Philippine Ambassador on MP Michael Woodhouse, Minister of Immigration, Minister of Police and Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety
In line with the Philippine Embassy’s continuing efforts to promote closer ties with New Zealand, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, accompanied by Minister and Consul General Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa, called on the Honourable Michael Woodhouse, the Minister of Immigration, Minister of Police, and Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety and a National List Member of Parliament (MP) based in Dunedin on 22 January 2015 at his office in Parliament. Minister Woodhouse welcomed Ambassador Benavidez and stated that he recently had a fruitful and eye-opening visit to Manila on 4-6 December 2014 which included meetings with Filipino government officials with a view towards building on the Philippines-New Zealand bilateral relations, particularly in the fields of immigration and employment.
Their discussions and interactions focused on the increasing numbers of and preference for skilled Filipinos in the rebuild and reconstruction of Christchurch, the collaborative efforts between relevant Philippine and New Zealand government agencies and private companies for the equitable treatment, and the proper deployment and smooth entry of Filipinos to Christchurch. Ambassador Benavidez stated that the Filipino population has increased significantly in New Zealand totalling 40,350 according to the 2013 census data of Statistics New Zealand. This number is expected to grow considerably as Filipinos are preferred in the Christchurch rebuild, reconstruction, and dairy sectors. Minister Woodhouse stated he is very focused on ensuring that all workers are treated properly and fairly and that he would like to open doors for workers to have the confidence to speak up for their rights.
Ambassador Benavidez shared with Minister Woodhouse the steps being undertaken by the relevant agencies in the Philippines to address the specific aspects of recruitment and deployment of Filipino skilled manpower for the Christchurch rebuild and reconstruction and other sectors. She expressed appreciation that the New Zealand and Philippine Governments are of the same mind and on the same page in working for the welfare and well-being of migrant workers in New Zealand. Minister Woodhouse stated that he looks forward to further collaborating with the Embassy of the Philippines in communicating the message of the importance of migrant workers in the Christchurch rebuild and other sectors and the equal need to ensure their welfare and safety. The coming months will see active exchange of visits at the ministerial and senior levels, greater focus on cooperative arrangements on matters relating to recruitment, deployment and protection of Filipino workers and continuing dialogue and meetings among relevant authorities, Filipino workers’ associations and groups, employers and other stakeholders between the Philippines and New Zealand for mutual benefit and close partnership.