New Zealand and the Philippines recently commemorated their half-century of steadfast relationships by vowing to seek deeper and more extensive trade linkages in order to make full use of their respective strengths in exports, business, and education.
New Zealand Ambassador David Strachan declared that the significant milestone reflects the growth of the bilateral relations through the five decades of closeness, as well as the rising figures of the locals in each other’s country.
In a media huddle situated at the lobby of a posh hotel, the ambassador expressed delight in celebrating the occasion in Cebu while taking stock of the strengths of the Philippines such as the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, the warm spirit and work ethic of the Filipinos, as well as the tourism potentials.
“I would like to see more trade opportunities open up between Cebu and New Zealand. Top Philippine exports are pineapples and bananas. The services sector, mainly construction, nursing, and Information Technology, has doubled in just two years’ time. Total RP trade with New Zealand has reached US$2 billion last year,” he stated.
Regarding imports, Education New Zealand Regional Communications Manager Ben Burrowes revealed that education is an important sector that has benefitted over 3,600 Filipinos studying in New Zealand in 2015, an increase of 83 percent over the 2014 figures. Leading the way are courses in management, commerce, medicine, and Information Technology.
He added that each year, New Zealand Aid funds 24 post-graduate scholarships for the Philippines focusing on disaster risk management, renewable energy, and agri-business.
Trade Commissioner Hernando Banal mentioned that the growth of Filipino communities have livened up the churches considerably and resulted in a rebirth of sorts.
“Many see the country as a favorite location shoot for such movies as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbitt, Avatar, King Kong, and Narnia. Population is only 4.5 million while land area is around 90 percent
of that of the Philippines,” he said.
The evening reception showcased New Zealand products such as grass-fed beef, wines, and ice cream made from pure farm fresh milk.
A special program highlighted classical musicians Stella Kim, a violinist, and Sally Kim, a cellist who are on their third Asean country after Malaysia and Thailand.
The NZ Embassy is looking to conclude their 50th anniversary celebration with a reception in Davao toward the year end.
By RICHARD RAMOS