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Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez

Her Excellency Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez is a career diplomat and has represented the Philippines in various positions and capacities at the Philippine Embassies in Malaysia (July 1982-December 1990) and Brunei Darussalam (August 1992 – May 1999 and April 2002 – June 2009). She is the first Filipino woman Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Brunei Darussalam from April 2002 until June 2009. She assumed her post as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Philippines to New Zealand on 2 September 2011. She presented her credentials to H.E. Lieutenant General The Rt. Hon. Sir Jerry Mateparae, Governor-General and Commander-In-Chief In and Over The Realm of New Zealand at the Government House Wellington on 15 September 2011.

She graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) where she earned a College degree in Foreign Service and participated in a masteral program in Asian Studies. She has also undergone training and specialized courses in diplomacy at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the Department of Foreign Affairs.  Having attended language courses in UP and FSI, she speaks English and Bahasa Melayu in addition to her national language, Filipino. She is currently enrolled in a Maori language course in Wellington.

She began her career in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as Principal Assistant, Office of Political Affairs in 1981, after passing the Foreign Service Examination with distinction in 1980.  She was also among those who topped the Career Minister Promotional Examination in 1993. She was promoted to Chief of Mission I in March 2010, the highest diplomatic rank in DFA.

During her diplomatic assignments in Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, she attended several ASEAN and other regional and international meetings either as head or member of the Philippine delegation.  She also served as Charge d’ Affaires, a.i. of the Philippine Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan for almost eighteen (18) months.

Prior to her assignment as the Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, she served as the Executive Director/Deputy Director General of the ASEAN National Secretariat of the Philippines from May 1999 to April 2002.  In addition to participating in various ASEAN Standing Committee Meetings, Senior Officials Meetings and Ministerial Meetings, she was also actively involved in the ASEAN and APEC Summit Meetings.  She was Assistant Secretary General for the National Organizing Committee when the Philippines hosted the 3rd ASEAN Summit in Manila in November 1999.  She also served as the Head of the Philippine Secretariat during the State Visits of Philippine Presidents to Brunei.  She was a speaker on various areas of cooperation on ASEAN and headed the Training and Conferences component of the DFA – Gender and Development Program.  She was the Deputy Secretary-General for the DFA National Organizing Committee of the Special Non-Aligned Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation in August-November 2009. She served as the Chief of Presidential Protocol (COPP), Office of the President from 27 November 2009 to 30 June 2010. She was the Assistant Secretary of the Department Legislative Liaison Unit (DLLU) and the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Protocol (OP) prior to her diplomatic assignment in New Zealand.

During Ambassador Benavidez’s 7-year tenure in Brunei Darussalam, Philippine – Brunei relations in the political, security, military, economic and socio – cultural fields grew from strength to strength. She was able to break new ground and mark significant milestones in the bilateral and multilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam in vital areas of peace-building in Mindanao, human resources development for both Filipinos and Bruneians, agricultural production and rice-sufficiency programs, education, business, investment, trade and tourism promotion and the protection of the interests of more than 22,000 Filipinos working in Brunei. She has been interviewed extensively by the Brunei print and broadcast media and has been featured in several programs of Radio - Television Brunei and articles of Borneo Bulletin and Brunei Times where she highlighted the close relationship between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam as friends, partners and neighbors, developments in the Philippines and contributions of Filipinos to nation-building and development programs of the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam.

She served as the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Brunei Darussalam during which she took care of the collective interests of twenty-six (26) Ambassadors and High Commissioners, made representations with the Brunei Government on behalf of the members of the diplomatic community and led the Heads of Missions in significant celebrations of the Sultan’s birthday, national day festivities, Hari Raya Aidil Fitri gatherings and other diplomatic functions every year.

In recognition of her efforts in promoting the welfare of the Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and her vital roles in making the necessary arrangements and representations to save some of them from the death penalty, she was awarded the “Gawad Pagkilala” (Tribute and Recognition) for her invaluable assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers in 1995 and was a recipient of various commendations from the Filipino organizations and associations in Brunei.  During her tour of duty in Brunei, she received distinction and commendation for her pioneering and exemplary efforts to upgrade the efficiency and effectiveness of the Philippine Embassy’s frontline services, such as the first time ever 24-hour hotline system to respond to emergencies and requests for assistance from Filipinos, the Brunei agencies and members of the public, expeditious processing of consular and labor documents, such as passports, visas, certifications, authentication of employment contracts and other documents, the opening of Embassy’s services on Saturday mornings, implementation of several livelihood, skills upgrading and capacity-building programs and orientation courses for the benefit and improvement of the OFWs and members of the Filipino community in Brunei, the launching for the first time  of “Bayanihan”, a newsletter dedicated to overseas Filipino workers and members of the Filipino community in Brunei Darussalam and the Embassy and Labor Section Websites and the holding also for the first time ever of a Filipino Language, History and Cultural classes for the Filipino children, students and youth in Brunei. To go that extra mile in serving the Filipino people and in representing the Philippines in Brunei Darussalam 24/7 and under God’s guidance continued to be the Embassy’s paramount mission under her leadership.  For her and the entire Embassy personnel, their duties and responsibilities revolved around the three pillars of Philippine foreign policy, namely, Political, Economic and People/Service Diplomacy and in the Embassy’s motto of “Together We Excel in Service to God, Country and People.”  Ambassador Benavidez received the Outstanding Employee Award from the Department of Foreign Affairs in recognition of her loyalty, dedication, commitment and exemplary performance of duties in the DFA thereby inspiring her colleagues to strive for excellence. She was frequently invited to speak before women and diplomatic gatherings, appear on TV and be interviewed by radio stations in Brunei about the Philippines and the Filipino people, how it is to be the first woman Ambassador and the fond memories she has about Brunei Darussalam and its people.

She looks forward to another meaningful and rewarding tour of duty in New Zealand where she will have countless opportunities to continue to build on the strong foundation of friendship and partnership with the people in the political, economic, defense, education, socio-cultural and various areas, to promote the interests and welfare of the Filipino community by serving with a smile, going the extra mile and reaching beyond our grasp and to nurture the Philippines-New Zealand relations within the framework of our mutual interests, shared goals, regional priorities and inter-dependence.

She is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Merit on 23 June 2010 and Presidential Citation on 1 June 2010.

She is also a member of the Rotary Club of Bandar Seri Begawan, Chevalier d’ Honneur of Confrerie De La Chaine Des Rotisseurs and an active participant of organizations and associations in the University of the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Christian community. She helped formed the “Ang Bahay” Christian Family Fellowship together with Filipino Pastors and Christian leaders to reach out to Filipino workers who need counselling and be part of the collective mission to strengthen the spiritual and moral foundations of the Filipino community in Brunei through the Word of God, intercessory prayers, fellowships, visits, networking with other local Christians groups as well as those in the Philippines and other countries and other Christian activities and projects.  She was the Golf Coordinator for the Diplomatic Corps in Brunei Darussalam and the President of the Department of Foreign Affairs Golf Association (DFAGA) until 2002.  She loves golf, cooking, reading and music.

Ambassador Benavidez is wife to Engineer Pio J. Benavidez, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Power Corporation and mother to Diogenes Alexander, Jofren and Rubianca Angelica Benavidez.

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