NEW Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern strongly advocated her country’s peaceful policies in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte late Tuesday night.
Ardern made the pitch after Duterte praised Ardern’s governance of her country and mused over Auckland’s lack of nuclear bases and armed policemen.
“There are 50,000 or more Filipinos, which you are hosting, and I would say that they decided right because Auckland treats its citizens superbly. No doubt about it. I was there. New Zealand is a small country but was really governed well and protected well ahead of the time,” Duterte said to the 37-year-old Ardern, one of the youngest leaders in the world.
Duterte visited Auckland, New Zealand twice since it served as his stopover when he attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Peru in 2016.
“You can see how it is now. It has flourished and about the only thing that’s lacking, I said, is you do not have the atomic bombs there. You don’t have nuclear bases there. I could not even see your police wearing guns,” Duterte said.
Ardern said these policies were something that Duterte could take his cue from.
“No, [we don’t have nuclear bases], [and]our police are not routinely armed there, you know. We consider ourselves a very peaceful nation and of course advocate for those principles and values as you will uphold at the point that I made during the [Asean] summit,” Ardern said.
“So that was an opportunity to highlight some of our values. And you will have seen yourself that we live by them,” Ardern said.
Duterte, an advocate of a strong police and military force armed with the best of weapons, wanted to keep the conversation about the topic when Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano approached him and signaled to the President that it was time to sign the Memorandum of Cooperation between the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Philippines Commission on Higher Education on the Comparative Analysis of New Zealand and the Philippines’ Bachelor’s Degrees.
Chairperson Patricia Licuanan of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and New Zealand Ambassador to the Philippines David Strachan signed the agreement.
Duterte’s bilateral meeting with Ardern was his last for the duration of the Association of Southeast Asian Summit and Related meetings hosted by the Philippines this week.
Ardern, 37, is known to be the youngest prime minister in 150 years and third female prime minister to lead New Zealand, according to the official website of the Labor Party.
She was sworn in as New Zealand’s Prime Minister on October 26.
Ardern was born in Hamilton in 1980, attending primary and secondary school in Morrinsville and also spending a few years living in Murupara, where her father was a policeman.
She grew up in a Mormon household but left the faith in her 20s because of its anti-homosexual stance.
After completing a Bachelor of Communication Studies at Waikato University, Ardern worked for Phil Goff and Helen Clark.
She spent three years in London as a policy advisor in the UK Cabinet Office, and in 2007 was elected president of the International Union of Socialist Youth.
Ardern joined Labour Party aged 17 and had a steady rise through its since entering Parliament in 2008.
As Prime Minister, Ardern is known to be a spokeswoman for justice, children, arts culture and heritage, and small business, and associate spokeswoman for Auckland issues.
During her visit to the Philippines, Ardern was joined by Foreign Minister Winston Peters. She also participated at the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ forum in Danang, Vietnam.
Ardern also had talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Pierre Trudeau on Monday morning after the official opening of the Asean Summit by Duterte. EIREENE GOMEZ