The new PHL diplomat to Australia arrived in Canberra on Nov. 28, and the following day, at a ceremony held at the Government House in Canberra, Ambassador Ma. Hellen Barber De La Vega presented the letter of credence issued by PHL Pres. Rodrigo RoaDuterte and addressed to H.E. Governor General Peter Cosgrove AK MC of the Commonwealth of Australia. He’s a retired senior Australian Army officer.
The two officials talked about the historic and enduring relations of the Philippines and Australia as well as the vibrant people-to-people ties between the two countries. De La Vega noted the long history of cooperation between the Philippines and Australia dating back to the Second World War.
“The people to people connections of the two countries,” she expressed, “are truly noteworthy. From fighting on the same side to advance democracy, to education exchanges and professional linkages, Filipinos and Australians share personal values as well as warm and deep friendship.”
Before assuming her post in Canberra, De La Vega was the Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs for ASEAN and led the Philippine chairmanship of the 10-country regional bloc in 2017. She also served as PHL Ambassador in Myanmar and Consul General in Los Angeles, California. She had held diplomatic assignments in Indonesia, Spain, Japan, and China. In Manila, the Ambassador held leadership positions in the Office of Asia and Pacific Affairs and the Office of the Undersecretary for Policy.
“Hellen wasn’t done yet,” her husband Bing told PNews. “She also met, on the same day, the officers of the Filipino Community Council of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory), led by its president NooneeDoronila.”
FCCACT (or the Council) is the peak body of Filipino community organizations in Australia’s capital city. The ambassador discussed her priorities and vision in working with the Filipino community and looks forward to working closely with the Council “in strengthening community-building among Filipinos in Australia and in supporting the Philippine Embassy’s efforts to serve the interests of the Filipino people.” She alsoexpressed her appreciation for the Council’s warm welcome and their contributions in promoting Philippine heritage and the welfare of the overseas Filipino community. Furthermore, she encouraged the members to raise awareness on the pioneering efforts and achievements of Filipinos which have made an imprint in Australia’s multicultural society. She added that the Philippine Embassy will continue its strong engagement with the Filipino community.
PASKO SA CANBERRA
On Dec. 2, De La Vega joined in the celebration of Paskosa Canberra which is jointly organized by the Council and the Philippine Embassy.
In her opening remarks, De La Vega mentioned that the festival is her first official engagement as Ambassador.
“The Filipino community in Australia at about 300,000 strong,” she added, “is an important partner of the Philippine government in enhancing the Philippines-Australia Comprehensive Partnership.” She recognized the significant contributions of Filipinos to the economic, social and development fabric of Australian society and shared the importance of the Christmas season for Filipinos as a celebration of faith and thanksgiving.
Paskosa Canberra, held every year on the first Sunday of December, is a Filipino festival which shares Filipino Christmas traditions with the Canberra community through food stalls with authentic Filipino cuisine, tourism promotion activities, Christmas carols, Santa gift-giving for kids, a raffle draw and many performances. The festival also featured the second Canberra’s Got Talent, a competition featuring promising performers from the Australian Capital Territory.