The Philippines has an unusual visitor from New Zealand—the naval vessel HMNZS Aotearoa – which dropped anchors for three days in Manila staring October 30 as part of its effort to “strengthen longstanding maritime and diplomatic ties between the two maritime countries.”

Aotearoa is part of New Zealand’s Defence Force (NZDF)’s largest naval deployment to the Indo-Pacific.

“This three-day ship visit is a testament to the enduring friendship and cooperation shared between New Zealand and the Philippines and signifies New Zealand’s commitment to promoting peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” the New Zealand Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement

Aotearoa’s port call built on the maritime alliance between the two countries, which was bolstered in November 2021 when foreign ministry officials of both sides met to come up with a bilateral mechanism that charted the direction of the two countries’ engagements, including maritime security.

“The HMNZS Aotearoa’s visit to the Philippines underscores New Zealand’s dedication to maritime security, regional stability, and fostering diplomatic relations in the Indo-Pacific. Ito ay nagsisilbing patunay sa matibay na samahan ng New Zealand at Pilipinas (It serves as a testament to the strong and enduring partnership between New Zealand and the Philippines),” New Zealand Ambassador to Manila Peter Kell said in a statement.

Aoteroa, an auxiliary ship and reputedly the largest ship that the Royal New Zealand Navy has operated, engaged in various activities that promoted cultural exchange and maritime cooperation during her visit.

The ship’s crew as well as diplomatic representatives from New Zealand in Manila participated in a reception that showcased New Zealand culture, including a Haka performance, and interactive activities that highlighted the rich heritage and diverse traditions of the country.

“The visit demonstrates our increasing engagement in Southeast Asia and of course, the Philippines is an important part or country in the region,” Commander Robert Welford, Aotearoa commanding officer said.

“New Zealand would like to engage with like-minded countries, countries which share our values and we support each other in maintaining rules-based order,” he added.