By Mick Jensen
Philippines ambassador to New Zealand Jesus (Gary) Domingo would love to relocate his embassy from Wellington to Ashburton.
Speaking during an extended visit to the district last week, the ambassador said Mid Canterbury was a vibrant, welcoming place and a farming drawcard for Filipino migrants.
There were some 50,000 Filipinos in New Zealand, 35,000 of those on the North Island, but South Island numbers were growing more quickly, he said.
Filipinos in Ashburton were contributing well to local economy and to the community in general, he said.
As well as the first Filipino woman elected to a New Zealand council (Ashburton councillor Thelma Bell), Filipinos had a voice on the youth council, ran businesses here and provided valuable skilled labour on farms.
“This is my longest visit outside of Wellington during my two years as ambassador and I’d love to set up an embassy in Ashburton.”
The ambassador said his job could be seen as the “manager of 50,000 Filipinos” located in towns around New Zealand.
His job was to ensure that Filipinos continued to play a role in the farming sector here.
He said The Philippines was interested in developing its own farm tourism industry and was looking for advice and input from New Zealand.
“We can learn from places like Ashburton and also encourage our tourists to come here.”
Ambassador Domingo also said he was keen to expand farm education.
He was also here to promote the concept of youth ambassadors, the diplomatic equivalent of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, and also volunteer ambassadors, who acted as a bridge between people and cultures.
He said the next generation of young Filipinos growing up in New Zealand were the ones tasked with developing future relationships.
The ambassador’s schedule included a visit to an Ashburton District Council meeting and the opening of the inaugural Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) Festival.
He also met with local MP Andrew Falloon, Federated Farmers, farm owners and workers, Plains Rotary Club, National Youth Commission chair Ralph Zambrano and students from Mt Hutt and Ashburton colleges.