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President Benigno S. Aquino III conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Grand Cross (Datu, Silver Distinction) on outgoing Ambassador Robert Gerard Brinks of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in ceremonies at Malacanang.
In his farewell call at the Music Room of the Malacanang Palace on Wednesday, the Chief Executive presented the award to Ambassador Brinks for his significant works in various fields as Netherlands’s envoy to the Philippines that further strengthened the bilateral relations between the two countries during his five-year tour of duty in the country.
These include the maritime sector, specific visa issuance policies, combating human trafficking, the promotion of human rights and the preservation of cultural heritage.
The Dutch envoy has actively participated in the country’s maritime sector through the Netherlands-Philippines Maritime Institute in Palompon, that train cadets along Dutch standards for wok in Dutch vessels.
He has maintained close cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment and the Dutch Ship-owners association in efforts to address issues in the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in a way that both the interests of the ship-owners and the Philippines are served.
Ambassador Brinks also introduced a Philippine specific visa policy to address the increasing number of visa applicants from the Philippines, reducing the waiting period for the issuance of visas to three days for seafarers and one week for other types.
He has likewise pushed for the enhancement of efforts to combat human trafficking from the Philippines and adopt an integrated approach at the Dutch Embassy dedicating most of its financial and manpower resources to address this illegal activity.
The Dutch envoy pushed for the promotion of human rights through close coordination and cooperation with the Commission on Human Rights, other concerned private entities and the promotion of programs on this cause.
Ambassador Brinks has been a steadfast friend of the Filipino people throughout his tour of duty in the country.
Witnessing the event were Ruth G.M. Emmerink, Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of The Netherlands in Manila and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda F. Basilio, among others.
The Philippines and The Netherlands have been enjoying close relations since 1598 when a Dutch naval merchant fleet entered the Philippine waters for the first time. Over time, this relationship has flourished and today the Dutch are present in the Philippines in many different ways.
Dutch companies, both large multinationals and Small and Medium Enterprises have strongly contributed to trade and commercial ties and nurtured links between the two countries.
At present, Dutch companies operate within a wide range of sectors, among these are in agriculture, shipping and maritime services, information technology and energy supply. Equally important are the people to people contacts, the activities of several Dutch Non-Government Organizations and the initiatives of many private Dutch organizations and citizens working closely with disadvantaged groups in Philippine society.