PARTNERSHIP between the Philippines and Australia, which will officially be on its 70th year in 2016, is seen to become more vibrant as the two countries further enhance their bilateral relationship.
Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Adrew Robb, in his speech during the launch of the photo exhibit, dubbed “Philippines and Australia: The First Seventy Years” at Manila Peninsula on Sunday night, said a lot of things have transpired since Australia first opened its first Consulate General in Manila on May 22, 1946.
He said the relationship has enabled a lot of people from both countries to benefit from each other since it opened opportunities in education, trade and military, among others.
He disclosed that as a young boy, he learned so much about the Philippines through his uncle, who was a priest in the country for a very long time, and who administered masses to Filipino communities in Hong Kong when he was transferred there and also in Australia.
“It was my introduction to the world and to some of the wise issues in our lives,” he said.
Robb said the Filipino population in Australia accounts for the sixth-largest group at about 250,000 of the about 23.5 million people.
Thus, he stressed that more significant things could still happen and opportunities abound as the two countries further improve their partnership.
“This exhibition is an opportunity to reaffirm the relationship based on trust,” he added.
Relatively, Philippine Ambassador to Australia Belen Anota told the Philippines News Agency that “quite a lot have been lined up to further enhance the bilateral partnership.”
The Philippines has been included in Australia’s New Colombo Plan, an education program that allows its top students to study overseas.
Anota said for 2015, two students from Australia were able to enroll in the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University as scholars, and more are expected to be enrolled starting 2016.
Similarly, over a hundred Filipino students and professionals study in Australia, under scholarships for short-courses, masteral and doctoral, annually, she said.
“There is no reciprocity of numbers but I’m confident that we will have more,” Anota said.
On trade, the ambassador said the Philippines balanced its trade with Australia since 2014 from being in negative in the previous years.
“It was in negative because we buy more and we are able to sell less. Since 2014 we were able to sell more and buy less. So that, I think, is a very good achievement,” she said.
Anota is confident that the overall aspect of the bilateral partnership will continue to improve since the two countries are in the process of finalizing a more comprehensive tie-up.
“Our main focus now is economic more than anything else,” she said citing the advantage of Australia being a member of most of the trade groups in the region and the world.
The ambassador disclosed that a business delegation from South Australia is expected to arrive in the Philippines in December in preparation for a trade mission in May 2016.
“We also hope that with our hosting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation it will give added impetus in our economic relations,” she added.