The Philippine archipelago is made up of 7,107 islands with coastline stretching 36,289 km. The terrain is mostly mountains with narrow to extensive coastal lowlands. It is favourably located in relation to many of Southeast Asia's main water bodies: the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and Luzon Strait.

Bilateral trade: NZ-Philippines

The Philippines is a country on the rise, supported by solid levels of growth in recent years and a young and growing middle-class population. The Philippines is a long standing partner of New Zealand in South East Asia. Relations between New Zealand and the Philippines are friendly and continue to grow and has become more substantial in recent times building on increased trade flows and migration.

The Philippines is an important export destination for New Zealand. It was the 12th largest export destination for goods for the year ending June 2014. The Philippines is one NZ’s five largest export markets for dairy products, underpinning the trade relationship. Imports from the Philippines to New Zealand represent about 15% of total goods trade. Imports include bananas, other fruits and electronic parts. Services trade is more balanced: it exceeded NZ$175 million for the year ending June 2014.

ICT industry in the Philippines is growing rapidly and is led by a flourishing business processing industry. Two-way trade in this area is growing. Several New Zealand firms have set up back office operations in the Philippines for scalability and to extend their global market reach.

The Agreement establishing the ASEAN New Zealand Australia Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) entered into force for trade between New Zealand and the Philippines on 1 January 2010. The AANZFTA removes many barriers to trade and provides certainty and transparency for New Zealand and Philippine companies trading in the region. By 2020, more than 99% of New Zealand’s trade to the Philippines will be duty-free. New Zealand and the Philippines are currently engaged in negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

People-to-People links provide a strong foundation for the NZ-Philippines relationship. The Filipino community comprises the largest resident community of South East Asian origin in New Zealand. Since 2006 the community has more than doubled in to be more than 40,000 in 2013 representing nearly one percent of New Zealand’s total population. The rapid growth of the Filipino community in New Zealand adds a new dynamic to the relationship between the two countries. Filipino labour provides an important contribution to critical parts of New Zealand’s labour market including in health care, dairy farming and the Canterbury rebuild. The Filipino national language Tagalog is spoken by just over 29,000 people making it the 11th most widely spoken language in New Zealand.

In 2014, a working holiday scheme entered into force, allowing 100 young New Zealanders and 100 young Filipinos to visit the other country each year and undertake temporary employment and some education or training as part of their travel.

The Philippines is a developing country with high levels of poverty and vulnerability to natural disasters. New Zealand provides targeted support to the Philippines in a number of ways. Official Development Assistance (ODA) is focused on complementing ASEAN's community-building goals through a number of agreed flagship areas:

  • development of the Philippine’s agriculture sector
  • disaster risk management
  • scholarships to support young Filipinos to study in New Zealand
  • fostering young business leaders

The New Zealand Government has placed priority on the implementation of a five year, Philippine–New Zealand Dairy Project which aims to lift local milk production in two dairying regions.

The Philippines expressed gratitude for the quick and effective support New Zealand provided following the devastating typhoon Haiyan (known as typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) in late 2013, including a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) deployment and $4.8m provided in humanitarian relief. An additional $5m has been provided to support ongoing recovery efforts, comprising NZ$2.5 million to a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) project to restore agricultural livelihoods and NZ$2.5 million to the Philippine Red Cross to strengthen warehousing and pre-positioned supplies in regional depots.

Over 1000 Filipino international students study in New Zealand each year. Up to 18 scholarships are available for Filipino nationals for postgraduate study in New Zealand each year through the ASEAN-New Zealand Scholars Awards.

A bilateral arrangement on defence cooperation was signed by New Zealand and the Philippines in 2012. Cooperation in this area is fortified through cooperation in regional processes.

The Philippines is a founding nation of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). New Zealand celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations with ASEAN in 2015. New Zealand has a close working relationship with the Philippines in regional and multilateral forums such as the UN, the WTO and the Cairns Group, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, the Forum for East Asia and Latin American Co-operation (FEALAC) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). New Zealand is also active partners in APEC, which the Philippines will host in 2015.

Key Factors

Population: 100.6 million (2014 est.)
Gross domestic product, current prices: US$ 284.6 billion (2014 est.)
GDP per head (US$ at PPP): $ 6,908 (2014 est.)
New Zealand’s major Exports to the Philippines: Dairy; forestry products; education services; meat

Source – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – South East Asia Division.