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Thursday, May 30, 2024

New Zealand backs WPS ruling

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New Zealand has reaffirmed its position on the validity of the 2016 arbitral ruling rendered by the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated the nine-dash-line massive claims of China over the South China Sea and instead upheld the West Philippine Sea as part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.

In a joint statement, the Philippines and New Zealand also reaffirmed the need for all states to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes and reiterated that the UNCLOS sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.

New Zealand recognized the 2016 arbitral award, which is final and binding, just like the Philippines.

“The two leaders reaffirmed that all parties must fully implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and reiterated their support for ASEAN-led efforts for the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct for the South China Sea that upholds the legitimate rights and interests of all parties and is consistent with UNCLOS,” President Marcos and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon declared on Thursday.

This developed as the Philippines and New Zealand have started the process of soon having joint military training exchanges as the two governments are already expediting the forging of their Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA).

The two leaders on Thursday agreed to step up both nations’ defense partnership as they envision the need to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Marcos and Luxon agreed there must be a SOVFA—an agreement concerning the status of visiting forces between two nations—before their troops could have exchanges.

They also committed to sign by 2024 the Mutual Logistics Supporting Agreement (MLSA), which will provide a solid framework for both parties’ defense organizations to enhance interoperability.

These moves came as both expressed serious concern over what is happening in the South China Sea. They also stressed the need to uphold international law and the freedom of navigation and overflight.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and New Zealand are considering increasing their trade in the coming years by 50 percent as leaders of both nations noted the potential in expanding their economic partnership.

Marcos and the Luxon said they were determined to increase the economic growth of their countries when they met Thursday, April 19.

“And it’s great to see bilateral trade between New Zealand and the Philippines able to recover to pre-pandemic level and continue to increase,” Luxon said.

This came as both nations agreed to expand their ties into comprehensive partnership by 2026.

Luxon also noted the increasing interest of New Zealand businesses in the Philippine local information and technology sector, manufacturing, renewable energy, and food processing.

In 2023, New Zealand ranked as the Philippines’ 28th trading partner, with total trade amounting to 495.37 million US Dollars. New Zealand is also the Philippines’ 38th export destination and 24th import source.

The Philippines has a 361.94 million US Dollars trade deficit with New Zealand, according to the Presidential Communications Office. In 2021, New Zealand was ranked the 34th source of approved investments in the manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade industry.

From 2018 to 2022, approved investments from New Zealand amounted to 3.49 million US Dollars in key sectors, such as manufacturing, administrative and support services activities, wholesale and retail trade, and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles.

Travel and tourism are also major drivers for trade growth, he said, as more people travel between the two countries to visit family and friends and to spend holidays in the Philippines.

“We want to do more to grow both of our countries’ tourism industries,” he said.

In 2023, the country recorded a total of 29,272 tourist arrivals from New Zealand, up from just 17,503 in 2022, making the foreign nation the 22nd source of visitors to the Philippines.

Pending the results of the 2023 New Zealand Census on 29 May 2024, there are an estimated 100,000 Filipinos in New Zealand.

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