Duterte to boost ties with New Zealand

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LIMA, PERU: President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to strengthen the Philippines’ relations with New Zealand, where more than 44,000 Filipinos reside.

The President met New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray Mccully when he made a brief stop in Auckland before returning to the Philippines.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte and Mccully expressed their desire to boost trade and investment in key areas, especially in the dairy industry.

“Both sides discussed enhancing agricultural cooperation particularly in the dairy industry, noting New Zealand is the Philippine’s biggest source of dairy products. New Zealand can assist in building the Philippines’ dairy industry,” Andanar said.

The two officials also wished to strengthen people-to-people cooperation and high-level exchanges, he added.

The Palace official said Duterte and Mccully exchanged views on domestic and international issues.

“PRRD [Duterte] emphasized the importance of maintaining global and regional peace and stability, and avoidance of war as one of his key principles of Philippines’ independent foreign policy,” Andanar said.

Duterte also discussed with Mccully his administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

“PRRD stated that guarding against the rise of terrorism in Asia-Pacific region should be a shared priority of the two countries, and shared Philippines’ initiatives in counter-terrorism,” he added.

Andanar said Duterte thanked New Zealand for accommodating over 44,000 Filipinos and for giving assistance to the typhoon victims in the Philippines.

The President also expressed sympathy for the victims of the strong quake that struck New Zealand’s South Island this month.

Duterte made a stop over in New Zealand after attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit here in Lima, Peru. He spent the night in Auckland and is expected to be in Davao City early Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with The New Zealand Herald, Mccully was quoted as saying that Duterte was a “tough guy but was warm, courteous and actually quite charming.”

“He’s a very engaging character and it’s not difficult to discuss sensitive issues with him. He is very happy to engage on those issues,” Mccully said. CATHERINE S. VALENTE

CV/CC

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