Philippine Ambassador meets with Filipinos in Oamaru, Waitaki District in the South Island of New Zealand
Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez accompanied by Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa joined and interacted with several members the Filipino community in Oamaru, Waitaki District in a Fellowship Night on 31 August 2013.
In her remarks, Ambassador Benavidez thanked them for their invaluable assistance, support and cooperation, highlighted the important roles that Filipinos play in the national development of both the Philippines and New Zealand and enjoined them to continue being united and supportive of each other. She shared with them the highly positive impression and favourable feedback from the local officials and people of Oamaru for being vital, vibrant and versatile partners of communities showcasing the talents and skills of Filipinos in multicultural events media and visual and performing arts and contributing to making New Zealand a truly multi-cultural and ethnically diverse nation characterized by inclusive and shared growth. Ambassador Benavidez conveyed her deep appreciation for their willingness and cooperation to lead the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Plan in coordination with the relevant local authorities and the Philippine Embassy.
Mr. Chris Raine, District Emergency Services Manager of the Waitaki District Council, and Mr. Steve Couper, Oamaru Fire Services Chief provided a briefing on the emergency response programmes for Oamaru and the Waitaki District for natural disasters including floods, earthquakes, and rural fires. Ms. Helen Jensen of Literacy North Otago gave a talk on election literacy and the need for the voices of all community members to be heard in the upcoming local elections. Mr. Robert Gonzales, Chief Executive Officer of the Oamaru Hospital, gave information on the health services provided in the Waitaki District and who can avail of said services.
As part of the Philippine Embassy’s continuing awareness program to make the Filipino community in New Zealand more resilient, proactive and prepared in the event of natural disasters, Ambassador Benavidez presented the Philippine Embassy’s advisory on practical steps and useful tips on disaster preparedness which were consolidated based on information provided by New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. She also shared the Philippine Embassy’s template for the Filipino Community Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response. Given the utmost importance and urgency of disaster preparedness, the Filipino community members were enjoined by Ambassador Benavidez to accomplish the plan and return it to the Philippine Embassy as soon as possible.
The Filipino community of Oamaru led by Ms. Cecile Baxter, Chairperson, Waitaki Multicutural Council, Mr. Elbert Gargar, Manager of Generation FM 106.7, and Mr. Jose Renato Dacudao, DJ of Generation FM 106.7, and Mr. Sam Gutierez coordinated and showcased Filipino talents through song and dance numbers performed by the Filipino youth of the community. The performances clearly showed the richness of the Filipino culture and promoted a respect for and appreciation of the Filipino heritage.
The Philippine Embassy reiterated its deep appreciation to Ms. Cecile Baxter, Chairperson of the Waitaki Multicutural Council and the members of the Filipino community in Oamaru, notably, Mr. Elbert Gargar, Mr. Felipe Renato Dacudao, Mr. Sam Gutierez and other Filipinos who ably assisted the Philippine Embassy Mobile Consular Team in ensuring a successful and productive outreach mission in Oamaru.