Philippines-Canada relations

Why Canada chose Manila as its Indo-Pacific Agriculture office HQ

Bea Cupin

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Why Canada chose Manila as its Indo-Pacific Agriculture office HQ

CANADA-PH TIES. Canada's Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay meets with Filipino business leaders during a visit to Manila.

Lawrence MacAulay's Twitter

Ottawa makes real its promise to invest more in the Indo-Pacific, as it opens the first-ever Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office in Manila

MANILA, Philippines – It was through a story about seed potatoes that Canadian Minister for Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay, explained to Filipino journalists his country’s history of helping farmers in countries like the Philippines.

MacAulay, himself once a potato seed farmer, said it was “touching” to be presented a bag of potatoes grown from Canadian potato seed brought to the Philippines many years back. The potato seed happened to come from Prince Edward Island, where MacAulay hails from.

Why Canada chose Manila as its Indo-Pacific Agriculture office HQ

“Some farmers drove us 10 hours to get here. And the fact is, they understood so well how much good seed, good genetics in hogs, no matter what sector you’re talking about – when you have the proper seed, it increased the production immensely. And we want to help in so many areas in this area, in this part of the world,” said MacAulay, who is in Manila for the launch of the Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office (IPAAO) on February 21.

The office, based in the Canadian embassy here, will serve the entire Indo-Pacific. Its establishment is part of Canada’s bigger vision – to improve and expand its ties with the region.

“Yes, we want to sell. But we also want to make sure that we help the area grow…. If you have the top quality seed, you generally produce a much richer and a more abundant crop.
And that’s what we want to see in all of this area in the Indo-Pacific,” added MacAulay.

The new office in Manila isn’t a literal physical space but the presence of experts across different fields in agriculture and agri-food. Diedrah Kelly, previously Canada’s ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is executive director of the new office.

People, Person, Adult
POTATO FARMERS. Canada’s Minister for Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay meets with farmers who’ve used potato seed from his native Prince Edward Island during a visit to Manila.
Why Manila?

MacAulay said Canada’s “great relationship” with the Philippines was one of the reasons why the hub is located in Manila. Ottawa is also keen on expanding its ties with Manila, in trade, aid, and defense.

The Canadian minister also sees helping the local farmers as among Canada’s “obligations.”

“I saw a bunch of farmers today. I don’t know what their financial situation is. But I know one thing – that it will improve. With people like [Kelly] and other people that will be working with her… to make sure that farmers have the best opportunity to succeed,” he said.

In a release, the Canadian embassy in the Philippines said the new office would “leverage Canada’s expertise as a world leader in food safety and sustainability with that of our Indo-Pacific partners to tackle common challenges.”

That Canada wants to involve itself more in the region is a matter of choice and necessity. As it stands, the Indo-Pacific accounts for a third of the world’s economic activity. Southeast Asia, the region the Philippines belongs to, is projected to have the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2040.

“We are committed to our partnership in the region and I can tell you – we are here to stay,” MacAulay told an audience of Canadian officials and agriculture industry officials during a reception at the Manila Peninsula.

The IPAAO’s focus won’t just be on productivity – the goal is also to help farmers, growers, and producers figure out more efficient methods to handle “environmental issues properly.”

IPAAO team members will be based at the Canadian embassy located in Makati City. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.