PH, New Zealand discuss possible military exchanges

​The Philippines and New Zealand are in talks of expediting the conclusion of a possible exchange of troops as top diplomats of both countries met in Manila on Monday, June 10.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo and New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters sat down to discuss opportunities to bolster partnership, including the two countries' negotiations and conclusion of a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement this year.

Photo from ew Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winson Peters

During President Marcos' trip to New Zealand in April, he and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon agreed to step up defense partnership as they envision the need to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

"Secretary Manalo and Minister Peters discussed opportunities for growing mutually beneficial two-way trade, investment and defence cooperation, including the negotiation and conclusion of a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement in 2024," their joint statement read.

In his remarks, Manalo said they also welcomed the signing of the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA), which he said is "a pivotal document that will greatly enhance future military engagements between our nations."

MLSA is a framework that will allow the provision of logistics support from each side during exercises, training, deployments, and other exigencies as mutually determined by both countries.

​Manalo also thanked New Zealand for its steadfast support for the challenges ​the Philippines is facing in the South China Sea​.

​"And we reaffirmed our continued commitment to uphold the rule of law as a pillar to achieving peace and security in the region​," he added.

​Other ties

On the other hand, the Philippines and New Zealand also agreed to explore more avenues in trade and investment partnership as they are set to elevate ties from strategic to comprehensive by 2026.

The two countries also agreed to strengthen existing mechanisms for cooperation on political, security, defense and labor while promoting national priorities, particularly on renewable energy and fighting climate change.

"You will recall that our leaders, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, met here in Manila last April, and agreed to elevate the relationship and cooperation between the Philippines and New Zealand," Manalo said.

​"Our leaders tasked us, their foreign ministers, to lay down the roadmap to realizing these commitments​," he added.

Manalo said the two countries will also have more frequent exchanges of high-level visits, discuss ways to increase connectivity through air flights and visas, and celebrate the commonalities of culture and heritage.

"In this regard, I expressed appreciation for New Zealand’s recognition of the vital contributions of the Philippine diaspora to New Zealand’s continued economic prosperity and the richness of its social fabric, and conveyed the hope that their government will ensure the well-being of our kababayans, including safeguarding their hard-earned social security pensions," he said.