PHL Ambassador presents credentials to Queen's representative of the Cook Islands
Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez presented her credentials to His Excellency Tom Marsters, Queen’s Representative of the Cook Islands at the Government House in Rarotonga on 24 September 2014. She is now the non-resident Philippine Ambassador to Cook Islands based in New Zealand.
The Presentation of Credentials ceremony took place at the Government House where she presented the Letter of Credence from President Benigno S. Aquino III accrediting her as Philippine Ambassador to the Cook Islands to the Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters. She conveyed the greetings of President Benigno S. Aquino III to Queen’s Representative Marsters and the best wishes of the Government and People of the Republic of the Philippines to the Government and People of the Cook Islands and highlighted the signing of the Joint Communiqué for the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Philippines and the Cook Islands on 12 December 2011 formalizing the links that increasingly bind the Philippines and the Cook Islands together. She pointed out that in the community of nations, the Philippines and the Cook Islands share the same geographical footprint and ethno-linguistic roots. The Philippines greatly values its deepening cooperation with the Cook Islands in the Pacific region as both countries are bound together by the vast expanse of the Pacific facing the same challenges and sharing the same opportunities and responsibilities. As active participants in the Pacific Islands Forum, the Philippines and the Cook Islands are natural partners in collectively pursuing cooperation in such vital areas as the environment, climate change, marine biodiversity, conservation, protection and preservation and combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF), education and tourism promotion, among others. Ambassador Benavidez highlighted the fact that people-to-people ties remain at the forefront of the Philippines’ bilateral relations as Cook Islands is home to about 230 Filipinos contributing to the economic development of both our countries. “They enhance our strong relationship and translate into practical ways our shared commitment to work together and develop alongside each other. The Philippines deeply appreciates the hospitality and recognition accorded to Filipinos living and working in the Cook Islands and the continued cooperation and support extended by the Government of the Cook Islands for their welfare and well-being,” she stated. With the continuing high level meetings, dialogues and broadening cooperation between the Philippines and the Cook Islands in world bodies, the Pacific Islands Forum and other regional and international fora, Ambassador Benavidez reiterated the deep appreciation of the Philippine Government for Cook Islands’ valuable support for the candidatures of the Philippines in various international organizations. The Philippines will continue to build on this strong foundation of friendship and partnership with the Cook Islands and to work hand-in-hand to fulfill our collective vision for greater peace, progress and prosperity in our region and the world. In carrying out her mission in the Cook Islands, “I shall endeavor to nurture and strengthen Philippines-Cook Islands relations within the framework of our mutual interests, shared goals, regional priorities and inter-dependence as good friends, close neighbours and vital partners,” Ambassador Benavidez said. She thanked His Excellency, the Government and People of the Cook Islands for the warm reception, excellent arrangements and gracious hospitality extended to her from the first time she visited the Cook Islands during the successful chairmanship of Cook Islands of the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum and the 24th Post Forum Dialogue in August 2012 and now that she came back on this significant occasion of the presentation of her credentials before His Excellency.
The Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters received Ambassador Benavidez on behalf of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen and Head of State of the Cook Islands, as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Philippines to the Cook Islands and extended his best wishes to President Benigno S. Aquino III and the Filipino people. He stated that this year marks the third anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cook Islands and the Philippines and reiterated the deepest sympathy of the Government and People of Cook Islands who stood in solidarity with the Filipino community to raise funds for the victims of typhoon Haiyan. He acknowledged the important contributions of an increasing number of Filipinos to his country’s growth and service sector and said that there are now 15 Filipinos who have become permanent residents of Cook Islands. Mention was also made about the appointment of Mr. Restituto Tiangco as Cook Islands Honorary Consul in the Philippines. His Excellency spoke about the cooperation in the Pacific Islands Forum and looks forward to developing closer relations with the Philippines as a Post Dialogue partner. The Queen’s Representative highlighted the 50th Anniversary of Self Governance celebrations in August 2015 and invitations have been sent to Heads of State on this significant occasion. At the end of his speech, he extended his best wishes and support in the performance of Ambassador Benavidez’s mission as the Philippine Ambassador to the Cook Islands.
This was followed by Morning Tea and photographs with H.E. Tom Marsters and invited members of the Filipino community. During the ensuing TV interview by a local broadcast journalist, Ambassador Benavidez highlighted the close and friendly relations with the Cook Islands at the bilateral, regional and multilateral arenas and reiterated the gratitude of the Philippine government and the Filipino people for the outpouring of support, sympathies and generosity of the Cook Island government and communities in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan.
Before the presentation of credentials, Ambassador Benavidez met with Mrs. Myra Patai, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration who briefed her on the procedures for the presentation of credentials and the official programme. Discussions centred on Philippines-Cook Islands relations, the contributions of the Filipinos to national development of Cook Islands, support for Philippine candidatures in world bodies and international organizations and promotion of the Philippines as an alternative education destination for students from Cook Islands due to proximity, the quality of education and affordability and a medical tourism destination for nationals of Cook Islands.
Ambassador Benavidez also called on Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather at his office during which he shared the importance of the growing Filipino community especially in cultural events, the grant of permanent residence status to 15 Filipinos and the sacrificial giving of the local people from the 12 islands for those affected by typhoon Haiyan in Central Philippines. Ambassador Benavidez said that the Filipino people have engraved in their hearts their gratitude for the unprecedented groundswell of generosity from the Cook Islands and the international community for all those affected by super typhoon Haiyan. Deputy Minister Teariki hosted lunch for Ambassador Benavidez together with the Minister of Justice Mona Ioane, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Myra Patai and Liaison Officer Eirangi Marsters.
Before returning to New Zealand, Ambassador Benavidez met with Ms. Bredina Drollett, Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mrs. Patricia Tuara Demmke, Director of Labour and Employment Relations, Mrs. Vasie Poila, Deputy Director of Immigration and Ms. Eirangi Marsters, Foreign Affairs Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration at the VIP Lounge of the Rarotonga International Airport. Discussions focused on the problems and complaints from some Filipino workers, the systems and regulations of POEA in the recruitment and deployment of overseas Filipino workers and the mechanism for closer collaboration between the Philippine Embassy and their respective departments for rendering assistance to Filipinos in the Cook Islands and protecting their interests and well-being.