Friendship Day 2024: Honoring the past, celebrating our shared future

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

Dear friends,

Every year, the Australian embassy hosts activities in a different part of the Philippines to celebrate Philippines-Australia Friendship Day. This is a special occasion on May 22 – announced by Presidential Proclamation in 2016 – to mark the strong ties, shared values and enduring friendship between our two countries.

It is important that we take the celebration beyond Manila – because just like Australia is more than its capital Canberra, the Philippines is more than its biggest city – and Australia’s engagement with the Philippines is spread far and wide.

This year, Friendship Day events will be held in Baguio City, from May 17 to 19, in recognition of the city’s shared commitments and strong development, cultural and people-to-people ties with Australia:

First, Australia and Baguio share ambitious plans to address climate change.

One of the first acts of Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese when he was elected in 2022 was to increase Australia’s carbon emissions reduction target to 43 percent by 2030, and confirm Australia’s commitment to our net zero target by 2050.

In January this year, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong committed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and called on local government, businesses, communities and partners to implement transition policies that harness renewable energy and nature-based solutions.

For this reason, it is only fitting to start our Friendship Day events with a Reinventing Cities: Australia-Philippines Perspectives Forum on Friday, May 17. The forum will convene Australian and Philippine experts to tackle critical climate issues and sustainable solutions such as transitioning to renewable energy, creating a circular economy and designing walkable cities, incorporating Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives.

Organized in partnership with the Baguio City government, the forum will be led by: Eric Francia, president and CEO of Ayala Group’s energy company ACEN; Philip Major, founder and CEO of Australian waste-to-energy company Cyclion, and Paulo Alcazaren, renowned Filipino architect, urban planner and Australian university alumnus.

Second, Australia and Baguio have strong people-to-people ties. We continue to work towards greater linkages and mobility including in education, technical and vocational training and institutional partnerships.

In November 2023, Australia launched a project to train school leaders and teachers to improve student learning by utilizing education technologies and artificial intelligence. As part of this project and the Friendship Day celebration, I will co-host an Education Leaders Summit on Friday, May 17, to demonstrate Australia’s continued support to quality education through improving teacher quality and education governance.

Through our prestigious Australia Awards scholarship programs, the embassy continues to provide masters and PhD study opportunities in Australia for many Filipinos, including those in Baguio. This Saturday May 18, our Baguio-based Australia alumni will lead a Cultural Crawl – a curated tour of Baguio City’s creative spaces. The Crawl will highlight the rich and diverse culture of Baguio, as well as support the city’s local artists and enterprises. It will culminate at the public Friendship Day Weekend Festival in SM Baguio Sky Gardens, which will feature Australian and Baguio products; study and travel information sessions and live entertainment from May 18 to 19.

Lastly, Australia and Baguio share a commitment to promoting the rights and traditions of Indigenous People.

To demonstrate this, our embassy has collaborated with Australian First Nations Wiradjuri artist and Elder, Irene Ridgeway, Filipino muralist, Silvino Dulnuan and Baguio-based Australian artist, Josh Inman, to mount a Friendship Mural. The large mural will be painted on the Baguio General Hospital (BGH) wall along Kennon Road. Titled Yindyamarra, a Wiradjuri word for Respect, the mural represents our shared respect for diversity and for the land, honoring the traditions and the past of our Indigenous or First Nations People in both the Philippines and Australia.

I will also be visiting an organic vegetable farm managed by indigenous women farmers in La Trinidad, Benguet, on Sunday, May 19. These farmers were part of a training and mentoring program on organic farming technology that Australia supported in 2022. Today, this group of women are producing high quality organic produce and supplying one of the Philippines’ largest retailers of organic food and health products.

As close friends and trusted partners over almost eight decades of official diplomatic relations, Australia and the Philippines have lots of reasons to celebrate. And as a Strategic Partner to the Philippines, there is a lot more cooperation to come. I look forward to continuing to work with the Philippines and President Marcos’ administration to meet the challenges of our times, and realize our shared vision for an open, peaceful and prosperous region.

For now, I think we all deserve to pause and celebrate the achievements that have led us to where we are now. So, to all our Philippine partners and friends and the Filipino people, on behalf of the Australian government – Happy Philippines-Australia Friendship Day!

Yours truly,


*      *      *

HK Yu is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @AusAmbPH

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