IMPROVED TIES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meet on the sidelines of the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday (Nov. 19, 2022). The two leaders committed to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers and improve trade and security measures. (Courtesy of Office of the President)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday agreed to bolster their cooperation in protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as well as improving trade and security.

Marcos and Ardern made the commitment during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.

"I think that once again, the best solution is just to have strong partnerships. You can have slightly different positions within that. But you are members of a political aggrupation and economic aggrupation. There's strength in numbers," Marcos said during the meeting, as quoted by the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS).

Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil, OPS Officer-in-Charge, said in a statement that the two leaders emphasized addressing the needs of OFWs.

"Both leaders expressed readiness to empower Filipino migrant workers and enhance the capacity to respond to their needs," Garafil said.

Marcos said the Filipino diaspora has become a significant part of the Philippine culture.

"Most people don’t find great opportunities. But that’s what happened, and we go where the work is,” he told Ardern, noting that Filipinos thrive in every part of the world.

The Asia-Pacific region hosts the largest segments of OFWs, with the Philippine regional trade accounting for 85 percent.

Marcos and Ardern likewise expressed intent to help Filipino farmers take advantage of new innovations to ensure sustainability and productivity.

He noted that the Philippines-New Zealand trade partnership has grown "at a steady pace."

"We want perhaps after things open up even more and come back to what we all considered to be normal, it would increase. The population of the Philippines is growing, and the continuing need to trade," Marcos said.

Marcos said stepping up efforts to achieve peace must have the "past, present and future consideration of [their] initiatives" and require a united effort by the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world.

Unity will bring economic prosperity to all the countries, according to Marcos.

"Because it is a multi-lateral partnership, so that’s what I think. Let's make that very, very strong, and as long as we look after the region, [the] Asia-Pacific, we look after our interest, I really think we could weather the storm and beyond that. We cannot just set aside the efforts to make the economy vibrant again," Marcos said. "We have to be in this lifeboat together and keep at it together. That's my view." (PNA)