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“Good afternoon to everyone, and especially to the people of the Embassy and Mr. Balthazar of Ghent. A special welcome to our visitors from the Philippines, Cesar Toguba of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA).

I’m happy to be here again today. I am very pleased with today’s theme, I try it in Tagalog, “Tulay: pagkaaka isa nang” (The bridge of solidarity). I strongly believe in solidarity between people, between nations. No solidarity just for the sake of solidarity.
The Province of East Flanders wants to be a solidarity province, wishes to contribute to a just world with less poverty, a world where is carefully dealt with natural resources and where a healthy environment is guaranteed, both for the present and for future generations.
To achieve this, we support projects in the South and we ourselves strong partnerships with regions in three countries in the world.
As you probably know, our government has since 1994 in partnership with organizations in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines.
We collaborate with the NGO Solidagro from Sint Niklaas and CDPC in Baguio in the Philippines, and this since 1994.

The Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera, is coordinating a very broad program. They work together with more than 100 organizations on a more sustainable development in the region.
They represent the interests of ordinary people; farmers, women, youth and indigenous people. They are working on a development which everyone participates.
A development in which the basic rights as health, education, a healthy environment can be realized.
They want a development where wealth is fairly distributed.
The Philippines is rich in resources. A haven for large companies and mining companies that are given free rein. But for multinationals profit counts above all. People and the environment are secondary.
The wealth that is extracted from the ground does not flow back to the ordinary people, they are not invested in education, health care or prevention of disasters. People only get the burdens: pollution and repression.
Large groups of people who live in more remote areas, live in poverty and still have real difficulty to access to education and healthcare.

In a real democratic society, the government’s has the role to defend the public interest for people, the environment …
When a government does not fulfill this role sufficiently, the civil society has play a role.
Therefore our partners struggle for more food, better health care and a healthy environment.
They work hard, but do not have it easy.
If they contradict the interests of the large companies they are often treated as terrorists. They are threatened and killed.
Working on a society in which everyone counts in the Philippines remains a major challenge.
I want to finish with the theme of today, a bridge of solidarity.
About 10 million Filipinos are working overseas. The Filipino migrant communities are known worldwide as one of the most active community that remains involved in the homeland. Last year, 26,924 billion dollars was remitted to the homeland which is about 10% of GDP.
The diaspora community thus has a greater impact than we realize sometimes.
Therefore I like to call not only to build the bridge by supporting their own family with money or goods, but also focusing on concrete cooperation in projects or to provide support to organizations working to build a just and democratic society .
I am glad that the East Flemish Filipina’s and Filipino’s are so active and that together we can strengthen the bridge of solidarity with the Philippines.

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