Canada's Trudeau Proves Once Again He's the World's Most Popular Leader With Philippines Reception

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued his charm attack on the world in his visit to the Philippines.

Trudeau arrived in the country to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on Sunday and was greeted by crowds of enthusiastic student performers—a stark contrast to President Donald Trump, whose visit was met with protests.

The Philippines already had a soft spot for the Canadian leader, who was declared an “APEC Hottie” during his visit in 2015 in a heated social media debate about the attractiveness of foreign dignitaries attending the gathering. Trudeau was neck and neck with Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto for the title.

Trudeau’s visit sparked a similar social media flurry in Japan at the 2016 G7 Summit, as AFP reported at the time. The Canadian prime minister reignited the Philippines’ interest with a visit to Filipino fast-food chain giant Jollibee on Sunday.

He ordered fried chicken and a strawberry float, having already familiarized himself with the menu in a visit earlier this year to the first Jollibee branch in Canada, where the Filipino community represents the largest immigrant group in the country, according to 2014 government data.

Despite ordering takeout, Trudeau stopped for a chat with the shop's customers and a group photo with the staffers. Outside the store, a group of residents cheered the Canadian prime minister with homemade signs reading "Welcome to the Philippines."

The marketing-savvy fast food chain even launched a hashtag to mark the visit, which was proposed by Canadian officials, one representative told Reuters.

The lunch was a short stop on Trudeau’s itinerary, his end journey being a women’s health clinic that advocates family planning and is partially funded by the Canadian government.

“Every child deserves the best start in life, that’s why Canada is helping mothers around the world get access to quality services like those offered at the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health,” Trudeau wrote on his Twitter account after the visit to the clinic, before thanking Jollibee for its hospitality in a separate post.

Trudeau’s casual tone on the women’s health clinic visit concealed the more controversial nature of the nongovernmental organization providing reproductive health services in a Catholic-majority country where abortion is still largely banned.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, who accompanied Trudeau on the visit, was more straightforward in describing the importance of the clinic’s existence and the support Canada provides. “Under our feminist foreign policy, Canada is helping to ensure that women and girls have access to sexual and reproductive health services,” she tweeted.

While Trudeau received a warm welcome abroad, a coalition of Canadian and Filipino activists urged him to use his popularity to denounce human rights abuses in the country. 

"President Duterte's hostile rhetoric about human rights defenders, combined with his encouragement of extrajudicial killings and guarantees of impunity, has resulted in a serious deterioration in the situation," the Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines group wrote in a letter to the prime minister, quoted in CBC news.

"We believe it is incumbent on the government of Canada to speak out more strongly against this violence," they added.

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