Waitangi, a significant moment in history of Aotearoa Kiwis, was celebrated recently in a red-letter day in the Philippines, a like-minded nation with which New Zealand nurses profound and time-honored ties.

The yearly event commemorated in diplomatic outposts the world over marks the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi — a place in the tip of North Island — on 6 February 1840, the founding document that heralded the making of the nation.

New Zealand ambassador Peter Kell hosted a well-attended reception, where guests from the public sector, diplomatic corps, development partners and community members hobnobbed about the strong bilateral relations between New Zealand and the Philippines, underpinned by many agreements and understanding.

Kell highlighted that Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to its relationship with the Philippines, founded on the principles that Waitangi Day seeks to represent: unity, equality and mutual respect among all peoples in New Zealand.

The event featured two Waiata performances:Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi (Come Together as One) by the New Zealand Embassy team, Kell fiddling the guitar.

Following Māori protocol, Philippine Foreign Affairs undersecretary Gary Domingo sang along the team Pokarekare Ana (Stormy are the Waters).

Kell: “It is a chance for all peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand to reflect on the journey that we have taken as a nation since that day 184 years ago. The challenges. The opportunities. The missteps. The strides forward. In short, the good, the bad, the ugly.”

“It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on relations between the Philippines and Aotearoa New Zealand: Two partners that share not only a history of diplomatic relations but also a commitment to building bridges of friendship.”

New Zealand-Philippines cooperation spans the sectors of trade, education, development and defense.

In June last year, the value of trade between New Zealand and the Philippines hit NZD 1.36 billion.

New Zealand exported NZD 1 billion worth of goods and services to the Philippines, while importing NZD 0.36 billion.

Dairy remains New Zealand’s biggest export commodity to the Philippines; travel its biggest export service.

There has been a surge of interest in New Zealand companies setting up offices in the Philippines in the information technology, manufacturing, and food and beverage sectors.

“We are continuously working to explore trade, investment, and joint ventures in agriculture and renewable energy, highlighting our mutual interest in sustainable development,” Kell said.

Cultural exchanges, educational partnerships and various people-to-people initiatives have enriched the societies of the Philippines and New Zealand.

Official figures peg Filipino community in New Zealand at 100,000, or roughly 1.5 percent of the total New Zealand population.