Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP20160119: Speech at Annual Journalists' Reception

Speaking Notes by Ambassador Amanda Gorely

Annual Journalists' Briefing and Reception

19 January 2016

 

.         I would like to welcome you here this evening.

.         I arrived in the Philippines less than two weeks ago and I am delighted to have this opportunity to engage with media representatives so soon after arriving.

.         So far everything I have been told about the Philippines is true – the people are warm and friendly and food, especially cake, is a big part social interaction.  As for the traffic in Manila – well the less said about that the better.

.         I have not yet had the opportunity to explore outside of Manila, but I very much look forward to experiencing some of the hospitality and beautiful scenery that I have heard so much about.

70th Anniversary

  • It is a very exciting time for me to take up this role.
  • This year marks 70th Anniversary of Philippines-Australia bilateral relations
    • official relations with the Philippines commenced with the establishment of Australia’s Consulate-General in Manila – at the Manila Hotel – on 22 May 1946.
  • We are celebrating what President Aquino describes as a long legacy of cooperation
    • we have a shared history from World War II when 4,000 Australian soldiers fought side by side with Filipino and allied soldiers. 
    • 96 Australians gave up their lives for the cause of freedom.
  • Today, we enjoy a deep and wide-ranging relationship which is based on shared values and common interests. 
  • The first 70 years has been a journey of ever deepening engagement through many and varied areas of activity:
    • Our development assistance commenced in the 1950’s through the Colombo Plan;
    • Our official defence relationship started in 1954 when the Philippines joined Australia as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organization;
    • The Philippines-Australia Trade Agreement was signed in 1965;
    • The Australian Federal Police opened its office in the Philippines in 1984;
    • The first Presidential visit to Australia took place in 1995;
    • In 2002 a Filipino became Australia’s six millionth migrant;
    • The inaugural Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM) was held in 2005; and
    • In 2015 the first Australian scholar under the New Colombo Plan commenced her studies in Philippines. 
  • Throughout 2016 the Embassy will be working with local partners and agencies to commemorate the 70th Anniversary
    • including a photographic exhibition which will tour parts of the country (Manila, Cebu and Davao)
    • this and other events will branded by our 70th Anniversary logo which features the flags of both of our countries.
  • I look forward to working with you, the media, to spread the word on our activities
    • and to provide the Philippine public a perspective on the relationship.
  • I would encourage you all to feature the hash tag  #First70Years in your reports
  • Of course you should all be following me on Twitter for the latest developments on our 70th Anniversary activities.
  • More broadly I am happy to talk with the media on this and other aspects of the relationship.

Comprehensive Partnership

  • Another development which makes it a good time for me to arrive in the Philippines is the signing of the Joint Declaration on Australia-The Philippines Comprehensive Partnership by President Aquino and Prime Minister Turnbull on 18 November 2015.
    • this marks a new era for the bilateral relationship.
  • The Comprehensive Partnership affirms our commitment to cooperation across a broad range of activity, including on trade, development, defence, education, counter-terrorism, and transnational crime issues.
  • As President Aquino said at the time, the Comprehensive Partnership “acknowledges the increasing breadth and depth of our relations”.

 

Development Cooperation

  • Australia remains a key development partner and is committed to working with the Government of the Philippines to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance political stability.
  • Our aid investments in the Philippines align with the priorities of the Philippines Government.  Our support is focussed on:
    • assisting infrastructure development including through Public Private Partnership;
    • supporting reforms in the education system;
    • improving the conditions for peace and security in Mindanao;
    • and building stronger institutions for accountable and inclusive government.
  • Australia’s development assistance for 2015-16 is estimated at A$84 million.
  • One aspect of the Australian aid program in the Philippines that I would like to highlight is our commitment to empowering women and girls and promoting gender equality.
  • 80 per cent of Australia’s aid investments, regardless of their objectives, will effectively address gender issues in their implementation.

Defence and Security Cooperation

  • Cooperation in defence and security is an essential element of the Comprehensive Partnership.
  • I would like to introduce Captain Brad White who, like me, is new to the Philippines.
  • The Australian Government appreciates the deep collaboration with key Philippine security agencies in tackling terrorism and transnational crime. 
  • Threats that ignore geographic boundaries cannot be managed by one country alone.
  • Now, more than ever before, the Philippines and Australia must continue to work together, and with our regional neighbours, to ensure the security and safety of all of our citizens.
  • So our collaboration in areas such as maritime security, border control, people smuggling and counter-terrorism will continue to be an important part of our engagement.
  • Australia’s defence cooperation program in the Philippines has continued to expand and remains of fundamental importance to our bilateral relationship. 
  • We have seen the value of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement in supporting our defence engagement, and in allowing the Australian Defence Forces to respond swiftly to support the humanitarian and disaster response following the terrible impact of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. 
  • I am pleased to learn that the Landing Craft Heavy gifted to the Philippines in 2015 are being effectively deployed in disaster response by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  
  • We also enjoy a strong relationship between the Australian Federal Police and Philippine law enforcement agencies which continues to deliver very good results. 
  • Our training and capacity building programs have transferred practical skills which have supported Philippine efforts to investigate incidents and resulted in perpetrators facing the law. 
  • As part of our regional anti-crime efforts Australian and Philippine agencies are collaborating with NGO and business partners to deliver a child protection program that aims to reduce the risk of children being exploited from online sexual abuse. 
  • The program, which was announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Manila during November, will help prosecute offenders and promote children’s rights.

 

Trade and Economic Cooperation

  • Trade and economic growth are the keys to prosperity for all countries. Our governments are targeting sustained growth of trade and investment links.
  • The ASEAN-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement continues to help in this regard.
  • There are over 200 Australian companies (employing over 30,000 Filipino’s) with a presence in the Philippines across a wide range of sectors - from business processing, finance, professional services, oil and gas exploration, manufacturing, resources and infrastructure.
  • Likewise there are Philippine companies exploring commercial opportunities in Australia. International Container Terminal Services Inc (Ports), Monde Nissin (Food) and San Miguel Corporation (packaging) to name a few.
  • We welcome the Philippine Government’s commitment to economic reform.
  • This will result in greater economic growth in the Philippines, greater cooperation between our countries and will be important in building investor confidence.
  • Looking forward, the liberalisation of the Philippines’ foreign investment regime would allow more investment to flow into the country, and set the Philippine economy on a well paved road to prosperity.
  • Education has always been a strong part of the partnership between the Philippines and Australia.
  • Australia is a leading global education destination with some of the world’s best institutions, offering Filipino students a wide range of study options.
  • I am very pleased that more Filipinos are choosing to study in Australia, further strengthening our people-to-people links.
  • In enhancing Australians’ knowledge of our neighbourhood – the Indo-Pacific - the Australian Government has launched a signature initiative, the New Colombo Plan.
  • Over time more Australian students will be studying in the Philippines under the New Colombo Plan
    • around 100 of Australia’s best and brightest will be here over next year.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

  • Provided a taste of what is happening in the bilateral relationship
    • We will also be providing a taste of Australia food, and wine shortly.
  • But before we do an opportunity for question and answer session
    • draw upon the expertise of colleagues from the Embassy where appropriate.
  • Agree that the Q&A will be on the record but ask that when we conclude this session and commence the eating and drinking that comments be off-the-record
    • will ensure a more comfortable and relaxed evening.