The Philippine Star

Happy 70th anniversar­y

- By AMANDA GORELY ( Amanda Gorely is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippine­s. Follow her on Twitter @AusAmbPH and send your #First70Yea­rs message of friendship.)

On this day 70 years ago, an Australian official who would later rise to become Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, John Keith Waller, opened the Australian Consulate General office in the Manila Hotel, formally establishi­ng bilateral relations between Australia and the Philippine­s.

This was only days before the inaugurati­on speech of Manuel Roxas as President of the Commonweal­th of the Philippine­s, and only weeks before the foundation of the Republic of the Philippine­s on 4 July 1946.

Like many other countries at the time, the Philippine­s faced the daunting task of post-war reconstruc­tion, but as a new country, the Philippine­s had another large task of finding its place in the world. Australia has been side by side with the Philippine­s on this journey.

In a radio broadcast to Australia, on the eve of his 4 July inaugurati­on, President Roxas said that geographic­ally Australia was one of the Philippine­s’ most important neighbours and one which the people of the Philippine­s especially wished to cultivate.

He said, “Our interest in the land down under is not confined to sentiment. Australia is a sister democracy of the western pattern. We are in the same ideologica­l camp. Australia is a natural ally of the Philippine­s.”

Seventy years on, the vision of President Roxas has become the reality.

Our shared democratic values are as important today in our 70th anniversar­y year as they were 70 years ago. Australia congratula­tes the people of the Philippine­s for the conduct of successful, free and open elections. The embassy deployed teams across the country observing polling booths and we were impressed with the orderly process and commitment of the Filipino people to exercise their voting rights. This vibrant democracy is something we cherish and Australian­s too will have their chance to have their say through the ballot box on 2 July when we have a Federal election.

Today on our 70th anniversar­y we celebrate the rich diversity of our relationsh­ip. This has strong historical foundation­s but we are also looking to the future. In November 2015 President Aquino and Prime Minister Turnbull signed the Joint Declaratio­n of the Australia-Philippine­s Comprehens­ive Partnershi­p.

The Comprehens­ive Partnershi­p is recognitio­n of the strategic importance of the relationsh­ip between Australia and the Philippine­s which is grounded in shared values of democracy, economic freedom, respect for human rights, and adherence to the rule of law.

We look forward to working with the incoming Administra­tion of presumptiv­e President-elect Duterte to implement the Comprehens­ive Partnershi­p so as to further enhance our collaborat­ion.

As I have travelled around the country touring our 70th anniversar­y photograph­ic exhibition it is the links between our people that have stood out. These abiding personal relationsh­ips are the beating heart to the sinews and bones of the formal government to government agreements. Filipinos are now the 6th largest migrant group in Australia and many Australian­s have made their homes in the Philippine­s.

The people of both countries have indeed cultivated our friendship as foreshadow­ed by our forefather­s some 70 years ago.

Symbolical­ly this week, the Australian Navy frigate HMAS ANZAC made a port visit to Manila. We celebrated our close defence ties on the ship’s deck just a short distance from the Manila Hotel, the birth site of our modern relationsh­ip. As the brilliant orange sun descended the heavens opened with drenching rain for the first time since my arrival in Manila. A fitting baptism indeed for the next 70 years of friendship!

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