Full transcript: speech by British Ambassador Asif Ahmad at the Queen's birthday celebration
JUNE 16 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen
Maayong gabii, Magandang gabi po, Good evening.
Maligayang pagdating sa kaarawan ni Reyna Elizabeth.
A warm welcome to each and every one of you as we celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Ngayong gabi, naiiba ang selebrasyon natin dahil ipinagdiriwang din natin ang ika-pitumpung annibersaryo ng diplomatikong relasyon sa pagitan ng Pilipinas at United Kingdom, at ang ika-apat na raang taong annibersaryo sa pag-gunita sa buhay ni William Shakespeare.
With the kind permission of the Queen we are able to combine today’s celebration with the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries.
We are also marking 400 years of William Shakespeare’s life.
I thank the British School Manila not just for allowing us to have our party here but also for letting us transform the venue into our own Mid Summers Nights Dream.
Habang ako ay nagsasalita, hindi ito ang panahon na kayo ay matulog at managinip.
My speech hopefully will not tempt you to sleep, per chance to dream.
William Shakespeare wrote about love, politics, war, comedy and tragedy.
His works are not just about days of old. Shakespeare is alive today.
The British Council and Philippine Educational Theatre Association are working together to produce a new version of the Tempest.
This will incorporate narratives from Typhoon Yolanda and the first performance will be on 11 November.
Shakespeare said, some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them.
In the case of our Queen, she was not originally born into the great responsibility that was thrust upon her.
As our longest reigning monarch, she has truly achieved greatness.
My late father would also have been 90 this year.
In 1953, the voice of my father on BBC World Service radio carried the news from London of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second to listeners in Asia.
Today, I have the opportunity to be the voice of my fellow Britons to celebrate an extraordinary and very modern era of Elizabeth the Second.
Each of the 7 decades of her reign has been marked by extraordinary events.
The strong recovery from World War Two.
The 60’s of the Beatles and Carnaby Street.
The 70’s are remembered both for the joyful Silver Jubilee of the Queen as well as the painful economic restructuring of our country.
In 1981, the whole world joined in the celebrations of the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana.
In the Philippines, people modelled their hairstyle and fashion on the Royal couple.
In the 1980’s the UK turned into a reformed and vibrant economy.
The 90’s were challenging years for the British Royal family. But they came through the difficulties.
In the 21st Century we have a Queen who is steeped in tradition but is also social media savvy.
More Royal duties now fall to the next generation.
Prince Charles and now Prince William travel on her behalf.
The latest young diplomat Royal is Prince George who received President Obama in London… in his dressing gown.
The UK is now setting new standards of protocol and dress code.
In many ways, the Royal family defines the nature of the United Kingdom.
We have a strong heritage, but we are at the forefront of innovation, science and creativity.
Our values are universal values enshrined in the Magna Carta, where justice and the rule of law applies to everyone.
The majority of our Police officers do not carry guns.
Criminals are brought to justice, they serve their sentence.
We seek remorse and reform from offenders not vengeance.
Our citizens choose, who governs them and , when appropriate, how they are governed.
We cherish our freedoms.
And that includes freedom of speech, information and the media.
Relations between the Philippines and Great Britain have never been better.
We have a positive and progressive agenda.
A great deal of credit for what we have achieved together lies with the outgoing Administration of President Aquino.
The macroeconomic position is strong. So too is the reputation of the Philippines in issues of global importance, be it international security, climate change or the fight against terrorism.
In the last 6 years, my embassy has more than doubled in size.
Part of the growth is the expansion of our in-house BPO facility, which is the back office for half of our global network of embassies.
More Filipinos are travelling to the UK – in the last year we issued over 58 thousand visas to Filipino nationals.
We have our regional visa hub here in Manila which now processes UK visa applications from 15 countries.
This is also one of the few countries in the world where we offer not only our standard 15 day and Priority 5 day services, but also a 24 hour option.
Business is booming.
Last year, UK exports to the Philippines rose by 38%, the second fastest growing market in the world for us.
From almost zero, today we have over 60 billion Pesos worth of foreign investment in the UK from the Philippines.
And we remain the largest investor in this country from Europe.
In the last few weeks we have seen the people of the Philippines exercise their choice in elections for national and local office holders.
The greatest victor in the process is democracy itself.
I want to congratulate not just the winners of the elections but also everyone engaged in the campaign, election day and the process of confirmation.
My colleagues in the embassy visited precincts throughout the country.
The overall impression was one of voter enthusiasm, patience when needed, and a real desire to make the system work.
There are many opportunities and challenges ahead for the incoming Administration.
We are encouraged by what we have heard so far on the plans for further economic development.
We support the focus on inclusive growth.
More open markets for foreign businesses will be of benefit to local companies, and more jobs for Filipinos will be created.
Our market is already open to the Philippines and many of your products are exempt from excise duties.
The UK stands ready to join you as you search for solutions for congested roads and airports.
Right now, some of the biggest rail projects in Europe are in the UK.
On education…it is good to hear that the K to 12 programme will continue.
The next step should be to open up opportunities for foreign universities and schools to set up campuses in the Philippines.
The constitutional impediments that prevent full time employment of foreign academics should be removed.
This will mean that like Vietnam, China, Malaysia and others, you will have a vibrant research community and broader employment opportunities for local nationals.
I want to urge the 250,000 Filipinos living in the UK and the 17000 Britons who are here to find more opportunities to work together and improve our lives.
In our 70 years of diplomatic relations, we have faced and come through many global challenges.
In the next 70 years, I am sure we will achieve more.
Six years ago we were right to identify the Philippines as part of a group of countries we define as emerging powers.
As a fast moving economy with a lot more still to come, the United Kingdom will remain fully engaged as a friend of the Philippines.
And here in the Philippines when good friends meet, we like to eat, drink and be merry.
And to that sentiment, I add a famous Shakespeare line:
If music be the food of love, play on.
Before food and music, please find yourself a drink for the toast.
Mga kaibigan ko, nais namin ang mabuting hinaharap para sa lahat ng mamamayang Pilipino.
For the President and people of the Republic of the Philippines… Mabuhay.