AMBASSADOR BILL TWEDDELL
ON THE VISIT BY HMAS TOBRUK TO MANILA
6 AUGUST 2014
General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr -Chief Of Staff Armed Forces of The Philippines
Rear Admiral Isabelo Gador – Vice Commander – Philippine Navy
Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad – Chief of Naval Staff – Philippine Navy
Rear Admiral Cecil Chen – Vice Commandant for Administration – Philippine Coast Guard
Rear Admiral (retired) Vicente Agdamag – Deputy Director General – National Security Adviser
Commodore Bayani Gaerlan - Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence - Armed Forces of the Philippines
Commodore Jorge Amba – Commander, Fleet Marine Ready Force – Philippine Navy
Commodore Joselito Dela Cruz – Commander, Coast Guard Fleet – Philippine Coast Guard
Undersecretary Falizardo Serapio Jr – Executive Director – Philippine Center on Transnational Crime
Police Chief Superintendent Noel Vargas – Chief, Maritime Group, Philippine National Police
Mr David Carden, Head of Office, United National Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Mr Praveen Agrawal, Representative and Country Director, UN World Food Programme
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of the Foreign Armed Forces Attache Corps
Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
Members of the Philippine National Police
Staff of the Australian Embassy
Officers and Crew of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship Tobruk
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very warm welcome to you all this evening. Thank you for being here, despite the challenges of this monsoon weather.
It is indeed a privilege to welcome back to the Philippines Commander Leif Maxfield, and the officers and sailors of HMAS Tobruk.
A very special welcome to crew members Leading Seaman Henry Balancio and Leading Seaman Erik Catada, both of whom are natives of Manila.
The last time I stood on this deck was back in December when the ship was anchored in Ormoc Bay. I had just returned from a flight aboard the ship’s helicopter over Leyte and Samar, along the path of destruction caused by Typhoon Yolanda.
From the deck, I observed the great work of the ship’s company as they loaded the landing craft to transport heavy engineer equipment and stores ashore to assist in the clean-up of Ormoc.
I visited the schools and watched the ship’s crew working alongside Australian army engineers, Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers and the local men, women and children - all with the common purpose of restoring some form of normality to a shattered community.
The clean-up repaired 175 classrooms and allowed almost 15,500 children to return to their school for the recommencement of the school term.
After assisting clean-up tasks in Ormoc, the Tobruk sailed to Cebu and loaded 110 tonnes of relief supplies from the World Food Programme for distribution to remote islands in the Visayas.
For their outstanding work, Commander Leif Maxfield and his crew were awarded the Military Civil Action Medal by the former Chief of Staff Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Emmanuel Bautista. The General paid the great compliment of travelling to Sydney, the homeport of Tobruk, to make the medal presentation in person.
Last November – December was not the first time the armed forces of Australia and the Philippines have worked alongside each other. In fact seventy years ago this October, the Royal Australian Navy sent twenty-two ships to take part in the liberation of the Philippines at Palo, Leyte and then to Surigao Strait to take part in the last great aircraft carrier battle of World War Two.
At the invitation of the Philippine government, a memorial marker will be built at Palo, Leyte to commemorate Australia’s contribution to the liberation of the Philippines. The memorial will include the names of those Australian defence personnel who were killed and all the units which took part in the liberation.
This spirit of cooperation is still present today, along with a deep mutual respect and affection, and remains at the heart of the very close bilateral relationship we enjoy with the Philippines.
I wish the ship’s company a pleasant stay in Manila and, I hope, an opportunity to catch up with your many friends from the Philippine Navy. It is a matter of great pride to me that Australia and the Philippines are friends who stand by each other through the good times and the bad.
It is now my great honour to introduce a man who we are proud to claim as one of our own outstanding alumni, General Catapang.
Magadang gabi po and Mabuhay!