Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP120413 - Address by the Governor-General of Australia at the State Dinner Malacanang Palace

12 APRIL 2012

Your Excellency, Mr President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your warm words of welcome, Mr President.

And thank you for the hospitality you have given to Michael and me since our arrival yesterday.

I am proud to be the first Australian Governor-General to visit the Republic of the Philippines.

Our countries have many special bonds.

It is an honour for me tonight to bring the good wishes of the people of Australia to the people of the Philippines.

This year marks the 66th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

We have forged a strong relationship across those years - one with breadth and depth.

Our partnership reaches back to World War II, when Australians fought and died alongside Filipino and US personnel in the campaign for the liberation of the Philippines.

More than 4,000 Royal Australian Navy, Australian Imperial Force and Royal Australian Air Force personnel participated in Allied land, sea and air operations across the archipelago.

North of Manila, on the shores of Subic Bay, there is a poignant reminder of those brave service men and women who gave their lives in the name of peace.

The Hell Ships Memorial pays tribute to over 1,000 Australians who died when the Japanese vessel transporting them was sunk off the northern tip of Luzon.

In a significant, but different struggle, the Australian Government and the wider Australian community supported the courageous actions taken by millions of extraordinary Filipinos in 1986.

We saw housewives, priests, labourers and young students reclaim their democracy in a dignified and peaceful campaign.

Like many Australians at that time, I watched in admiration as the People Power Revolution unfolded and as Corazon Aquino demonstrated to the world the courage and determination of the Filipino people.

I spent some time in Manila and Cebu soon after those momentous days.

Mr President, I had the honour then to meet your mother, a truly remarkable woman.

Her strength and dignity made a deep impression on me.

At that time I appreciated and enjoyed meeting women in leadership roles, in business, professional and community life.

In the years since I have been privileged to meet with many Filipino women in Australia and to be enriched by their friendships. I see in them energy, enthusiasm, commitment to making a difference, and a true sense of family that I admire.

Women who have accomplished so much in an unfamiliar environment.

A new country far away from their native shores, with different cultures and social mores.

They are shining examples of generosity and contribution at work and in their neighbourhoods.

My friends, Australia welcomes the excellent state of our bilateral relations with the Philippines and celebrates its achievements.

However, we both recognise that there is more we can do together by combining our efforts.
Australia wishes to strengthen its close ties with the Philippines in regional and international fora, addressing issues such as economic integration, maritime security, disarmament and climate change.

Mr President Australia is the Philippines' largest bilateral grant aid donor.

Working hand-in-hand with your government we have aligned our aid program so that it tracks closely your Administration's own priorities.

A focus on infrastructure, economic governance and poverty reduction.

We are pleased that our assistance has helped improve the quality of schooling for some two million Filipino children.

We enjoy close defence and security ties, and look forward to realising the potential for them to grow further in the coming years.

We are currently successfully cooperating in law enforcement, counter-terrorism, transport security and border security.

Mr President, Australia supports and applauds your efforts to bring about positive change to the Philippines, including your determination to improve governance across the archipelago.

This has given renewed hope to your fellow Filipinos for a better life.

Australia also welcomes your Administration's commitment to economic reform, which will do much to encourage the further expansion of our bilateral commercial ties.

One of the keys to a strong bilateral relationship is healthy people-to-people links.

We are fortunate in Australia to have a Filipino community now numbering well over 200,000 and growing.

Your people have embraced our nation and are now valued citizens adding their unique cultural strengths to our diverse society.

Thousands of young Filipino students travel to Australia to study every year.

Their efforts have the support of the Australian Government: last year alone, over 150 Filipinos were awarded postgraduate scholarships to study at Australian universities.

I would also like to acknowledge the growing community of Australians living and working in the Philippines.

They include Bishops, bankers and charity workers.

Their contribution to building links is as important as the Filipinos living and working in Australia.

Both our countries can celebrate the young golfer, Jason Day, an Australian of Filipino heritage, who last year performed so well at the Masters Championship and the US Open.

Or Ms Anne Curtis, who, having grown up in Australia, moved to the Philippines to become a wellknown television and film actress.

Mr President, even in tragedy our two countries are linked.

As a country that understands the heartbreak and havoc of catastrophic natural disasters, Australia is committed to continue its work with our Philippine partners to build community resilience and preparedness.

Our hearts went out to the Filipino people last December in the wake of the terrible tropical storm Sendong.

My friends, this is clearly an exciting time in our bilateral relationship.

We have achieved much together, but there is more that can be done.

We look forward to continuing our work with the Philippine Government to deepen and further build on our accomplishments.

Mr President, we especially look forward to welcoming you to Australia later in the year.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, may I invite you to raise your glasses in a toast: to His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III, to the health and prosperity of the Filipino people, and to the deepening friendship between Australia and the Philippines.