Philippine Ambassador Intensifies Economic and Public Diplomacy and Outreach Activities in Auckland, New Zealand Biggest Business and Commercial Center
In line with the Embassy’s intensifying drive to attain its economic diplomacy targets as well as gain firsthand information on the business environment in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest commercial and business center and the situation of the Filipino community there, Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez together with Minister Marcos A.S. Punsalang, met with Ms. Marie Sullivan, Regional Director of Immigration New Zealand, Mr. Stuart Walbridge, Chairman of the ASEAN-New Zealand Combined Business Council, Inc. (ANZCBC), Messrs. Glen Wedlock and Peppy Adi Purnomo, General Manager and Aeronautical Development and Alliances Manager, Aeronautical Commercial, respectively, Auckland International Airport and Ms. Sara Reyes, International Manager, Auckland Chamber of Commerce on 4 November 2011.
Immigration New Zealand Regional Director Marie Sullivan shared with Ambassador Benavidez the surge of Filipino and other Asian migrants and their families in 2008, the majority of whom are based in Auckland. She stated that Filipino migrants are unique in the Asia-Pacific Region and considered at par with highly skilled workers from Europe in terms of their facility in the English language, professional skills, work ethics and their ability to easily engage with their employers from New Zealand and other countries. These qualities are what make skilled Filipino migrants the employee of choice by New Zealand employers. Coupled with the increasing attractiveness of New Zealand as a destination for skilled migrant workers and their families, Filipino migrants are currently ranked number four after migrants from the UK, India and China. Ambassador Benavidez thanked Ms. Sullivan for her high regard for the Filipinos in New Zealand, many of whom came in 2005 when the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Visa became available that year. The growth trend of Filipino migrants to New Zealand continues to this day.
Mr. Stuart Walbridge, Chief Executive of the ASEAN-New Zealand Combined Business Council (ANZCBC) acknowledged the economic gains of the Philippines, the improvement for increased trade, tourism and investment between the Philippines and New Zealand and the significant strides in the Philippine IT/BPO industry. Ambassador Benavidez informed him that the Philippine IT/BPO industry has attained US$9 billion in revenues and directly employed 540,000 Filipinos, is experiencing a 25% annual growth and is expected to achieve its target of generating US $25 billion in revenues by 2016. New Zealand software companies could greatly expand their markets by investing in the Philippine IT/BPO industry and accessing its vast network of global clients. Ambassador Benavidez and Mr. Walbridge discussed possible areas of cooperation in E-governance, geothermal energy and the re-export of New Zealand sea food products as well as a possible visit of Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director-General Lilia de Lima to New Zealand next year to promote the Philippine Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and follow-up on her previous visit which generated considerable interests in EPZs incentives. Mr. Walbridge said that the ANZBC would be happy to invite Director De Lima to speak before them.
Messrs. Glenn Wedlock, General Manger, Aeronautical Commercial, Auckland Airport and Peppy Adi-Purnomo, Aeronautical Development and Alliances Manager, Auckland International Airport and Ambassador Benavidez discussed plans and possible arrangements for direct flights between the Philippines and New Zealand given the sustained market growth and increasing number of visitors and outbound and inward travel to both countries. Ambassador Benavidez informed them about the Philippine Government’s “Pocket Open Skies” policy and the reconstitution of the Philippine Air Panel divided into an Air Services Agreement Negotiating Panel and an Air Services Agreement Amendment Panel. The year 2012 will be a good year to launch the direct flights between the Philippines and New Zealand on account of the Philippine Government’s promotion of 2011-2016 as “Pinoy Homecoming Years”.
Ambassador Benavidez inducted into office the new Chairman and Core Group of the Philippines New Zealand Business Council (NZPBC) at the Office of Honorary Consul General Emilie P. Shi. Led by Mr. Lito Banal, Chairman, NZPBC is composed of Filipino businessmen and professionals who have come together with the objective of “promoting an increased awareness by New Zealand business of the growing number of Filipino entrepreneurs and professionals in New Zealand.” It also aims “to enhance the profile of the Filipino migrant and encourage B2B synergy and increased bilateral trade between the Philippines and New Zealand.” The NZPBC was first set up in 2008 to represent the Filipino business community and to cater to the needs of the businessmen of both the Philippines and New Zealand. In congratulating the new set of officers of the NZPBC, Ambassador Benavidez stated that in “infusing renewed strength, vim, vigor and vitality in our economic relationship with New Zealand and other stakeholders in the local and regional arenas, the NZPBC is a real mile marker, another significant milestone in our economic horizon. Your collective efforts and individual commitment to move business and partnerships forward are timely and exemplary. We from the Embassy look forward to cooperating and collaborating even more closely with all of you - the backbone and prime movers of our economic diplomacy efforts to boost trade, tourism, investment, services and commercial linkages between the Philippines and our hospitable host country New Zealand.” Top officials from the New Zealand government and CEOs of business chambers and employers’ confederation acknowledge the important contributions of Filipinos in New Zealand in the areas of education, information technology, services, businesses and tourism and the expanding people-to-people ties. These are the key to the future of the bilateral and mutually beneficial relationship between New Zealand and the Philippines. Ambassador Benavidez likewise invited the NZPBC to participate in the Philippines Australia New Zealand (PANZ) Business Forum organized by the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines, Inc. (AANZCHAM) to be held at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel, Makati on 27-28 February 2012. This will be an excellent platform to foster commercial connections and greater trade and economic relationships among the stakeholders from the three countries and meet their counterparts from the Philippines-New Zealand Business Council. It was pointed out that opportunities and prospects abound in geothermal energy, information technology and business processing strategic partnerships, agriculture and quality food production and distribution, tourism, education, enhanced air connectivity, infrastructure, manufacturing, export processing zones locations and other vital areas to accelerate mutually beneficial economic cooperation with New Zealand and other countries.
Ambassador Benavidez also met with Ms. Sara Reyes, International Manager, Auckland Chamber of Commerce (ACC) who said that the ACC was able to meet with the Philippine delegations from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Business Processing Association of the Philippine (BPAP) last July when they conducted business presentations and meetings with them and with other local and foreign businessmen in New Zealand. The ACC is one of New Zealand’s largest and oldest business organizations and the most respected business network. It aims to support the vitality and growth of business in the Auckland region by providing its members with access to a huge range of information, resources and no cost services. Ambassador Benavidez informed Ms. Reyes about the revitalization of the New Zealand Philippines Business Council (NZPBC) based in Auckland who is the counterpart of the Philippines New Zealand Business Council (PNZBC) in Manila. Ms. Reyes expressed the interest of ACC to develop closer linkages and interaction with them. Ambassador Benavidez stated that this would be a good platform for both NZPBC and ACC to broaden their business ties and networks for mutual benefit. Furthermore, a possible visit of PEZA Director-General de Lima to New Zealand in 2012 would be a good opportunity for her to make a presentation before the ACC members. Ambassador Benavidez also shared with Ms. Reyes the President’s directive to the relevant government agencies to ensure that local and foreign investors will be encouraged to come to the Philippines because of the 5 Rs’- right project, right people, right cost, right quality and right on time. She repeated the President’s words that the Philippines is now open for business and transparent and fair processes build investor’s confidence following the President’s priorities on inclusive growth and equitable progress. A business forum in Auckland and specifically, a business presentation before the ACC are high in the agenda in the Embassy’s economic diplomacy. Auckland is considered the business and trade hub as well as the center for tourism and air linkages in New Zealand.