Message of Ambassador Bill Tweddell
at the Commemoration of the
71st Anniversary of the Battle of Surigao Strait
25 October 2015
• Hon Ernesto Matugas, Mayor of Surigao City
• Hon Arlene Bag-ao, Representative, Lone District of Dinagat Islands
• Mr Fernando Almeda, Jr, President of the Surigaonon Heritage Centre
• Hon Danilo Menor, Vice Mayor of Surigao City
• Hon Simeon Castrence, Provincial Board Board Member
• Commodore Rafael Mariano, AFP, Commander, Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao
• My US colleague, Neil Phillips
• Veterans (especially my distinguished fellow Australian, David Mattiske, and his party), Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat!
Ma’ayong buntag ka ninyong tanan!
Good morning everyone.
It is my honour to be here this morning to represent all Australians, and to have the opportunity to offer our deep respect and acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who fought so bravely in these seas, in the skies above, and on this land to contribute to the immense task of liberating the islands of the Philippines 71 years ago.
Around this time last year, on the eve of the Leyte Landings, I had the great privilege to officiate at a dedication ceremony for a Memorial constructed at MacArthur Landing Palo to recognise the contribution made by Australian Service Personnel in the liberation of the Philippines. Over 4,000 Australian servicemen fought, 92 were killed and many hundreds more were wounded. Their contribution was a small yet significant part in the Allied victory, here and throughout the Pacific.
Today we remember the last great battleship-against- battleship encounter that took place exactly 71 years ago here in the waters of Surigao Strait. Alongside the United States Task Force 77, Australia deployed the heavy cruiser HMAS SHROPSHIRE and destroyer HMAS ARUNTA.
These two ships, along with several other Australian warships, would go on to support the landings at Lingayen and the bombardment of Corregidor, but not before suffering many losses at the hands of Kamikaze aircraft.
Today, we sincerely honour those who gave their lives. But it is also vitally important to honour the service of those who returned, and to acknowledge the continued support provided by various veterans associations. Primarily, on an important day such as this, we honour all those who have fought in the cause of peace.
This ceremony today provides an opportunity to reaffirm the common values and deep friendship that we Australians share with the people of the Philippines and the other Allied countries alongside whom we fought during World War Two.
These common values were put to the test two years ago when Typhoon Yolanda made landfall, destroying the lives of so many Filipinos. I am proud to say that Australia was quick to respond with emergency assistance, including medical support and Defence personnel on the ground. Over 500 sailors, soldiers, air men and women answered the call, along with HMAS TOBRUK and heavy lift aircraft. They, like their forefathers, were justifiably proud to work alongside their Filipino friends.
On occasions such as this, we are reminded of the courage, resilience and sacrifice of our fellow countrymen and women in the face of severe adversity. Their selflessness and valour serve as a timeless example to us all of just how much can be achieved through solid alliances and shared values.
To the local government and the people of Surigao, I thank you for your generous hospitality, and for the continued remembrance you give annually, through this fine service, to your nation’s heroes and veterans, and to those who fought alongside you to liberate the Philippines.
Mabuhay ang Veterans!
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
Maraming Salamat Po!