Many people forget that the British are a nation of migrants, travelling, settling and, in the past, colonising almost every corner of the globe.
It is estimated that around six million Brits are living abroad for more than one year at any given time and one place they are making their mark is the Philippines.
In an article which appeared in the ‘Inquirer’, Belinda Olivares-Cunanan and Cecile Alvarez invited outgoing British Ambassador Peter Beckingham and his wife Jill to their dzRH radio program to talk about the UK’s presence in the Philippines.
Peter Beckinham informed the hosts the UK was the third largest investor after the US and Japan from 2000 to 2008 period, but last year it became the biggest direct foreign investor due mainly to big investments in the energy sector and human resources.
HSBC alone employs over 6,000 Filipinos in Manila in back-office work and HSBC’s CEO has said they are going to hire more.
The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline employs over 1,000 people in the Philippines while Unilever manufactures products for the region with over 3,000 local people.
In addition, new British companies have moved into Taguig City, including an IT company called Logica, which plans to hire 2,000 people, Strategic Back-Office Solutions, which renders support service for many multinationals, and the manufacturer of Johnny Walker.
Among the other UK companies operating in Manila are MySis, an IT company, and another firm where an all-Filipino staff does architectural and engineering work for construction companies in Dubai.
Symbolic of UK confidence in the Philippines is that the visa-issuing operations of its new, ultra-modern embassy building in Taguig acts as a regional hub processing visas from other SE Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea. The job is handled by 50 Filipino personnel under supervision of the British consul.
The lesson in the growing UK presence here, said Beckingham, is that “sometimes the Philippines underestimates its own capabilities.”
Citing the Filipino’s advantages such as their knowledge of English, their warm and caring qualities that the people of the UK appreciate in the quarter of a million Pinoys working in Britain, and their adaptability to various situations, the ambassador stressed that what the Philippines needs to do is “to bang the drums abroad” about the great opportunities for investment here.
In this regard, he said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is doing “great work.” It also delivers a strong message to our young people aspiring to ride on the crest of global technology.
The ambassador’s lady said that when they leave, “we take away heavy hearts and also a suitcase of happy memories,” including her involvement in two charity organizations.
One is the Philippine Christian Foundation, founded by Janet Walker, which runs an elementary school for some 400 children in Tondo, Manila.
The school adds a grade each year, so that next year it will offer first-year high school. Its target enrollment is 1,000 children. Its setting is most unique: from an old dilapidated warehouse, the school has moved to a “recycled” site which is most fitting, as Jill observed, for families that live on recycling. A total of 72 abandoned container vans were piled up into four-story buildings, which at the moment look a lot like sardine cans piled on top of the other.
But when construction is finished, one will not recognize the container vans. The school will be formally inaugurated next January, and Jill, who has pledged to continue raising funds for the school, will return for it.
Jill was also deeply involved in CRIBS, a foundation that takes care of abandoned and sexually abused children.
She used to travel from North Forbes to Marikina every week to teach the older children English. She said her close ties with them are among the things that make saying goodbye difficult.
Another thing she will sorely miss is the Embassy residence’s sprawling garden where giant Doña Aurora and Doña Luz plants are in bloom all year round.
During their four year posting, the Beckinghams went all over the country, taking in the unspoiled beauty of El Nido, Palawan, and roughing it up with the whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon.
Peter, in a farewell piece in the Inquirer, quoted James Hamilton-Paterson who wrote that the Philippines is “encased in such beauty, such affection and zest as to stop the heart.”
Former Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo was right when he said that Beckingham was “Her Majesty’s true and loyal servant, but he was also a good friend to our people and country.”
Source: The Philippine Enquirer
The British Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines helps promote British business interests in the country, as well as providing a valuable social and business network for the British residents.
Earlier this month I was lucky enough to attend the ‘Farewell to Peter and Jill’ party, held at the Makati Penninsula Hotel, organised by the chamber.
Thanks to Chairman Leslie Stokes and his able team the event was a fantastic success.
The affection and respect for Peter and Jill was obvious to all, and they will be missed.
For more information on the British Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, visit their website at: http://www.bccphil.com
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