Philippine Ambassador Virginia Benavidez meets New Zealand Minister for Trade Tim Groser
The Philippine Embassy in Wellington reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez called on New Zealand Minister for Trade and Minister Responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations Tim Groser on October 10 at the Minister’s Office in Parliament.
Present during the meeting was Private Secretary to the Minister Reuben Levermore and Minister and Consul General Marcos A.S. Punsalang.
The meeting was an excellent opportunity for Ambassador Benavidez and Minister Groser to review bilateral trade and investment between the Philippines and New Zealand as well as to explore further areas of cooperation to enhance the economic relationship between the two countries.
New Zealand is the Philippines 26th largest trading partner and the Philippines is among New Zealand’s top export markets for dairy products.
Ambassador Benavidez and Minister Groser agreed that there are bright prospects for cooperation in geothermal energy.
She lauded the vital role played by New Zealand in assisting the Philippines in the mid-70s in developing geothermal fields and steam gathering plants in Tongonan, Leyte, where the first geothermal plants capable of producing 110 megawatts were built.
Minister Groser acknowledged the importance of the Philippines as the second largest producer of geothermal energy in the world and New Zealand as a leading country in the development and use of geothermal power in the global arena.
Both recognized the key role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) will play in increasing bilateral trade as market access would be improved markedly with the elimination of tariffs on products from both countries.
Minister Groser recognized the great strides that the Philippines has achieved in the Information Technology/Business Processing Outsourcing (IT/BPO) sectors which generated US $9 billion in revenue last year and attained a 26-percent growth for the same period.
New Zealand companies have shown great interest in investing in the Philippine IT/BPO industry.
Minister Groser noted the size and profile of the 35,000 members of the Filipino community in New Zealand, a sizeable community which could serve as a core market for strengthening air connectivity, promoting closer people-to-people links and generating greater trade and business opportunities between the Philippines and New Zealand.
In response to Minister Groser’s query about economic developments in the Philippines, Ambassador Benavidez stated that the Philippine Government is aiming for a 5.5 percent gross development product (GDP) growth in the economy for 2011.
She said that there has been a surge of confidence and new found hope and trust in the Government of President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has launched an anti-corruption campaign, promotion of accountability, transparency and integrity in business transactions and allocation of more than 30 percent of the national budget to social services, education and health aimed at alleviating poverty in the country.
The Ambassador added that the economy has managed to post surpluses in the current account which has increased the country’s foreign reserves to US$75 billion.
As a result, the Philippine Government will frontload its foreign debt thereby reducing the country’s external debt. All these favorable developments resulted in four positive upgrades in the credit ratings by global credit agencies over the past 15 months as well as an increase by ten notches of the Philippines’ economic competitiveness by the World Economic Forum.
Likewise, the World Bank commended the Philippines for the President’s good governance and community-driven policies and programs.
Ambassador Benavidez also shared with Minister Groser the President’s directive to the relevant government agencies to ensure that that local and foreign investors will be encouraged to come to the Philippines because of the 5Rs’ – right project, right people, right cost, right quality and right on time.
Ambassador Benavidez 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.
Minister Groser was heartened by these developments and stated that he would make an official visit to the Philippines by mid-2012.
He will most likely bring a delegation of New Zealand businessmen in order to take advantage of trade and investment opportunities in the Philippines.
Ambassador Benavidez said that the Philippines is looking forward to receiving Minister Groser and his delegation and his visit will undoubtedly be a mile marker in Philippine-New Zealand relations.