21 Jan 2020

Simon Bridges to raise concerns over killings in Philippines trip

10:50 am on 21 January 2020

Simon Bridges is leading a group of his National Party MPs to the Philippines today.

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National Party leader Simon Bridges says there's room to grow trade with the Philippines. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Along with National's Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee and New Zealand's first Filipino MP Paulo Garcia, Bridges will meet with a number of politicians and officials for talks on trade and other cooperation.

Talks will include the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Teodoro Locsin Jr, Manila's mayor Isko Moreno, the boxer-cum-senator Manny Pacquiao and a Cardinal Luis Antonia Tagle.

Bridges said he would raise concerns over the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers with the Philippines government where appropriate.

"Clearly there's some differences in opinion between New Zealanders as a whole and the Philippines administration where it comes to issues of penal policy and drug offenders and death penalty and the like."

Robert Reid from First Union visited the Philippines last year as part of an International Human Rights Mission and said he heard more than 27,000 Filipinos have been killed since President Duterte came to power four years ago.

He said Bridges needs to get a good grasp of the local situation.

"It's all very well to go there and to have nice meetings, but I think he does have a responsibility and should take the time to understand what's happening in the Philippines, there is still an insurrection."

Reid claims the war on drugs in the Philipines has moved to a war on the people.

Bridges said trade with the Philippines - New Zealand's 17th largest export destination at a value of $880 million - was small but there was room for growth.

He said a population of nearly 70,000 Filipinos in New Zealand would be a "growing factor" in relations between the two countries.

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