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Committee interested in having new Philippines sister city

Relationship with Camiling is 'dormant'

Posted: October 31, 2012 - 8:03pm  |  Updated: October 31, 2012 - 11:12pm

The Juneau Sister Cities Committee threw its support Wednesday behind exploring a potential new sister city relationship in the Philippines.

Juneau has a sister city in the Philippines — Camiling, in the province of Tarlac on the archipelago country’s largest island, Luzon.

However, Juneau and Camiling have had a less than vibrant relationship.

Geny Del Rosario, a member of the Filipino Community, Inc.’s board of directors who attended the meeting, said she has never met anyone in Juneau who is from the city.

Committee member Glenn Gray said he believes that the last human contact between Juneau and Camiling was an expression of interest in having a book exchange “20-something years ago.”

While Gray has tried in the past to get the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly to formally retire the relationship, he said, the Assembly has declined to take action on it.

“I think the Assembly was afraid of insulting the (Filipino) Community even though we went and told them there’s no interest,” said Gray.

Del Rosario, who is running for the FCI presidency in elections to be held Nov. 10 (http://bit.ly/SUm3AN), attended the committee meeting to bring attention to another city in the Philippines with which she argued Juneau shares more in common.

Del Rosario said she will be vacationing in the province of Aklan, in the Philippines’ Visayan Islands, starting next month. Her trip will overlap with an official trade mission from the State of Alaska to the Philippines, which is being led by state Reps. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, and Bob Herron, D-Bethel, as well as outgoing FCI President Jenny Gomez Strickler, who was recently appointed as the Philippines’ first honorary consul general to Alaska (http://bit.ly/Sy8WsW).

Aklan’s capital of Kalibo, a port city of about 76,000 people, would be better suited as a sister city for Juneau than Camiling, Del Rosario said.

“I am from the Visayan Islands,” said Del Rosario. “The majority of the founding fathers of the Filipino Community are coming from Aklan. … We’re very close to the Visayas.”

The committee members responded favorably to the idea, although Gray noted that the process of forming a sister city relationship involves several steps.

“You go through a courting phase,” Gray said, describing the initial overtures of interest that typically precede the formation of a sister city relationship. “And so if you were to go, you wouldn’t offer to be a sister city, but you’d say we’d like to explore being a sister city. Then if you got interest, you’d come back here … we would give a recommendation to the Assembly, and then both cities would have to agree, then a proclamation, then a joint signing.”

Sue Baxter, vice chairwoman of the committee, said a letter of support for Del Rosario to express interest in exploring the issue while she is in Kalibo next month should be drafted.

A motion by Gray “that the Sister Cities Committee support Geny’s efforts to explore a sister city relationship with Kalibo” was adopted without objection.

The committee also discussed Juneau’s existing sister city relationships, such as those with Whitehorse, Yukon; and Mishan City, People’s Republic of China.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis, who was elected in mid-October, expressed interest in closer ties with Juneau shortly after being declared mayor-elect. That sentiment was seconded by his counterpart in Juneau, Mayor Merrill Sanford (http://bit.ly/T8K4X6).

Committee member Maria Uchytil said she was “really happy to see that.”

“It sounds like there is some desire to do something,” Uchytil said.

According to Gray, exchanges between Juneau and Whitehorse, which have not taken place in several years, have typically alternated between a delegation from the Whitehorse city government visiting Juneau and a delegation from Juneau’s government visiting Whitehorse.

“We’re really waiting for Whitehorse to invite us back,” said Gray. But, he added, “If it doesn’t come from their end, then maybe we should have our mayor invite them down here.”

Gray also suggested that the committee arrange to hold a joint conference by video or telephone with Sheila Dodd, its contact in the Whitehorse city government, and explore the possibility of going up to Whitehorse in February for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, a winter festival being held from Feb. 21 to Feb. 24 next year.

“I think that sounds fine,” Baxter said.

Uchytil agreed, saying, “We could see if we could plan for that for February.”

Even as committee members expressed optimism about the Whitehorse relationship and the possibility of a relationship with Kalibo, it moved to back off an avenue it had been exploring this year for strengthening Juneau’s ties with Mishan City.

The Juneau String Ensembles is planning a trip for student musicians to China next year. At previous meetings, the Sister Cities Committee discussed ways in which it could support the trip, while organizers looked into the possibility of squeezing a visit to Mishan City onto the agenda (http://bit.ly/Rt1koa).

But Baxter said she believes it is too late in the process now for a side trip to Mishan City, even for just a few of the China-bound students, to be realistic.

“I’m going to propose that we back off … on putting forth energy for the Chinese exchange group to visit Mishan City,” Baxter said. “I just think that it’s too late.”

Uchytil and Gray immediately voiced agreement.

Baxter said it would be too expensive for students to go to Mishan City, which is in far northeastern China and is a lengthy train ride away from Beijing, where the group is scheduled to play.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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