Philippine Ambassador attends the ASEAN New Zealand business council INC spotlight on the Philippines
As the Philippine Embassy actively pursues its economic diplomacy priorities and enhances business linkages between the Philippines and New Zealand, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, accompanied by Minister and Consul-General Arlene Gonzales Macaisa attended the “Spotlight on the Philippines” event hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) in cooperation with the ASEAN New Zealand Business Council (ANZBC) and the New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) at the MFAT Office in Wellington on 27 February 2014. This is ANZBC’s first Wellington After-5 event for 2014 and a similar one was held in Auckland earlier with New Zealand’s Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Reuben Levermore as the guest speaker. Present at the gathering were Mr. Stephen Harris, Divisional Manager, South and Southeast Asia Division, MFAT, Mr. Stefan Corbett, Lead Adviser, Southeast Asia Division, MFAT, Mr. David Catty, Executive Director, ANZBC, Mr. John Pagani, External Relations Manager, NZOG, officials from MFAT, representatives from NZOG, colleagues and members of ANZBC branches in Wellington, New Zealand Philippines Business Council (NZPBC) Wellington Director, representatives from agencies, companies, head offices and business organizations in Wellington and other guests.
Ambassador Levermore gave an update on the continued economic growth, credit upgrades and positive business and investment climate in the Philippines and presented a comprehensive overview of New Zealand-Philippines bilateral and regional cooperation on trade, investment, tourism, education, people-to-people exchanges, ASEAN partnership and opportunities for growing the relationship at all levels. He spoke on New Zealand’s continued engagement in projects for the restoration of livelihood in Mindanao, dairy cooperation, renewable energy, scholarships for Filipinos, disaster preparedness, air links, information technology, food and other sectors. He highlighted the reform agenda of President Benigno S. Aquino III focusing on governance, transparency and accountability and the increasing business-to-business engagements and the active role of the Philippines New Zealand Business Council. He called on the members of the ANZBC and other business partners and representatives to expand their business opportunities in the Philippines which is now experiencing continued economic growth, enjoying a big market of 100 million people and registering considerable increase in domestic consumption and favourable economic indicators. Ambassador Levermore cited the continuing important role and readiness of the New Zealand Trade Enterprise (NZTE) in assisting and connecting businesses and other groups with the markets and businesses in the Philippines. Ambassador Levermore also acknowledged the important contributions of the Filipinos who currently comprise 1% of New Zealand’s total population and mentioned the collective efforts of relevant agencies to foster greater educational linkages and exchanges between New Zealanders and Filipinos.
When called upon to share developments in the Philippines, Ambassador Benavidez thanked Ambassador Levermore, MFAT, ANZBC and NZOG for putting the spotlight on the Philippines which enjoys a broadening people-based relationship with New Zealand anchored on strength and synergy on niche areas of cooperation especially in dairy, renewable energy, ICT, disaster preparedness, rebuilding and reconstruction projects, education, Working Holiday Scheme and air connectivity. Citing President Aquino’s directive of “good governance is good economics”, Ambassador Benavidez pointed out the mutually beneficial and complementary scope between New Zealand’s recognized expertise and experiences in various and higher value areas of cooperation and the Philippines’ distinct advantages of its globally recognized talented manpower resources, strategic location, accessibility to large domestic, regional and international markets and value proposition to sustain enduring business relationships. She complimented the work of Ambassador Levermore “who has seen reality on the ground back home and continues to align New Zealand’s contributions, cooperation and collaboration with the Philippines’ overall goals of poverty alleviation, inclusive growth, sustainable development and community driven progress to help make a real difference in our people’s lives.” Ambassador Benavidez took the opportunity to thank the Government and People of New Zealand for the outpouring of support in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan and continued assistance in the on-going reconstruction and rehabilitation of typhoon affected areas in Central Philippines and appreciation for the contributions of 40,350 Filipinos in New Zealand. She invited the guests to visit the Philippines and experience what it means when Filipinos and visitors say “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
ANZBC Executive Director David Catty welcomed the participants, thanked Ambassador Levermore and Ambassador Benavidez, MFAT. NZOG and guests and gave an update on ANZBC”s subsequent activities. MFAT’s Divisional Manager Stephen Harris spoke on New Zealand’s increasingly close engagement with the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region within the context of the ASEAN Inc, strategy launched by Prime Minister John Key on 12 July 2013 and the 40th commemorative anniversary of the ASEAN-New Zealand Dialogue Partnership in 2015 as well as the importance of the Filipino community in the country and increasing people-to-people interaction between New Zealand and the Philippines. NZOG External Relations Manager John Pagani shared the importance of developing and maintaining good and solid relationships as a key to doing business in Asia and talked about his company’s vision, programmes and pathways to partnership.
Before the start of the gathering, participants were able to mix and mingle and network with each other and the presentations were followed by a lively and interactive open forum. ANZBC Executive Director David Catty reiterated his appreciation for a successful event on the Philippines and said that the “the response from members was excellent.”
The Spotlight on the Philippines shone on Philippines and New Zealand cooperation growing stronger and becoming more broad-based, reaching greater heights, marking significant milestones and breaking new ground.