Philippine Ambassador meets with New Zealand's speaker of the house
In line with the Philippine Embassy’s continuing efforts to promote closer ties with New Zealand and to reiterate the Filipino people’s heartfelt thanks to New Zealand for being a very good friend and close partner especially in times of great need, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, accompanied by Minister and Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa, made a courtesy call on New Zealand’s Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. David Carter on 29 January 2014. Present during the call was Mr. Steve Cutting, Manager, Parliamentary Relations, Parliamentary Relations and Policy.
The Rt. Hon. David Carter warmly welcomed Undersigned and Minister Gonzales-Macaisa and inquired about how the Philippines is recovering from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Ambassador Benavidez congratulated the Speaker for the successful 22nd Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC) for the Commonwealth Nations held in Wellington on 21-24 January 2014. Ambassador Benavidez reiterated to the Speaker the gratitude of the Philippine Government and the Filipino people for the generous contributions of the New Zealand Government for the relief operations in the massively disaster stricken areas and the deployment of a C-130 Hercules plane to ferry tons of equipment and supplies to isolated areas and carry large numbers of survivors to Cebu. Ambassador Benavidez thanked Speaker Carter for the expressions of support and sympathy and messages of Arohanui (with Great Love) and Kia Kaha (Be Strong) from the Parliament and the New Zealand people in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. She stated that “the Philippine Government and the Filipino people were deeply moved by the support New Zealand has so generously given to the Philippines and that New Zealand will always have the Filipino people’s never ending gratitude”. Ambassador Benavidez also informed the Speaker of the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) which is the Philippine Government’s strategic multi-stakeholder and multi-dimensional plan to guide the recovery and reconstruction of the economy, lives, and livelihoods in the affected areas. The focus of the plan is to build infrastructure, particularly houses, schools, and government facilities such as municipal and town halls, roads, hospitals, bridges, seaports, airports, public markets, power and telecommunications to resume immediately governance, education, business, livelihood and other crucial needs. Ambassador Benavidez shared with the Speaker that, according to the latest census statistics from Statistics New Zealand, there are now 40,350 Filipinos in New Zealand and that they continue to endear themselves with the people of New Zealand. This has contributed immensely to the outpouring of empathy, generosity and kindness springing forth among New Zealanders towards Filipinos and the Philippines. The Speaker stated that New Zealand has also experienced natural disasters, such as the devastating 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, and has also been the recipient of international support. As such, New Zealand fully understands the time it takes to recover and urgent needs of a nation after such a disaster and is always ready to be of help to others in times of need. Their discussions turned to the importance of economic relations between the Philippines and New Zealand. Ambassador Benavidez informed the Speaker that the Philippines is the fourth largest market for New Zealand dairy products. On the other hand, key merchandise imports from the Philippines include bananas, other fruits and electronic parts. New Zealand beef, lamb meat and wine are also growing in popularity in the Philippine market. The Philippines is also keen on learning from New Zealand’s best practices in the dairy and ICT sectors. Tourism is another area where both countries continue to grow as tourism arrivals on both sides increase. New milestones such as the start of the Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) arrangement between the Philippines and New Zealand and the resumption of Air Agreement Panel Talks ensure that the economic relations and connectivity between the Philippines and New Zealand will keep moving forward. “It’s a relationship in good shape and will get better in the future,” stated the Speaker. Ambassador Benavidez and the Speaker also exchanged views on the subject of possible parliamentary linkages and exchanges between the Philippines and New Zealand. The collaboration could take the form of exchanges between Parliamentarians of both countries and sending of a young Parliamentarian from the Philippines to learn more about New Zealand’s parliamentary system and interact closely with its Parliamentarians. The Speaker welcomed the idea and stated that he “looks forward to closer relations with the Philippines”.