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Saturday , 2 July 2022

Independence and democracy shining through

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Ma. Hellen De La Vega
Philippine Ambassador to Australia

Political transitions mark the season for both the Philippines and Australia. Voter turn-out in the two countries reached record numbers setting in full display the vibrancy of democracy and the strength of democratic institutions. Filipinos in Australia are fortunate to belong to two nations that have a shared adherence to democratic values and to be able to live by and for this important political heritage. 

I commend all Filipinos in this country who exercised their right and responsibility to vote in elections held here and in the Philippines. In the overseas absentee voting that the Embassy and the Consulates General administered here in Australia, we witnessed the passion of a fully-empowered citizenry. Filipinos all over the country reached out to us to ensure that they receive their ballots on time. The poll-watchers from the various political parties monitored the conduct of elections for the entire duration of overseas voting and stayed up through the night along with the COMELEC-deputised election inspectors and canvassers. I recall several of our kababayan who drove for hours from areas in New South Wales and Queensland to personally deliver their accomplished ballots to the Embassy in Canberra. I thank the members of the media who covered the overseas voting in Australia and who helped us encourage voters to cast their votes early. 

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It was a very busy time for the Philippine government offices in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, but a truly rewarding experience nonetheless. We recorded 44.07% voter turn-out, an increase of 12.07% from the 32% turn-out in the mid-term elections in 2016. I urge the Filipino community to sustain if not increase this level of political involvement in all matters that our country faces and to always have a stake in the decisions that the government makes. The work of nation-building never stops and an informed and empowered citizenry plays a crucial role in ensuring good and effective governance.

On the Philippines’s long-standing relationship with Australia, we expect a continuity of the strong and dynamic partnership that rests on over 75 years of cooperation across security, economic and people-to-people engagements. This partnership has grown with the vision and vital support of political leaderships over the years. I am confident that the significant contributions of the Philippines and Australia to the achievement of their respective national goals as well as to the security and prosperity of the region will continue to be encouraged and pursued. 

The bilateral mechanisms that facilitate the many initiatives that the two countries implement are firmly established. We have a shared commitment to continue and enhance our partnership especially as we pursue efforts toward post-pandemic recovery. Many commercial interests between the two countries have flourished over the past two years creating jobs and opportunities and further building on the strength of the relationship. 

While the pandemic exposed our vulnerabilities and brought about a lot of challenges, it has also created many business opportunities. The IT-BPM industry in the Philippines has long supported Australian business and given the rapid digital transformation in the past two years, we know that business will re-discover the talent and innovation that the Philippines has to offer. There is significant complementarity between Philippine and Australian markets and we are enthused with the prospects for growth and investment. In August 2022, I will lead a business delegation from Australia that will visit the Philippines called the Pacific Business Mission, organised by the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre in Sydney. 

Beginning 30 May 2022, the Philippines has further relaxed entry requirements with the waiving of pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers who have received primary doses AND booster vaccine. The insurance requirement was also waived and all national vaccine certificates will be honoured. We encourage our kababayan to invite your Australian friends to visit the Philippines and experience our world-renowned hospitality. There is nothing more appealing than a trip to the beautiful and top beaches in the Philippines during the cold winter months here in Australia. 

We celebrate the beauty of our country and the resilience of our people moreso this month as we observe the 124th anniversary of the declaration of the Independence of the Philippines. I join all the Filipino organisations across Australia who are coming together to celebrate the birth of our nation, the oldest republic in Asia. I extend my apologies to the hosts of the many events that I cannot personally attend. Thank you for inviting the Embassy and for sharing with Australia our proud history, our heritage of freedom and equality, and our fervent belief in the strength of the Filipino spirit. 

We remember the 12th of June for the first time that a flag that truly represents us was flown. At the same time, we pay tribute to the heroes of the revolution and to every life that was lost as a price for the freedoms we now enjoy. May the essence of our Independence Day always resonate in our hearts and inspire us to be better Filipinos who will work and serve for a better Philippines. 

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