Australian Embassy
The Philippines

Australian Built Environment Remarks

Australian Built Environment Networking Reception
Remarks by Ambassador Steven J. Robinson AO
2 September 2019, Australian Ambassador’s Official Residence



·       Senior Board Members of Urban Land Institute of the Philippines:

o   Chairman Buds Wenceslao

o   Charmaine Uy, Christopher Vicic and Ricardo Cuerva.

o   Freddie Placino, Urdenna Corporation and Clark Global City

·       Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for joining us tonight for this special reception in honour of our Australian Built Environment delegation.

I would like to welcome our Australian delegates to the Philippines – this is the first time we have organised such a delegation as this.  We strongly believe that now is the time to expand the relationship between the Philippines and Australia to support the extensive and exciting development of new townships and smart cities across the Philippines and the broader region.

I am pleased that we could partner with the Smart Cities Council Australia and New Zealand and get such a great cohort of Australian experts who are either already fostering or are looking to partner with the Philippines in sustainable development.

I am also grateful for the support of the Urban Land Institute Philippines for your participation in this networking reception and I am delighted that so many of your members – the leaders in the Philippines design, architecture, engineering, building and construction and infrastructure development - could join us tonight.

I would also like to sincerely thank the Philippine developers for welcoming and engaging with our Australian delegation over the course of these 2 days.

Importance of Bilateral Relationship and Indo Pacific

The Philippines is one of Australia’s longest-standing bilateral relationships. I look forward to celebrating 75 years of formal diplomatic relations during my term, and we continue to enjoy a strong partnership with the Philippine government across a wide range of areas.

We have shared values, and mutual interest that foster stability, security and prosperity across our region.

ASEAN lies at the nexus of the Indo Pacific, geographically, diplomatically and strategically. And therefore Australia is committed to further strengthen our cooperation with the states of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, and to boost our strategic partnership with ASEAN.

Our bilateral relationship with the Philippines has only grown from strength to strength since diplomatic ties were first established back in 1946 when we opened our first Consulate-General at the Manila Hotel.

Our relationship now encompasses a broad range of areas of mutual interest and cooperation, including Defence – which of course was further strengthened in response to the Marawi siege -, in development, people-to-people links, trade and investment.

The significant strength and future potential of our bilateral relationship was recognised when the President of the Philippines declared 22nd May as Philippines-Australia Friendship Day. Each year the Embassy organises a series of activities to showcase the breadth and depth of our bilateral relationship. This year it was in Cebu and I am pleased to announce that next year we will be headed to Clark!

Trade and Investment

A key priority during my posting in the Philippines is increasing our bilateral trade.

While our two-way trade increased by 70% since the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) entered into force, it is still underdone, especially when compared with other ASEAN countries (A$4.5 billion in 2018 / Australia: Philippines’ 13th largest import source).

We already have over 300 Australian companies established in the Philippines, employing over 44,000 Filipinos.  They contribute to the socio-economic development of the country – many companies started by establishing a presence in Manila but have then expanded to Cebu and more recently Clark.

Additionally more Australian businesses are starting to pay greater attention to the Philippines. In the AusCham ASEAN 2019 Survey, the Philippines was voted as the number one preferred investment destination for Australian Businesses over the next 5 years (ahead of Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia)

We are also seeing Philippine companies turning to Australia to invest and access technology and expertise, including in renewable energy and infrastructure.

With the Philippines due to maintain an annual GDP growth rate of above 6% for the coming decade and with the country embarking on the most ambitious infrastructure and construction program to date, now is the time for us to deepen our bilateral collaboration, share our knowledge and expertise, especially in priority areas such as the built environment.

Built Environment

According to the UN, cities generate about 70% of the world’s carbon emissions and buildings themselves account for 40% of those emissions.

If we intersect the rapid rate of urbanisation together with climate change, the adoption and development of sustainable buildings, townships and cities is key to our future and the future of our kids.

Try these statistics - In 2006, less than one per cent of Sydney and Melbourne’s city centre commercial floorspace was certified green. In 2018, we had reached 46 per cent for Sydney and 28.8 per cent for Melbourne, making these two Australian cities numbered as the world’s third and fourth cities for green-certified floor space.

Australia’s harsh climate and scarce water resources have driven the expansion of the sustainable building market as both an economic and environmental necessity. Globally, we are seeing an increasing appetite and focus on sustainability by owners, investors and tenants.

Australia, like many nations, is transitioning its developments to smart and sustainable integrated precincts that put communities at the centre and address all aspects of liveability and sustainability, leveraging technology and intelligent designs.

Mobility but also localisation of solutions - so you don’t have to rely as much on city energy and water supplies – are core elements of new designs as well as the retention of green spaces

Now, most urban centres and capital cities have reached maximum capacity and it becomes a case of building vertically or reclaiming lands. In Sydney, we just did that by reclaiming land to create the world’s first carbon neutral precinct, Barangaroo.

Australia has proven to be a perfect testbed for some of the world’s most innovative sustainable building solutions, such as chilled-beam cooling and cross-laminated timber.

Our expertise spans across the full project lifecycle from large-scale sustainable projects in healthcare, hospitality, commercial and residential accommodation to master-planned communities and city infrastructure.

Australian firms have been behind numerous iconic projects in Australia and overseas and I am so pleased that tonight many of the firms involved in that activity are here.  Those firms are all greatly interested in partnering with Philippine stakeholders in infrastructure, building construction and development.


For Australia and the Philippines, the depth and breadth of our bilateral relationship reflects the complementarity of our national interests. We both want to maintain an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific and are working bilaterally and through ASEAN to achieve this.

·       Tonight is about opening the door to potential partnerships that would further combine knowledge and skills to address opportunities in the built environment.

·       With this in mind, I would like to wish you a most successful networking session. I look forward to hearing about the expanded business relationships established after this program.

Thank you.