Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Dinner with Senator Bam Aquino

On 3 July I had the privilege of attending a dinner with Senator Bam Aquino, the youngest Senator of the 16th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines. Senator Aquino is a remarkable young man, at 37 years old he has already established a reputation of being a world renowned social entrepreneur. He currently chairs the Philippines Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship and the Senate Committee on Youth. In 2003 Senator Aquino became the youngest head of a government agency, when at 25 years he was appointed as the Chairperson of the National Youth Commission, the primary national policy-making body for Filipino youth.

Senator Aquino has dedicated his entire career to empowering the youth and the poor, helping thousands of Filipinos to improve their lives through access to opportunities and crucial support systems. Because of his work he was named a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2006, one of Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines in 2010, one of the Asian Social Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2011, and one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World in 2012. He is certainly a remarkable man and the Aquino family have had an extraordinary strong influence in Filipino politics since the overthrow of Marcos in 1986.

Senator Aquino was extremely interested in the management of post-earthquake Christchurch. The Filipinos have had more than their fair share of natural disasters and there are lessons that we can all share. He also showed great compassion for the Filipino workforce that are here assisting with the rebuild in Christchurch. Earlier in the day, before the dinner, he had met with members of the Filipino workforce and was very interested in how they are being assimilated into our community. We now have thousands of Filipinos in Christchurch and Canterbury helping us to rebuild our city and providing valued and skilled input into construction support services, including nursing and the dairy industry. We talked about the importance of this workforce and all of the positive feedback that I receive from people who have employed Filipinos in our community (feedback about their high skill level, their attitude to work, and their friendly and inclusive social demeanour). 

Senator Aquino is likely to be a future President of the Republic of the Philippines and it was a real delight to share an evening with him listening to his view on the future of the Philippines, his interest in our country, and his determination that we continue to grow more closely together. 
Peter Wait (Hon Consul of the Philippines), Virginia Benavidez, Mrs Aquino, Senator Bam Aquino, Peter Townsend, Phillip Gibson (MFAT), Kate Swan (MFAT)

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