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New Zealand, Philippines firm up bilateral ties

Three New Zealand government agencies signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with two of their Philippine counterparts and with Philippine Airlines to firm up bilateral cooperation in tourism, energy resources and weather services.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Andern witnessed the signing.

“New Zealand has recognized the importance of this region for more than 40 years,” said Andern, who assumed office only on Oct. 26.

Ardern also said the agreements represented the two countries’ “common interest in economic development and tourism, and commitment to dealing with challenges like climate change and renewable energy.”

She took particular note of the MOU between the Philippine flag carrier and state agency Tourism New Zealand.

PAL president Jaime Bautista said the airline was establishing thrice-weekly direct, nonstop flights between Manila and Auckland starting Dec. 6.

Bautista said these would replace PAL flights that currently pass through Cairns in Queensland, Australia, which took 12 hours.

“This will shorten travel time by two hours,” he said.

The new nonstop flights are expected to inject NZ$13.6 million—about P478 million—annually into the New Zealand economy.

Stephen England-Hall, chief executive of Tourism NZ, said that for the 12 months ending September 2017, more than 23,000 Filipinos visited his country.

“The value of the Philippine market is not just based on volume growth, but also the fact that Filipino travelers stay a long time in New Zealand, with those on holiday staying an average of 14.9 days — the highest across our South and Southeast Asia markets,” he said in a briefing.

Also, the Department of Energy signed with New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade agreements related to training of personnel on renewable energy resources, including geothermal energy. The cooperation was more about skills and knowledge than on infrastructure and projects.

A third MOU was signed between New Zealand’s Meteorological Services and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, which was described as a cooperation mainly on sharing of data.

According to New Zealand data, the Philippines was its 22nd largest trading partner at $1.1 billion yearly.

The Philippines sources dairy products, wood and paper pulp from New Zealand, while shipping out fruits and nuts, printing machinery and electronics.

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