longer a viable destination.[/quote]

Australia has also become an alternative destination for Filipino immigrants. Newly-landed Filipino immigrant Rafael Oclarit told New Canadian Media that upon hearing of the Canadian currency devaluation, many Filipinos like himself are choosing to take a chance in Australia instead.

“The minimum wage here is AUS 17.00 per hour and winter is not that bad,” Oclarit added. There are now more than 225,000 Filipinos who have chosen Australia as their new home and the number continues to rise.

Not only does Australia have a fairly stable economy but the distance to the Philippines is only 8 hours compared to the 15-hour flight time from Vancouver to Manila.

While for some, the Canadian currency devaluation may pose too great of a challenge for many Filipino immigrants and their relatives back home, many determined Filipino immigrants believe their bright future still lies in Canada.

For those who've waited so long to migrate to Canada, the current dip in the dollar is just a hurdle to be overcome on their way to creating a new life for themselves and their families. 

{module NCM Blurb}


Published in Economy

We are open to Asian investment, but cautious of big, new investors like China that have yet to prove themselves in the minds of many Canadians, a new poll by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APFC) has found.

Released this week, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s 2015 National Opinion Poll found that Canadians also tend to overestimate how much foreign direct investment in our country is actually owned by companies from China, which contributes to a sense of fear that we are that we are losing control over our economy. 

And even though the poll reveals that Canadians are confident that foreign companies will abide by Canadian laws in Canada, the news we consume related to the negative activities of some Chinese corporations in China likely shapes our perceptions generally of Chinese companies abroad, APFC said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The poll indicated that Canadian perceptions of investment from Japan—a country that was a security risk and an economic rival in the living memory of many Canadians—are overwhelmingly positive.[/quote]

Canadians may be apprehensive about foreign investment by Chinese companies, but according to the poll they are clearly open to persuasion through positive, demonstrable contributions to Canadian society. 

Meanwhile, the poll indicated that Canadian perceptions of investment from Japan—a country that was a security risk and an economic rival in the living memory of many Canadians—are overwhelmingly positive. 

China is a relatively new player in the Canadian economy, with major corporate sector investment emerging only in the past 10 years. Views toward this new economic force may indeed change over time, as they have with Japan, APFC said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canadians who significantly overestimate the extent of Chinese ownership in the Canadian economy are also more likely to say Canada has allowed “too much” investment from China to enter the country.[/quote]

The APFC’s take-away from this year’s poll: Chinese companies are in a position to favourably shape public opinion by creating a legacy of positive contribution to Canada’s economic and social well-being.

The poll also found that a majority of Canadians express positive views about investment from major Asian players, including Japan, South Korea, and India. Canadians, the poll found, are reasonably well informed about basic foreign investment rules and practices, and the most informed Canadians tend to be those who are also most supportive of investment from Asia.

Poll's Key Findings

I) Canadians are generally supportive of investment from Asia. A majority expressed positive views of investment from Japan (78 per cent), South Korea (67 per cent) and India (59 per cent). This is comparable to Canadians’ favourable views on investment from the United States (77 per cent), Canada’s largest source of foreign direct investment. Only in the case of China are opinions more mixed, with two-fifths (42 per cent) being favourable to Chinese investment and half (49 per cent) expressing opposition. 

ii) Chinese investment in Canada has been a contentious topic recently, but, despite the controversies, many Canadians remain open to the potential benefits. There are, nonetheless, characteristics that often accompany Chinese foreign investment—such as the involvement of state-owned enterprises and the concentration in the resource sector—about which the Canadian public remains skeptical.

iii) Canadians worry that investment from global powers like China and the United States will lead to a loss of control over our natural resources. Almost half (48 per cent) of Canadians associate Chinese investment with the phrase “loss of control over our resources,” and two-fifths (42 per cent) associate the same phrase with investment from the United States. By comparison, less than one-fifth (18 per cent) of Canadians express a similar concern about foreign control over resources when asked about investment from Japan.

iv) Canadians estimate that companies from China own one-quarter (25 per cent) of all foreign direct investment in Canada, while the official figure is closer to three per cent. This misperception is likely driven in part by the recent increase in Chinese investment, the value of which jumped from C$0.2 billion to C$20.4 billion between 2003 and 2013. Canadians who significantly overestimate the extent of Chinese ownership in the Canadian economy are also more likely to say Canada has allowed “too much” investment from China to enter the country.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Barring significant socio-political change in China, Canadians are only likely to warm up to Chinese investment if they see Chinese companies making a positive contribution to Canada.[/quote]

v) A majority of Canadians know that foreign companies are subject to Canadian laws and regulations (75 per cent), that the federal government plays a role in approving large foreign investments (69 per cent), and that the majority of Chinese investment is concentrated in the resource sector (54 per cent). Close to half of Canadians (48 per cent) also rejects as false the notion that foreign-owned companies pay their Canadian workers less than Canadian-owned companies. 

vi) Canadians do not always disentangle their attitudes about foreign investment from their attitudes toward particular countries. This is particularly true in the case of China. Although most Canadians recognize that foreign companies operating in Canada abide by domestic laws and practices, they still associate investments from China with terms like “environmental damage” and “poor labour standards.” 

vii) The poll suggests many Canadians may not be worried about how Chinese investors behave in Canada as how Chinese companies behave in China. This presents a challenge for Chinese companies operating in Canada. Significant investment in Canada by Chinese companies is a relatively recent phenomenon. Chinese investors in Canada do not yet have a visible and established track record of contributing to the country that could be used to counter the skeptical attitudes many Canadians have toward China in general. Barring significant socio-political change in China, Canadians are only likely to warm up to Chinese investment if they see Chinese companies making a positive contribution to Canada. 

viii) Almost two-thirds of Canadians (65 per cent) mention “new technologies” as a key term they associate with Japanese investment, a country that was once associated with inferior, low-end products. Canadian consumption of Japanese high-tech products, along with positive contributions by Japan to Canada’s economy like the construction of state-of-the-art car manufacturing facilities, also likely to play a role in shaping perceptions of investment from Japan. With time, it is likely that Canadian attitudes toward Chinese investment will evolve. In this regard, early Chinese investors in Canada have a special role and responsibility to facilitate this evolution by contributing to a positive legacy.

The APFC’s conclusion of the poll is that Canadians are generally supportive of investment from Asia, though their level of support varies across countries. Canadians have an overwhelmingly positive view of investment from Japan, associating it with new technologies, economic growth, and job creation. Canadians also support investment from South Korea and India.

Republished in Partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in China

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