Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Filipino leader seeks new level in ties with NZ

Benigno Aquino III. Photo / AP
Benigno Aquino III. Photo / AP

Details of a working-holiday agreement between New Zealand and the Philippines are expected to be announced during the visit to New Zealand of Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III.

It will be the first such agreement the Philippines has had, according to the Ministry of Foreign and Affairs and Trade.

President Aquino, son of the late Corazon Aquino who ousted President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, arrives in New Zealand today accompanied by a substantial delegation of ministers including Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario, business leaders and journalists.

Greater co-operation in geothermal energy development is a subject that will also be high on the agenda.

The Philippines has about 10 million nationals working abroad, many doing the type of jobs others won't do.

New Zealand is home to about 35,000 Filipinos, says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, many working as farm labourers in the dairy industry and in rest homes.

A group of 11 Filipino nurses on a course were killed in the CTV building in Christchurch's February 2011 earthquake and the Philippines was one of those countries that offered immediate assistance.

Mr Aquino's spokesman, Ricky Carandang, told the Herald it was time to take the relationship to a new level. New Zealand was not "top of mind for Filipinos", he said, but there were a lot of shared values that could be built on, leading to greater political and economic ties.

That was important in times of such global uncertainty.

"We are both secular, democratic countries, we're both basically market-driven economies, we're both Pacific countries."

The trade imbalance was in New Zealand's favour and the Philippines was looking to add greater value to its exports.

Mr Aquino will head to Wellington tomorrow for talks with the Government and a state dinner before leaving for Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr Carandang said the president's approval ratings at home were 79 per cent. He has recently negotiated a peace deal in the southern Mindanao island which had a 40-year separatist insurgency that led to the deaths of about 120,000 people.

- NZ Herald

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