New Zealand PM postpones Manila visit


New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Phillip Key (left) at the 23rd summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and related summits in Bandar Seri Begawan on October 9, 2013. Key has postponed his visit to Manila from Nov. 20 to 22, 2013, saying he would not want to distract the Philippine government from its ongoing relief operations for those affected by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Eastern Visayas. AFP

MANILA, Philippines—New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has postponed his visit to Manila next week, saying he would not want to distract the Philippine government from its ongoing relief operations for those affected by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Eastern Visayas.

In a statement released by Key’s office Thursday, the prime minister said that New Zealand would instead offer more aid than earlier pledged for the Philippines, including an upcoming flight of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) cargo plane carrying relief supplies.

“A visit next week would place undue pressure on the Philippine government at a critical time of the relief and recovery phase,” said Key.

“New Zealand knows from recent experience in Christchurch how demanding responding to a large-scale disaster is and we don’t wish to distract from these efforts,” said the prime minister.

Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city, was struck by a magnitude-6.3 earthquake in February 2011, killing 185 people.

Key was slated to made a three-day visit from Nov. 20 to 22 to discuss furthering cooperation between New Zealand and the Philippines, in the areas of trade, defense, labor, geothermal energy and development assistance.

The prime minister said an RNZAF C-130 plane was expected to arrive in the Philippines this week. The aircraft will stay for four to five days “to provide transport support to relief efforts as required”.

The New Zealand government will also provide NZ$2.3 million (nearly P83 million) to the Philippine Red Cross to stockpile supplies “for future events.”

“The Philippines, like New Zealand, is extremely vulnerable to natural disaster. Prepositioning supplies at various locations around the country will mean that relief items can get to affected communities without delay,” Key said.

New Zealand earlier announced a NZ$2.15 million (P77.28 million) in assistance for the Philippines’ response to the disaster.

Key also made a phone call to President Aquino to express his nation’s condolences for the many Filipino lives lost to the disaster.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation closely, and will work with the Philippine government to meet any further requests for assistance,” he said.

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