Duterte meets OFWs, NZ foreign minister during Auckland stopover

Pia Ranada
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully brings up the South China Sea dispute with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who he describes as 'charming'

DUTERTE IN NZ. President Rodrigo Duterte poses with overseas Filipinos outside a hotel in Auckland, New Zealand on November 22, 2016. Photo by Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte made the most of his long stopover in Auckland, New Zealand by meeting overseas Filipino workers and paying a courtesy call on New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

Duterte arrived in Auckland from Lima, Peru where he had attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting from November 19 to 20.

In photos sent by Malacañang, Duterte can be seen posing with groups of OFWs outside a hotel on Tuesday, November 22. Filipinos had been waiting outside, hoping for a chance encounter with the President.

WAITING FOR DUTERTE. Supporters excitedly wait for a chance encounter with President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo by King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo

Photo by King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo

Photo by King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo

That same day, Duterte and some Cabinet members met with Foreign Minister McCully. Those present include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.

McCully brought up the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with Duterte, according to a Channel News Asia report.

The foreign minister described Duterte as “warm, courteous, and actually quite charming,” said an article by the New Zealand Herald. 

“He doesn’t beat around the bush. He has got quite firm views and he expresses them, and very colorfully,” the national newspaper also quoted McCully as saying.

During their meeting, Duterte took the opportunity to express sympathy for the victims of the strong earthquake that hit New Zealand’s South Island last November 13.

COURTESY CALL. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully during a courtesy call at Langham Hotel in Auckland on November 22, 2016. Photo by Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo

FRUITFUL STOPOVER. President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. Photo by Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo

The Philippine President also thanked the New Zealand government for hosting over 44,000 Filipinos and for providing assistance to victims of typhoons back home.

McCully informed him that Filipinos play an important role in New Zealand’s economy, with most of them working in sectors like healthcare, dairy production, and construction.

In terms of trade, New Zealand is the Philippines’ biggest source of dairy products. McCully said New Zealand is willing to help the Philippines improve its dairy industry.

Duterte did not pass up a chance to discuss his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and criminality. But he also emphasized the need for international cooperation against another threat: terrorism.

Duterte “stated that guarding against rise of terrorism in Asia-Pacific region should be a shared priority of the two countries,” said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

At the end of the meeting, McCully invited Duterte to return to New Zealand for a longer visit.

From Auckland, Duterte flies to Davao City where he is expected to arrive late Wednesday night. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.