Aquino wants PH, NZ to be ‘top of mind’
MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED] – Will Filipinos' concept of New Zealand go beyond milk?
President Benigno Aquino III starts a two-day visit to New Zealand, hoping to make the two countries “top of mind” for each other in trade and tourism.
Palace Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang told the New Zealand Herald that Aquino’s trip aims to boost economic and political ties between the Philippines and New Zealand. Carandang said it was time to take the relationship “to a new level.”
In a press briefing, Carandang stressed this and said that many Filipinos and New Zealanders are not aware of the extent of the relationship between their two countries.
“There are dairy products, agricultural products. Our trade with New Zealand is strong on those areas. They sell us more goods than the products that we export to them,” Carandang said.
Aquino and a 96-member delegation of Cabinet members and business leaders arrived in Auckland, New Zealand on Monday, October 22. The President kicked off his visit by meeting with the Filipino community there.
The chief executive personally thanked the Filipinos for their work, and shared positive developments in the Philippines.
Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia Benavidez said the meeting and Aquino’s visit meant a lot to the 36,000 Filipinos living in New Zealand. The number comprises 1% of New Zealand’s total population.
“We are all excited with the President’s visit because our fellow Filipinos feel they are important and close to his heart. Why? Because his very first activity here in Auckland is to meet and be with our fellow Filipinos,” Benavidez said.
Many of the Filipinos in New Zealand work as farm laborers in the dairy industry and in rest homes. Dairy products are New Zealand’s main exports to the Philippines, its 3rd largest market for the goods.
Carandang said Filipinos in New Zealand are well-adjusted, and the fastest growing migrant group.
After meeting with the Filipino community, Aquino will grant interviews to New Zealand media and attend a private dinner.
On Tuesday, he will meet with top business executives of New Zealand companies including Energy Development Corp and Alliance Select Foods International Inc. at the SkyCity Grand Hotel where he is billeted.
Aquino will then travel to the capital Wellington for bilateral meetings with Prime Minister John Key and Governor General Jerry Mateparae. Aquino will fly to Australia on Wednesday, October 24.
During Aquino’s visit, the Philippines and New Zealand will sign a working-holiday agreement. New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the deal will be the first such agreement the Philippines has had.
“We have a working visit program. Let’s wait for the agreements to be signed before I give you the details but in broad strokes, we will provide opportunities for Filipinos to come here, get to know the country, New Zealanders to go to the Philippines and also get to know the country,” Carandang said.
On trade, Carandang said the Philippines is hoping to bag investments in the dairy industry, agriculture, and business process outsourcing.
“One of the things we want to happen is to hook up our businessmen with their businessmen to expand trade to make up for it because we sell maybe one-third of what they sell to us so we have a trade surplus. This is a healthy relationship but of course, if we can sell them more products, we would be very happy to sell that,” Carandang said.
Closer defense cooperation is also expected to be discussed.
Carandang, however, told New Zealand media that Aquino’s short visit is mainly “to drum up interest.”
On his succeeding Australia trip, Aquino will meet with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Governor-General Quentin Bryce.
Aquino is expected to update Gillard on the Philippines-Australia Status of Visting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), ratified by the Philippine Senate last July.
The Philippine government is spending P44 million for the two trips. – Rappler.com