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.

And he has taken action to address internal security concerns by recently forging a pact with a Muslim minority seeking its own autonomous region.

Harper is the first G8 leader to visit Aquino since he took office in 2010, and the first Canadian prime minister to visit the Philippines since 1997. The two countries are hoping to boost bilateral trade, which is currently a modest $1.5 billion annually.

"Now, the significance of the visit is that we keep saying that the Philippines is open for business under new management," Aquino told reporters.

"And I think, it’s a recognition of the change of atmosphere in the Philippines that we are honoured by the presence of the Honourable Prime Minister and his delegation. We do see increased commercial trade ties between our countries. Things that hindered the development of those ties in the past, under new management it will cease to exist."

The Philippines has become the biggest source of immigration to Canada, and Tagalog the fastest growing language.

Some in the Filipino-Canadian community had hoped that Harper would address the labour issues faced by caregivers and other foreign temporary workers who come to work in Canada. With the workers entirely dependent on sponsoring employers for their contracts, the concern is that labour abuses go unreported.

Harper did not mention those issues in his remarks, but Aquino said the subject was raised during their meetings Saturday at the Malacanan Palace.

"Overseas Filipinos are Canada's largest source of migrant workers. It is only right that our countries work together in order to better guarantee the protection and welfare of our Filipino migrant workers and to ensure that the labour requirements of Canada are met," Aquino said.

Canada announced it would spend $15.5 million over four years to support job training of young people in the Philippines as well as help streamline the regulations around infrastructure projects.

Harper had the opportunity to take in some of downtown Manila, taking part in a wreath-laying at a monument to nationalist hero Jose Rizal, and also touring the Spanish fortress in the old part of town.

The prime minister had taken some heat for transporting armoured vehicles via CF-18 to India earlier in the week.

In the Philippines he's used cars provided by the local government — and on Saturday afternoon took a quick ride in a "Jeepney," the colourful jitneys that transport Filipinos from place to place. The vehicles are a post-war phenomenon — former U.S. military jeeps that were stretched and refurbished to be able to hold a dozen or more passengers.

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  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen visit Sri Someshwara Swamy Temple in Bangalore, India on Thursday, November 8, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen visit Sri Someshwara Swamy Temple in Bangalore, India on Thursday, November 8, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen visit Sri Someshwara Swamy Temple in Bangalore, India on Thursday, November 8, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen are given a tour by Priest Sundar Dixit during a visit to Sri Someshwara Swamy Temple in Bangalore, India on Thursday, November 8, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper meeets with dancers from Sanatan Dharam College while out for dinner at a strip mall canteen in Chandigarh , India on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen and Suraksha, Grade 10, watch on as they visit the IMAX theatre with students from Stella Maris Girls School in Bangalore, India on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the Sikh temple of Sri Keshgarh Sahib Gurdwara in Anandpur Sahib, India on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with dancers from Sanatan Dharam College while out for dinner at a strip mall canteen in Chandigarh , India on Wednesday, November 7, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following a signing ceremony in New Dehli, India on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

  • Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper (L) and his wife Laureen Harper (C) sprinkle rose petals while paying tribute at Rajghat, Memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, during a visit in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on a six day official visit to India till November 9.

  • Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper (L) and his wife Laureen Harper lay a wreath at Rajghat, Memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, during a visit in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on a six day official visit to India till November 9.

  • Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper (2L), his wife Laureen Harper (L), Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (2R) and his wife Gulcharan Kaur pose during the welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Stephen Harper is on a six day state visit to India till November 9.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper's limo with Ontario plates is pictured in New Dehli, India on Monday, November 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

  • Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper (2L) inspects the Guard of Honour during the welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Stephen Harper is on a six day state visit to India till November 9.

  • Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper (2L) inspects the Guard of Honour during the welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Stephen Harper is on a six day state visit to India till November 9.

  • Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper (R) shakes hands with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Stephen Harper is on a six day state visit to India till November 9.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh before a meeting in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Harper is on a six-day state visit to India till November 9.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) attends a meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh (L) in New Delhi on November 6, 2012. Harper is on a six-day state visit to India till November 9.

  • Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen Ann pose for a photograph in front of the Taj Mahal, in Agra, India, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Harper is on a five-day visit to India. (AP Photo)

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India on Monday, November 5, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the Taj Mahal in Agra, India on Monday, November 5, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India on Monday, November 5, 2012.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen visit Humayun's Tomb in New Dehli, India on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a business round table in New Dehli, India on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

  • Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen Harper pose for photographs after visiting Mughal emperor Humayun's tomb in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Harper is on a five-day visit to India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

  • Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen Harper pose for photographs after visiting Mughal emperor Humayun's tomb in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Harper is on a five-day visit to India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

  • Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen Harper pose for photographs after visiting Mughal Emperor Humayun's tomb in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Harper is on a five-day visit to India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

  • Canada’'s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, is greeted by member of Parliament and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor as he arrives at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Harper is on a five-day visit to India. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Canada'’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, center, and his wife Laureen Ann, right, are greeted by Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor upon their arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Harper is on a five-day visit to India. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Canada'’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, center, and his wife Laureen Ann wave as they arrive at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Harper is on a five-day visit to India. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper shares a plate of samosas with reporters and colleges while on route to India from Ottawa on Saturday, November 3, 2012. While in Asia Harper will also visit the Philippines and Hong Kong.


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  • THE DELEGATES

    Selecting delegates to the congress began months ago, with recommendations made by the party's 82 million members, which are then vetted, winnowed and voted on twice. In practice, the selection is controlled by the party's personnel division, giving the leadership room to make sure the powerful and their key proteges are included. President Hu Jintao, who will retire as party general secretary, is a delegate from Jiangsu province, where he grew up but has not lived for four decades. Most of the 2,268 delegates are chosen to show that the congress is broadly representative. Only the opinions of a small subset matter. One power-broker, retired President Jiang Zemin, is a specially invited delegate, a sign of his continuing influence in the leadership bargaining. <em>Caption: In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 file photo, Chinese military troops march before U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrives at the Bayi Building in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool, File)</em>

  • THE CONGRESS

    Held over seven days, the congress selects the Central Committee, the party's policy-setting body. The most recent committee had 370 people, comprised of full members and non-voting alternates drawn from the upper echelons of the party, government and military. The congress also names the party's internal watchdog agency. Though the powerful hold sway in determining the outcome, there is room for dissent on the margins. Candidates outnumber seats by a tiny percentage. Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to replace Hu as party chief, barely made it into the committee in 1997 in what was seen as a vote against nepotism. His father was a patriarch of the revolution. This time rank-and-file delegates have been told to "maintain unity" with the leadership. <em>Caption: A man walks past an official propaganda to welcome the Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress which held in Beijing, at a bookstore in Shanghai, China, Thursday Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)</em>

  • THE BACKSTORY

    Choosing the new leaders involves fractious bargaining that attempts to balance out factions and interest groups in the party. Two of the presumed next leaders, Xi and Li, were anointed five years ago, inducted into Hu's leadership to provide continuity. Xi is seen as ex-president Jiang's man; Li as Hu's. Deciding the rest of the lineup has seen unexpectedly sharp-elbowed jostling this year. Bo Xilai, a populist politician seen as a rising star, was cashiered after an aide disclosed that his wife murdered a British businessman. He awaits prosecution, and deciding his fate divided the leadership. A Hu ally was also sidelined after his son died in a Ferrari crash, weakening Hu. How weak will be apparent by counting his allies in the new leadership. <br> <em>Caption: Chinese children play near a floral arrangement displaying a Spirit of Beijing slogan, reading "Patriotism, Innovation, Tolerance, and Social Morals" during the 18th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, China, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)</em>

  • THE LEADERSHIP

    After the congress ends, the Central Committee meets to select a Politburo, roughly 25 members, and from that group, the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of power. The current standing committee has nine members, though party-connected academics say that may be whittled to seven this time. Two members are considered shoo-ins: Xi and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is expected to be named premier. The Central Committee also appoints the party commission that oversees the military. A critical question is whether Hu will stay as military commission head. His predecessor, Jiang, did so, hanging on for more than two years and casting a shadow over Hu's efforts to consolidate power. <br> <em>Caption: Chinese delegates having a light moment before the start of the Chongqing delegation meeting of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)</em>

  • HIDDEN RULES

    China, like most communist governments, has a history of violent, unpredictable leadership successions. One of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's named successors died in an alleged failed coup. Party leaders have instituted informal age and term limits to smooth out power transfers. Party chiefs are limited to two five-year terms, while senior leaders 68 years or older at the time of a congress are considered too old to serve in a new leadership. Jiang's stepping aside for Hu in 2002 was the first orderly succession since the party came to power in 1949. <br> <em>Caption: A huge screen shows a broadcast of Chinese President Hu Jintao speaking at the opening session of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)</em>