New Zealand and Philippines Memoranda of
Working Holidays | Defence |
Joint Press Conference - 23 Oct 2012
By Mark P. Williams
Today the Prime Minister held a joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines to mark the signing of bilateral agreements between New Zealand and the Philippines. The occasion marked the signing of several Memoranda of Arrangement: a Memorandum of Agreement on initiating a Working Holiday Exchange Scheme between the two nations; a Memorandum of Arrangement on Defence Cooperation; and a Memorandum of Arrangement on Geothermal Energy Cooperation. These were signed at the press conference by the Hon. Murray McCully as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and by the representatives from the Philippine government HE Albert del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and HE Voltaire Gazmin, Secretary of Defence. The President was accompanied by a business delegation of 70 people. The Prime Minister said that the size of the delegation showed how keen President Aquino was to grow the relationship between the two nations.
The Prime Minister welcomed President Aquino and said that the common signing of the ASEAN free trade agreement was a significant opportunity to develop the economic relations between the Philippines and New Zealand. He briefly summarised some of the discussion he had undertaken and congratulated President Aquino on his efforts to fight corruption and to promote peace by signing an agreement in Mindanao with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The Working Holiday Scheme is the first of its kind negotiated by the Philippines and will provide temporary (12 month) entry visas in each direction to New Zealand and Philippine citizens between the ages of 18 and 30. Participants will be limited to a maximum of three months' work with any one employer and may enrol in training or study for no more than three months. It is anticipated that the first visas will be issued in 2013.
The Defence Cooperation Memorandum of Arrangement sets out a framework for meetings between senior officials and military representatives; education and training exercises; capacity building; information exchange; and multilateral cooperation. Both leaders stressed the history of cooperation and shared values between New Zealand and the Philippines as well as the more recent links between them, citing the example of their experience as co-chairs of the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) Peacekeeping Operations Experts' Working Group.
The Geothermal Energy Cooperation Arrangement is intended to employ both commercial and educational resources of New Zealand to benefit the expansion and development of the Philippines Geothermal Energy sector. Under a business deal between New Zealand's GNS Science and Energy Development Corporation (EDC) of the Philippines, GNS will provide technical services in a range of areas to assist the EDC to improve its efficiency and "best practice".
The two leaders each spoke briefly about the significance of these agreements before Minister McCully with HE Rosario and HE Gazmin signed the Memoranda. The leaders then took questions from the assembled press.
The PM was asked how the arrangements would affect New Zealand's existing agreements such as the Washington Declaration. The PM responded that both leaders saw it as codifying their current behaviour.
The President was asked about the Philippines relationship with the USA in the Pacific and its own diplomatic issues with countries like China. He responded that the Philippines had, historically, found themselves on the same diplomatic side as Australia, New Zealand and the United States over several decades and looked forward to the continued promotion of stability in the region.
The President was asked about the difference that the hundred working holiday visas would make to more specific cooperation between the two countries. He responded that the schemes were intended to foster mutual cultural appreciation as well as building the opportunities for further cooperation in specific fields of expertise in future.
The Prime Minister was asked to what extent the geothermal cooperation was a commercial enterprise and whether it would make any difference when the New Zealand geothermal resources were privatised. He responded that it was a question of drawing upon the expertise of New Zealand as a world leader in the field very similar to the arrangement New Zealand signed in Indonesia. He said that the partial privatisation would not make any difference to the companies' ability to take part in the cooperative scheme.
The leaders were asked how their Defence Cooperation would affect the security situation regarding the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. The PM said that New Zealand does not take sides in such territorial disputes but urges both sides towards peaceful dialogue. The President said that the Defence cooperation should not be seen as offensive but as a mutual enrichment of security and defensive infrastructural capabilities beneficial in combatting issues such as human trafficking. He went on to emphasise the importance of maintaining stability and the peaceful resolution of disputes to speed the process of global economic recovery.
The PM was asked about New Zealand's investment in dairy in the Philippines. He responded that New Zealand sought to employ its expertise in developing the Philippines domestic dairy industry, investing $5m over five years in capacity-building. He said that he looked forward to further future investment in other areas, saying New Zealand Telecom had already outsourced call-centre work to the Philippines and saw the opportunity for other New Zealand companies to invest in the Philippines.
The President was asked about the security situation in the Philippines. He responded that his government had put in place a dedicated section of the Police for dealing with tourists which would be sensitive to tourist issues regarding security. He said that the Philippines had some dangers but that they were things his government and the Police were working to address and the Philippines was safer than several countries, adding that it would be undiplomatic to name any.
The President was asked why New Zealand was so important to the Philippines. He responded that it was a question of shared history over Korea, Vietnam and other struggles which had brought the countries common experience and illustrated their shared values.
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