Secretaries, congressmen and women, ambassadors, dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen.
I am absolutely delighted to be here in Davao in Mindanao as part of my visit to the Philippines.
In fact, this is my fourth visit since I became Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia in late 2013.
And it has, as always, been a very productive and constructive visit, and I have met many friends of Australia here in the Philippines and we have had much to discuss in enhancing our already strong relationship.
We term the Australian-Philippines relationship as a Comprehensive Partnership and I think that it is quite evident that it is a longstanding relationship that covers many different aspects of government, business and of course the people-to-people links.
Australia has long been a trusted and reliable development partner with the Philippines. And we have worked together in many endeavours to improve the quality of life of Filipino people, to assist in raising standards of living, and working as partners to drive economic opportunities, and job opportunities for people throughout the Philippines.
We believe that the key to prosperity, indeed the key to peace, is in education.
And while there have been many exchanges between Filipinos studying in Australia and Australians studying in the Philippines, we are particularly focused in our development program on supporting people gain a basic education.
Indeed, Australia has been the largest development partner in the Philippines and in Mindanao in the education sector for over 15 years.
Our most recent educational program of which I am very proud, has assisted and trained about 12 thousand teachers and helped about 60 thousand children go to school.
We have also helped train 11 thousand out-of-school young people to gain trade skills and give them an opportunity to get a job and earn a living.
So education is very much at the heart of our two-way bilateral relationship.
It is transformative. It is a precondition to economic opportunity, and greater economic opportunity is a precondition to peace.
Australia is determined to continue to play our part in this transformative exercise in the Philippines.
Today, I am delighted to announce a program, Education Pathways to Peace. This will be $90 million over five years. And it will be directed to working with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to ensure that we can assist ARMM with teacher quality, with curriculum development, with data quality and with policy development. All areas that we hope will boost educational standards in ARMM. And we are looking forward to working as a partner with the ARMM government.
The question of educational standards is one that challenges governments around the world, but Australia believes that we have a contribution to make and we have experience in maintaining high educational standards and we want to be able to share our experiences and our support with you.
Secondly, we know that there is more to be done in the peace process, and the Australian government has been a great supporter of the efforts to bring peace to southern Philippines. And as the Ambassador knows, it is a matter of significance within our development program to ensure that we can continue to support the Philippines in its progress towards peace.
Today, I am also announcing that we will contribute an additional $40 million over six years to the peace process.
Much of these will be for projects in conflict-affected areas, projects like focusing on water supplies and infrastructure, things that local people need to get ahead and get on with their lives.
We would also be supporting the peace agreements and providing technical assistance to ensure that the peace agreements can be concluded.
With our support for education, with our support for the peace process, in this way, Australia continues to be a friend, a partner of the Philippines.
And long may relationship endure for there is great affection between the people of the Philippines and the people of Australia, and we want to assist as a neighbour and as a friend.
This year, the Philippines will be chairing the ASEAN meetings. And again Australia looks forward to working closely with the Philippines as it takes on this most important role – not only for the Philippines but an important role in taking a leadership position in this part of the world.
I look forward to returning to the Philippines in relation to ASEAN meetings. And in the meantime, thank you all for your attendance here today.
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