Celebrating Her Majesty The Queen’s 95th birthday

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Daniel Pruce - The Philippine Star

I hope you will be able to join me on ANC at 9.30 this evening when we celebrate the 95th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Celebrating The Queen’s birthday is a great event in the UK. The spectacular ceremonial occasion of the Trooping of the Color on Horseguards’ Parade is the centerpiece. This year, because of COVID, a smaller ceremony will take place in the grounds of Windsor Castle on Saturday, 12 June. But it will still be a memorable occasion, and a chance for us all to pay tribute to Her Majesty.

The celebrations extend well beyond the UK. In normal times British embassies and High Commissions around the world would host parties to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. In 2019 we welcomed over 800 people to our party here in Manila! Of course, this year COVID makes that impossible. But – in the midst of these desperately challenging times – it feels more important than ever to celebrate The Queen’s enormous contribution to the UK, Commonwealth and wider world. And this resonates all the more at a time when all countries are working together to respond to the challenges of COVID and to find a pathway to sustainable recovery.

So, while we cannot meet in person this year, I am enormously grateful to the ABS-CBN News Channel for working with us to arrange our broadcast this evening. I hope you’ll be able to watch it and – wherever you are – join together for a few moments as we pay tribute to Her Majesty and, in this special year of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between us, celebrate the special partnership between the United Kingdom and the Philippines.

During the pandemic the UK and the Philippines have worked together. Our top priority has been equitable access to safe and effective vaccines. Globally, the UK has strongly supported the Covax Facility and its efforts to bring vaccines to all corners of the world. I was delighted to join President Duterte at Villamor Airforce Base in March to witness the arrival of nearly half a million doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine under Covax. Another two million have arrived since then, with more due to come. And another 17 million shots of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine will reach the Philippines under the separate agreements with LGUs and the private sector.

The embassy’s virtual roundtables have reached over 10,000 people involved in the administration of vaccines across the country. There is still a journey ahead, for all of us. But rest assured the United Kingdom will be with the Philippines every step of the way.

We have also been working closely as we prepare the crucial international climate change talks – COP26 – which the UK will host in Glasgow in November. Sustainable trade and investment continue to grow between us. Our partnerships in education and scientific research are expanding. We are helping create Central Park in New Clark City and supporting democracy in the BARMM – to bring lasting peace and stability to Mindanao. We are fighting organized crime and terrorism together. We are working to rid the world of chemical weapons. We have deepened our links on security and defence issues. We are fostering greater respect for the rules-based international system. As we speak HMS Queen Elizabeth is on the high seas, leading the Carrier Strike Group on its maiden voyage of 28 weeks visiting 40 countries, many in this region.

The UK’s friendship with the Philippines has strong foundations. That enables us to have open and honest conversations on the full range of political issues, including human rights and values. Our strongest links are those between our citizens. We are fortunate to have a vibrant community of Filipinos who have chosen to live, work and study in the UK, including over 30,000 Filipino health care workers in our National Health Service. Many of them have been on the frontline of our COVID response. Their professional expertise and deep compassion for their patients have saved countless lives. For that I am truly grateful.

In the midst of these challenging times, Her Majesty The Queen has provided guidance, support and comfort to the whole nation – even as she herself suffered the tragic loss of her husband, Prince Philip. The Philippines had a particular connection to The Prince through the Duke of Edinburgh Award – a wonderful scheme sponsored by His Royal Highness which gives young people unique opportunities to reach their full potential. It is thriving in the Philippines in partnership with the Girl Scouts.

Since her coronation in 1953 Her Majesty has been a symbol of unity across the UK and the wider Commonwealth. Hers has been a remarkable life of public service. Tonight, above all, we pay tribute to her.

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Daniel Pruce is the British Ambassador to the Philippines. Twitter @DanielPruce


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