Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Philippine President Benigno Aquino walk past a traditional bamboo orchestra at Malacanang Palace in Manila on Nov. 10, 2012. It is the first visit to the Philippines by a Canadian head of state in 15 years.

Philippine immigration issues on table as Stephen Harper makes rare visit
Jennifer Ditchburn, Canadian Press | Nov 10, 2012 11:22 AM ET | Last Updated: Nov 10, 2012 12:18 PM ET

MANILA, Philippines — The people of China, not its leadership, will be the ones to fuel democratic reform in that country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Saturday.

Harper was commenting on the upcoming change of leadership in Beijing, where both President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are set to hand over the reins to a younger generation.

The world is trying to assess what the shift means. Likely not much, Harper said.

“I would say that at this point, our assessment is probably that it’s more continuity than change, but one will be examining that carefully,” Harper told reporters at a joint news conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

“Of course part of our engagement with China…involves the promotion of our basic values, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and I do believe as prosperity grows in countries, pressures and expectations on those matters among the populations inevitably increase.”

The Philippines is a country that has seen transformative change with the arrival of a new leader. Aquino has led an aggressive anti-corruption campaign aimed at making his country more attractive for trade and investment. But he’s also taken steps to protect the nation’s environment and resources by placing a moratorium on new mining contracts while drafting reforms to the system.

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