Canada will provide counterterrorism and anti-crime support to police in the Philippines, part of an effort to boost security and commercial ties with one of Asia's fastest-growing economies.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce three new security initiatives on Friday during a visit with Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Ottawa. The leaders will also discuss ways to promote trade and investment during a meeting on Parliament Hill, a government source said.
The Philippines has fought a lengthy battle against Islamic and communist insurgents in Mindanao, a region that comprises the country's southern islands. Earlier this year, 44 Philippine police officers were killed in a botched anti-terrorism operation in the region, an event that has raised questions about Mr. Aquino's leadership.
A senior Canadian government source said Ottawa's support would focus on both regional and global security concerns, including the threats of terrorism and transnational organized crime.
The federal government will offer support from its counterterrorism capacity-building program to bolster maritime security at trading ports in the region, the source said. The program is intended to help Philippine authorities provide more information to Interpol, a global organization that's meant to facilitate international police co-operation.
In addition, the government will offer a "train the trainers" style program to help Philippine authorities deal with improvised explosive devices in the country, the source said. The program will involve between five and seven Canadian Forces trainers.
Ottawa will also provide assistance to police in the Philippines to help them combat transnational organized crime, the government official said. It was unclear on Thursday whether a specific type of crime would be targeted by the new initiative, but priority issues for Manila include drugs and human trafficking.
The scope of the Canadian commitment will be considerably smaller than Ottawa's recently announced plans to work with security forces in Jordan. Last month, the federal government said it would train Jordanian troops in counterterrorism tactics between 2015 and 2017.
Peter Sutherland, a former ambassador to the Philippines and board adviser with Allam Advisory Group, said Western governments have long worried that the southern region of the Philippines could become a refuge for militant Islamic groups from other parts of Asia.
"It was something that was of concern, not only to us of course, but to the Americans because it was seen as part of this spread of militant Islam throughout Southeast Asia," Mr. Sutherland said. "So our interest in those days, and I suspect today as well, is linked to that issue."
When Mr. Harper visited the Philippines in November, 2012, he announced a memorandum of understanding for co-operation on security and defence that was aimed at making it easier for the Philippines to buy Canadian defence and security equipment. "Canada and the Philippines continue to increase co-operation on security issues," Mr. Harper said at the time.
Mr. Aquino arrived in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon for meetings and a state dinner with Governor-General David Johnston. After a meeting with Mr. Harper on Friday, he will travel to Toronto for a planned business roundtable and a reception with the Filipino-Canadian community. From there, he will fly to Vancouver, where local Filipino associations expect him to participate in a hotel reception on Saturday.
The visit provides an opportunity for the Conservative government to seek support from Canada's large Filipino population ahead of a federal election this fall.