Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

PHL Ambassador thanks the New Zealand defence force for it's support in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan

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As the Philippine Embassy continues to reiterate the gratitude of the Philippine Government and the Filipino People to the Government and People of New Zealand for their immediate humanitarian assistance and logistical support in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez hosted a thanksgiving dinner at “Ang Bahay” (Philippine Ambassador’s residence) on 11 March 2014 in honour of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) which deployed its RNZAF C-130Hercules (NZ) 7004 to help survivors in the devastated areas. NZDF officials led by Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Air Commodore Peter Port, Acting Vice Chief of Defence Force, Air Commodore Tony Davies, Assistant Chief SCI Branch and Group Captain Andrew Woods, Acting Deputy Chief of Air Force, No. 40 and No. 209 Squadron led by Squadron Leaders Steve Thornley, James Anderson, Paul Cockerton, Cam Brownlee and Michelle White and Wing Commander Andy Scott, together with their officers, pilots, technicians, engineers, operations, logistics and photographer specialists, mechanic and members were present.

The programme started with the welcome remarks by Third Secretary and Vice- Consul Glenn Joseph Obach and followed by the opening prayer by Bianca Benavidez, daughter of Ambassador Benavidez. In warmly welcoming the guests, many of whom are based in Auckland and Palmerston North, Ambassador Benavidez thanked the New Zealand Defence Force and its gallant, sacrificial and selfless men and women who composed the 24 member detachment from No. 40 Squadron and No. 209 Squadron of the RNZAF C-130Hercules (NZ) 7004 sent on a humanitarian mission in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan. “We here in New Zealand and numerous Filipinos back home have personally witnessed how the multicultural society of New Zealand and its prevailing community spirit of sharing and caring continue to make a positive, practical and distinctive difference in people’s lives, especially in times of great need, knowing fully well how it is to go through a disaster. Words will never be enough to reiterate our heartfelt gratitude to the Government and People of New Zealand for the immediate humanitarian assistance and airlift and logistical support provided by the No. 40 Squadron and No. 209 Squadron in the RNZAF C-130 Hercules. We are deeply moved by your untiring efforts and sacrifices and the generosity and kindness of people all over New Zealand,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. Now that the Filipino people are back on their feet, New Zealanders and the Filipino and other ethnic communities in Aotearoa continue to be part of the on-going restoration of livelihood and multi-stakeholder and multi-dimensional rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the greatly affected areas in the Visayas region. “Build Back Better” and safer and Bayanihan Beyond Borders are the clarion call to all who continue to be at our corner,” she added. The rainbow of hope and resilience continues to be clearly seen on the horizon arising from global and domestic confidence in the Philippines. The spotlight continues to shine on the Philippines’ unprecedented economic growth of 7.2% in 2013 post Haiyan and the economists’ optimistic projection of 6.5% to 8% for 2014.

Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short thanked Ambassador Benavidez, her daughter Bianca and the Philippine Embassy personnel for the distinctively warm and friendly Filipino hospitality and gracious reception extended to them amidst the Filipino ambience of “Ang Bahay”. He spoke about the highlights of the Squadrons’ contributions to the Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief, collaborative efforts with the Philippine authorities, agencies, people and other countries on the ground and the valuable experiences and insights that the New Zealand contingent learned as they carried out their work and mission in several parts of Central Philippines. Squadron Leader Steve Thornley and Pilot Officer Sylvia McCrea shared their experiences as they carried out their respective roles and responsibilities with the RNZAF C-130 Hercules delivering tonnes of relief supplies and equipment, evacuating a large number of survivors to Cebu and reaching remote island communities.

Ambassador Benavidez presented Certificates of Appreciation and Commendation to the NZDF officials and No. 40 Squadron and No. 209 Squadron personnel for their invaluable assistance, vital airlift and logistical support and exemplary services as they helped transport countless numbers of survivors and reached several communities in typhoon ravaged areas. The guests watched a video from the You Tube entitled “Thank You World” by Jim Paredes showing the Filipino children and adults singing thank you messages in different languages to New Zealand and other countries which stood in solidarity with the Philippines. A group singing of the song “Count On Me” led by Ms. Arla Fontamillas, a Filipino scholar at Victoria University in Wellington, Ms. Kathy Lopez, a Filipino High School student at Queen Margaret College, Ms. Meia Lopez, Ms. Bianca Benavidez and the Philippine Embassy personnel together with the New Zealanders conveyed the message of togetherness and partnership with one another and being together for each other. This was followed by a lively and interactive dinner during which the guests shared more stories and experiences during their mission in Central Philippines where they saw first-hand the resiliency and felt the gratitude of the Filipinos and acknowledged the cooperation of Philippine authorities on the ground. For the New Zealand Squadrons’ Team, they said that they loved helping the Filipinos and doing the work that they did and the deep appreciation expressed by and shown on their faces were truly rewarding.

Ambassador Benavidez showed the signed picture frame of the Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules plane given by Prime Minister John Key during her call on 21 January 2014 and said that the Prime Minister’s gift is a much treasured one that will always be the Filipinos’ grateful reminder of New Zealand’s humanitarian mission and assistance in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The RNZAF C-130 Hercules with its night flying capability was among the last to leave the Philippines and was involved in airlift support and humanitarian assistance from dusk to dawn during its operations in Central Philippines.

Singing and fellowship after the dinner capped a special and wonderful evening to remember in honour of the contributions and services the NZDF and its Squadrons that left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of grateful Filipinos affected by super typhoon Haiyan.

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