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Philippines sister city relationship in the works

Seafood trade with the country will be developed

Posted: September 11, 2013 - 11:25pm  |  Updated: September 12, 2013 - 12:08am
Jenny Gomez Strickler, Honorary Alaska Consul to the Philippines, gives a  Juneau World Affairs Council speech on Alaska-Philippine relations at Centennial Hall on Wednesday.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Jenny Gomez Strickler, Honorary Alaska Consul to the Philippines, gives a Juneau World Affairs Council speech on Alaska-Philippine relations at Centennial Hall on Wednesday.

If approved by the CBJ Assembly, Juneau will join forces with Kalibo, a city in the Philippines, in a sister city relationship.

Jenny Strickler, first-ever Honorary Consul to the Republic of the Philippines for Alaska, made a presentation Wednesday at Centennial Hall about the future of Philippine-Alaska relations.

Strickler has been in the position for almost a year, and serves as a direct link from the Philippines to the Filipino population of Alaska.

Strickler, along with Reps. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, and Bob Herron, D-Bethel, visited the Philippines in November 2012, Alaska’s first official visit to the country. From that visit, the group identified three main objectives for growing the relationship between Alaska and the Philippines. The ultimate goal is to improve commerce with the Philippines, Strickler said.

The plans start with making Juneau and Kalibo, a rural town of about 75,000, sister cities. The city attorney is currently drafting a proposal to be reviewed by the Assembly, Strickler said.

The two cities have many similarities, making this pairing ideal, meeting attendee John Roxbrugh said. He’s visited the Philippines six times.

“When I was in Kalibo I was struck with how similar they were,” Roxbrugh said. Kalibo is “two hours from the city center. So, they’re connected, but kind of not. Everything was right there.”

Once the cities’ relationship is established, an exchange program between the University of Alaska-Southeast and Aklan State University will begin. It would bring instructors from Aklan State’s fisheries program to UAS to learn the curriculum. Strickler said UAS Chancellor John Pugh will create the program once the Assembly approves the sisterhood.

Another goal is to hold an Alaska seafood festival next year in Manila, the Philippines’ capital city, Strickler said. This would improve exposure of Alaska seafood in the Philippines, “a fish-eating country,” making it a great business partnership for our state, Strickler said. Filipinos probably eat even more fish than Alaskans, she said, laughing.

“We’re partnering with business people in Manila,” Strickler said. “Let’s get the big companies and the little companies involved.”

Before she took on her consul position, Strickler was the president of Juneau’s Filipino Community, Inc., for six years. The organization represents Juneau’s approximately 3,000 Filipinos. About 800 of these are from Kalibo, Strickler said.

She said her first year on the job has been a whirlwind.

“They said, ‘Here’s your title, now do it,’” she said, laughing.

Strickler had never been to the Philippines until her November 2012 trip. She said the experience “was a mix of emotions.”

“My eyes were wide open,” she said. “Every time I was turning around, I was like, ‘wow.’”

While she was there, she visited the island on which her grandparents lived.

“We figured it had been 93 years since my grandparents left the Philippines and never returned until we got there,” Strickler said.

FCI member Vicky Roldan served as a translator on the Philippines trip. She said the goals Strickler proposed will benefit Filipinos both here and there. It will further link the two populations, she said.

“They’ll be encouraged to come here and live their life here,” Roldan said. “People here will be more encouraged to invite their family here.”

Strickler said she hopes these three short-term goals will grow into a lasting relationship.

“Alaska and the Philippines are more than just partners,” Strickler said. “We are families sharing history, culture and economies.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com.

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