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Opinion

We share a region, we share a future

LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA - HK Yu, PSM - The Philippine Star

Dear friends,

Mabuhay! As a proud Australian, I am truly honored to be appointed as Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines. Having spent the last few weeks settling into this role in Manila, I am reminded daily just how vibrant and energetic this city and its people are. Needless to say, I very much look forward to strengthening and deepening the Australia-Philippines relationship, for our mutual benefit and for the benefit of the region we share.

Since learning of my appointment to this position, I’ve been asking friends and colleagues familiar with the Philippines, “What is the best thing about the country?” While identifying a single thing has been difficult for all, everyone without exception has said “the people.” I now see why. Since arriving in this beautiful country, I am struck by the genuine warmth, affability and positive outlook of Filipinos. It is no wonder the people are regarded as the country’s best asset.

As I start my exciting journey of working and living in the Philippines, I will share a little about myself and explain why I think the Australia-Philippines relationship matters.

My story is, in many ways, typical of many immigrants who arrive in Australia. Indeed, I am sure there are many Filipino Australians who will relate to my story as they think of their own.

When I was 11 years old, my family immigrated to Perth, Western Australia, from Seoul, South Korea. My parents took this decision as they wanted to provide their children with better education, better opportunities and a better life. At that time, my parents had very little money, no family or business connections and spoke no English. What they did have was a strong work ethic.

Luckily for us, Australia is a country where people are given a fair go and hard work is rewarded. My parents, my brothers and I embraced our beautiful new country and worked hard to build a happy and successful life. I also like to think that Australia was lucky to have us because it is hard working immigrants and the existence of a vibrant multicultural society that makes Australia the wonderful country it is today.

As for my professional life, I have worked in the Australian Public Service for 31 years. I have had roles in three different departments as well as in the Australian Taxation Office. I have enjoyed some amazing career highlights, from delivering tax, competition and consumer policy reforms in the Australian Treasury, to leading the International Division in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to leading the Middle East and Africa Division in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and having two postings to Japan. I was also awarded the Australian Public Service Medal (PSM) for my contribution to the chairing of the G20 in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis.

Now that you know a little of my background, I will share why I consider the Australia-Philippines relationship to be so important, and why we should continue to enhance our mateship and bayanihan to support prosperity in both our countries and stability in our region.

Today’s global environment is challenging and complex. Whether as a result of tension in the West Philippine Sea, South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, upheaval caused by the military coup in Myanmar or Russia’s invasion and war in Ukraine, the international order is being threatened and our economies negatively impacted.

If this isn’t challenging enough, the consequences of climate change and effects of COVID-19 remain and continue to impact our lives and economies. These problems require a response beyond the capacity and capability of any one country.

We live in a world where there is a premium on true friends – friends who have always been there for each other, who have similar values, who live close to each other, friends who share a future together. We each need our true friends more than ever, to tackle these challenges and seize the opportunities together.

Australia and the Philippines are such friends. In 2021, we celebrated 75 years of diplomatic relations and this year, both our countries held national elections underpinned by our strong democratic values. Australia and the Philippines share a region and therefore a future.

I am delighted our bilateral relationship continues to go from strength to strength. Such growth does not happen by itself, however, and looking to the future, I am excited to work with the Government of the Philippines and our Philippine partners and friends as we drive and elevate our relationship to that of a Strategic Partnership – one founded on friendship, strategic cooperation, genuine partnership and mutual respect.

Yours truly,

HK

*      *      *

HK Yu, PSM, is the Australian Ambassador-designate to the Philippines. You can follow Ambassador-designate Yu on Twitter: @AusAmbPH.

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