Canada: The Philippines is at the core of our Indo-Pacific Strategy

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Canada: The Philippines is at the core of our Indo-Pacific Strategy
Representatives of the Philippines and Canada hold a bilateral meeting in Makati on May 19, 2023.
Philstar.com / Kaycee Valmonte

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is again at the center of regional developments as Canada acknowledged that Manila is at the “core” of its strategy in the Indo-Pacific.

Bilateral talks between Manila and Ottawa’s foreign secretaries are underway Friday, just a day after Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo met with another Commonwealth foreign minister — Australia’s Penny Wong.

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly will be in the Philippines until May 21.

“I’m coming here in the context of the fact that we released an Indo-Pacific strategy and the Philippines is at the core of this new strategy,” Joly said in her opening statement at the bilateral meeting on Friday.

Joly later added that Canada is working to have a “stronger” diplomatic presence in the Philippines.

She said Canada is also hoping to do more to work with the Philippines on climate change issues and help with its infrastructure gap.

Only eight media outlets were allowed to cover the opening statements of the talks on Friday, although the Department of Foreign Affairs said they will provide more details later in the day.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy

Canada’s regional strategy was released in January this year.

It focuses on growing its local economy recognizing that the Indo-Pacific is the “fastest-growing region” while also helping promote peace and security.

Its initiatives include engaging more with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with a goal of elevating its ties to the regional bloc by being a strategic partner and seeking membership at the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus and in the East Asia Summit.

Canada is also hoping to put on the table a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement.

“There are many areas in where our countries can work on bolstering our distinct cooperation including trade and investment, education, and defense,” Manalo said.

Canada has continuously supported the Philippines in asserting its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, which China still claims as part of its already invalidated nine-dash line.

“China is an increasingly disruptive global power,” Canada noted, but said its relations with the regional power will be “shaped by a realistic and clear-eyed assessment of today’s China.”

In its briefer on the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the Canadian government said that "in areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China, including when it engages in coercive behavior — economic or otherwise — ignores human rights obligations or undermines our national security interests and those of partners in the region."

It also said thought that: "We will cooperate with China to find solutions to global issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, global health and nuclear proliferation."

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