PH, New Zealand strengthen defense ties with signing of MLSA

June 10, 2024, 5:41 pm Updated on June 10, 2024, 6:35 pm

<p>Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo<em> (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)</em></p>

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The Philippines and New Zealand have agreed to strengthen security and defense cooperation with the signing of a Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA), Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Monday.

The signing is a follow-up to the bilateral meeting of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon in April when they committed to “maintaining and strengthening defense engagements while exploring new frameworks of cooperation to deepen defense ties.”

"We welcomed the signing of the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement, a pivotal document that will greatly enhance future military engagements between our nations," Manalo said in his remarks during the joint press briefing with visiting New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Raymond Peters.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Teresita Daza said the MLSA was signed Monday, June 10. 

On his X account, Peters said the MLSA was signed between Defense Assistant Secretary Marita Yoro and Royal New Zealand Navy Assistant Acting Deputy Chief Commodore Maxine Lawes.

Meanwhile, Manalo said the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), one of the military partnerships discussed by Marcos and Luxon, is under consideration and would likely start discussions soon.

Aside from the United States, the Philippines also has a SOVFA with Australia and is currently developing a similar defense pact with Japan, known as the Reciprocal Access Agreement.

These types of military partnerships allow Filipino and foreign soldiers to train in each other’s territory, as well as improve and share military equipment and assets.

Peters is in Manila for an official visit this week to enhance bilateral relations and explore new avenues for partnerships in trade and investment, renewable energy and combating climate change.

Manalo said the Philippines and New Zealand "agreed to undertake more frequent exchanges of high-level visits, discuss ways to increase our connectivity through air flights and visas, and celebrate the commonalities of our culture and heritage."

Commitment to uphold rule of law

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

"We reaffirmed our continued commitment to uphold the rule of law as a pillar to achieving peace and security in the region," Manalo said.

"I reiterated the Philippines’ support to New Zealand’s proposal to elevate ASEAN-New Zealand relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership next year, when we mark the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-New Zealand Dialogue Relations as well as celebrating the ASEAN-New Zealand Summit. I am confident that New Zealand will remain a trusted partner in upholding ASEAN centrality,” Manalo said.

Recognizing that both nations have a shared interest as Pacific maritime nations, Manalo said New Zealand has a "special role" among the member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

"We exchanged views on the current and emerging challenges in our Pacific region and how the Philippines, as a PIF Dialogue Partner, can contribute towards achieving their goals in a beneficial way," Manalo said.

The two nations will celebrate their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations in July 2026. (PNA)