12 August 2009 in Manila Bulletin
Farewell to the Beckinghams
Among the dozen or more ambassadors that are leaving Manila this year, as their tours of duty come to an end, a number will be sorely missed because of their contributions to the community and the investments they have brought in from their home countries. And none more so than the indefatigable British Ambassador Peter Beckingham and his hospitable, and social-service oriented wife, Jill.
For starters, the United Kingdom leads European countries in investments in the Philippines and was this country’s major investor in 2008. They invest in Business Process Outsourcings (BPOs) banking, energy and education. In the past few months heads of three of Britain’s largest companies, Barclays, Glaxo Smith Kline, and HSBC have visited the Philippines to discuss increasing their investments here.
The UK also leads Europe in the number of Filipino OFWs, who work there. Currently 250,000 Filipinos live and work in the United Kingdom. “The British Filipino community impresses with its kindness, hard work and discipline” according to the ambassador.
Besides encouraging the increase of investments, Ambassador Beckingham has taken special interest in the Mindanao conflict, which apparently reminds him of the long years of conflict between the British government and Northern Ireland. This year his government funded the expenses for MILF representatives to visit Northern Ireland and London and speak with the experts who worked on resolving the conflict there, and view the results. Because of his many visits to Mindanao, Beckingham was given the honorary title of “Datu” and “adopted Son.” He is also briefing his successor on the importance of continuing to work on the Mindanao situation to help achieve peace in the region.
The Beckingham farewell reception on July 23rd was crowded with well-wishers and friends who are reluctant to see them leave. President Arroyo presented the ambassador a Presidential Citation when he made his farewell call. She will visit London in September.
British companies, Shell, Global Green Power and Bronzeoak Phils., Inc., have been leaders in the development of indigenous energy sources, to relieve the Philippines of the cost of imported oil, as well as protecting the environment. They are currently developing bioethanol, micro hydro and biomass plants regionally. Global Green Power has biomass plant in Panay, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga. Bronzeoak Phils., Inc., runs a plant in San Carlos, Negros Occidental, which converts biomass to ethanol. Future plans include building two more ethanol plants in the Philippines. Another “green project” of the British government was donating an electric jeepney to the city of Puerto Princesa in Palawan and training drivers in handling electric-driven vehicles.
HSBC has a 6,000 seat call center here and Shell a 3,000 seat center. The UK has sent trainers to Cebu to train local teachers and call center agents in the English that is familiar to British customers.
At a farewell dinner hosted by seven Filipino friends the Ambassador spoke of the “warmth you have shown us in our 4 ½ years here.” Thank you all for you friendship.”
The Beckinghams are giving themselves a three-week vacation on their way home, visiting places they have missed, as well as those they wish to see one more time: Shanghai, the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun, Mexico, Guatemala and New York.
The Ambassador believes that much more could be done in attracting British tourists, who at this point in time, tend to head for Thailand when they travel in Asia. As an active regional traveler himself who has pretty well covered the Philippines, he believes there is much to do here, including
bird-watching, which would especially attract British tourists. The Philippines has 1,000 species of birds, among the most in Asia.