MANILA - New Zealand has appointed honorary consuls for Cebu and Mindanao to "help deepen the trade and economic partnership" of the South Pacific country with central and southern Philippines, its embassy announced Thursday.
HopeNow Philippines Foundation chairman Manuel Osmeña was appointed as the honorary consul for Cebu, while Mindanao Business Group chairman Vicente Lao was designated as the honorary consul for Mindanao.
It was New Zealand's first time to appoint honorary consuls in the Philippines.
"The move reflects the growing interest of the New Zealand private sector in opportunities associated with impressive economic growth in Davao and Cebu," New Zealand Ambassador to the Philippines David Strachan said in a statement.
"The appointments of Mr. Osmeña and Mr. Lao as honorary consuls will help deepen the trade and economic partnership with Cebu and Mindanao," he said.
Strachan said New Zealand businessmen were keen about "exploring opportunities" in Mindanao's agricultural sector, including post-harvest technology and biosecurity.
Aside from business development in the region, Strachan said his government is committed to help conflict-affected Filipinos in Mindanao.
As of November 2017, the New Zealand government has committed to give P126 million "to support the restoration of agricultural livelihoods in Mindanao," data from the embassy showed.
Another P18 million will be coursed through the World Food Programme "to help people affected by the recent conflict in Marawi," Strachan said.
The Philippine government has laid out a P72-billion rehabilitation program for Marawi City, left in ruins after five months of firefights between terrorists and state troops last year.
“New Zealand welcomes the prospect of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) coming into force and is committed to doing what it can to support the peace process in Mindanao”, he said.
The BBL, the proposed measure that would serve as the enabling law of the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014, aims to grant greater autonomy to the Bangsamoro region.
President Rodrigo Duterte just certified the bill as urgent.