His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the courtesy call of His Most Eminent Highness Prince and Grand Master Fra’ of the Sovereign Order of Malta
[Delivered at Malacañan Palace on March 3, 2015]
Your Most Eminent Highness, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is fitting that we have, as our guest, His Most Eminent Highness Fra’ Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ. This year is a historic milestone in our partnership, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of the Philippines and the Sovereign Order of Malta.
The strength of our partnership comes as no surprise. After all, we share many of the same values, especially given our common Roman Catholic heritage. In particular, we admire your Order’s commitment to its mission: “Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum”: nurturing, witnessing, and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick representing the Lord.
Over the years, we have witnessed you carry out this mission in many instances through your charitable works. From the humanitarian relief assistance you extended in the aftermath eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, to the 700 new homes you constructed for those who were affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, you have consistently helped us alleviate the suffering of our countrymen in the soonest possible time.
Today’s ceremonial handover of the symbolic key to these houses further illustrates the Order’s generosity towards their fellowmen. This complements our own government’s plan to build back better: to break the vicious cycle of destruction and reconstruction by emphasizing long-term resilience in our reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.
We also welcome the news that Malteser International, the relief and humanitarian arm of the Order, plans to establish a regional office in Southeast Asia. Its physical presence in our part of the world will certainly benefit Asian countries by allowing more effective coordination and execution of relief activities, and facilitating our increased cooperation in areas of mutual benefit.
As a gesture of appreciation for all the support we have received from the Order, we will confer upon His Most Eminent Highness Fra’ Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Raja. This is the highest order of diplomatic merit our people can bestow upon the leader of a sovereign state; may it stand as a symbol of our gratitude for the Order’s friendship and assistance throughout the last half century.
These positive developments instill in me with confidence that, moving forward, our bilateral relations will grow further, on the foundations of our shared values, beliefs, and decades of friendship.