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Canada’s Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office opens in Manila

by Kevin Lamoureux, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North

Ribon cutting

Just back from the Philippines and feeling good about a fantastic week in Manila from February 20 to 24. I participated in the opening of the first-ever Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office. The Indo-Pacific region includes 40 countries and Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay, was in Manila to announce that Manila was chosen as the home base for the office, which will see not millions but billions of dollars in trade, not to mention the incredible trade growth potential. The trip was a huge success, and I thoroughly enjoyed the many meetings, extended walks, and interactions I had with a number of people that were visiting from Winnipeg.

Food security and trade go hand in hand and what became clear was that in all the discussions there were a couple of common links. Canada and the Philippines have a healthy relationship and both countries want to make it stronger. Canada’s million plus residents of Filipino heritage are a valuable advantage and make Canada well positioned to build upon a strong base of person-to-person ties in many ways. Canada and Philippines have many common interests that support and encourage both countries to become closer friends and allies.

I love the Philippines and want to continue to build on the potential of both Canada and the Philippines by promoting better and more communications. That is why I was so pleased to be a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony of the office in Manila just over one week ago. Canada is a trading nation and I believe it is only a question of time before Canada and the Philippines have a trade agreement.

I have so many stories and I can talk about all the meetings I had but for now, I just want to highlight how important the hog industry is and hopefully at some point I will publish just a story on that issue alone.

For now, it was really good to meet the people who own and operate Jollibee, and I reminded them about Winnipeg having the first Jollibee in Canada and how our Prime Minister visited the restaurant. Jollibee’s short-term goal is to open 100 restaurants in Canada.

Sticking with fast food, if you live in Winnipeg, you have likely noticed that KFC has been brought back to life with stores being renovated and service dramatically improved. Well, that is due to its new ownership. Having met with the CEO and others from RAMCAR, they decided to diversify from battery manufacturing to investing in KFC franchises and KFC Canada is wanting them to continue to expand in Canada.

On a final note, we toured through a Metro store where they have over 150 items processed from Canada that you can purchase at their stores and they indicated that the demand for Canadian products continues to grow.

On every trip I make to the Philippines I make a point of meeting with politicians and this trip was no exception. A special thank you goes to my friend, Ambassador Maria Austria, who not only made arrangements, but also provided transportation and accompanied MP Marco Mendicino and me.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri was gracious with his comments and through him I have a better understanding of why the Philippines at some point needs to change the constitution, but it will not be easy. Offhand, it limits home ownership to people that would like to own and live in the Philippines and the possibility of Manitoba Hydro-type crown corporations.

Visiting the floor of the Congress and meeting with the speaker, Martin Romualdez, and several members of congress was very rewarding. Back in 2011, I started the Canada Philippine Parliamentary Friendship Group, and it was nice to hear that the Congress in the Philippines will likely be doing likewise this year. Ambassador Austria also took us for chicken and a peach mango pie at Jollibee. Very cool.

I was afforded some time to take the MRT. As usual, it never disappoints me. I got off at the Taft station and after wandering around, checking out the markets, I wandered into Sto. Nino in Pasay where I met with the local barangay council including the captain. Walking around in the community is such an eye opener for me and I really value what I see. In many ways, I am humbled by it. Entrepreneurs galore and so many incredibly kind and hardworking people and often families just pulling together and being happy.

Unfortunately, due to my schedule, I was not able to host immigration workshops or visit schools or go outside of Metro Manila – next time. But I would like to give a shout out to those who, on only a couple of days’ notice,  took the time to meet with me when the meetings were done. In particular, my kuya Henry Cellones, Larry Dem, Robert Viray, Larry Vickar, Beng, Mervin Sison, Trish Magisino, and Sir Felino de Jesus.

To friend and colleague Minister Lawrence MacAulay, thank you for allowing me to be a part of such an important gathering and the work you did in getting the first-ever Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office headquartered in the Philippines.