We have not featured a sitting ambassador for some time now in this column or even in the TV show. The last time was the very affable Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, HE Amanda Gorely, and that was a few months back. We have had the pleasure of getting to know the other diplomats who are now serving their tour of duty in the Philippines in Business & Leisure, the television show, and I'd like to introduce one of them to our readers in this column.
The Ambassador of Germany to the Philippines, H.E. Gordon Kricke presented his credentials to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte only in early December of 2016. As narrated by Ambassador Kricke, he came from a rural area in North Germany, a small village where he thoroughly "enjoyed the company of farm animals". It is very different from metropolitan Manila, he said, but he spent a happy childhood in this serene, bucolic village.
The ambassador had a strong interest in history and biology in his younger school years, but in college, he opted for a law degree. After graduation, he worked as a junior lawyer in Hamburg before he decided to join the German diplomatic service. He never held any government post before this, never worked in any government agency before he embarked on a diplomatic career. It was in 1994 that he applied into the service, but not before undergoing a very stringent screening and selection process. In 1995, he officially joined the diplomatic service and in that same year, he got posted in several German embassies all over the world.
Ambassador Kricke also worked for the European Union for a total of four years, an experience he found most interesting, he said. He was fielded to Angola and later to Kazakhstan as EU Ambassador. The rest of his stint with the European Union was spent in the German diplomatic service where he made the rounds of the German embassies all over the world either as a top-level diplomat or as the official ambassador of his country.
His postings were in various parts of the globe, the varying cultures and languages dizzying. He first started in Buenos Aires as head of the Press Section, and he remembered travelling throughout Argentina in the company of local journalists. Then he was off to Mozambique where he handled the political and development affairs of the German Embassy. Then it was back to Germany for two years before he was sent to Haiti as Ambassador. He described the Haitian experience as fascinating, and then it was time to go to Khartoum, also as Ambassador.
From there, his Ministry sent him to Mexico, then to Honduras, Nigeria, and Angola as the top German diplomat before he was assigned to the Philippines. Although he officially presented his credentials to Pres. Duterte in December of last year, he was here in the Philippines since September.
This is his first Asian posting-it is an entirely new culture, new language, new experience. Like many other foreigners who have settled in the country, he was overwhelmed by our traffic conditions, though he was never critical of it. He finds Filipinos "open-minded and friendly" and because our people treat him very nicely, he says this "makes the job a lot easier". He is clearly enjoying his stint here, like all other diplomats we have come across.
Germany is now an economic powerhouse in Europe, its economy much stronger than several years back. This year again, he says, Germany is the biggest exporter in the world and is the biggest trade partner of the Philippines in Europe. In fact, 36% of our country's trade with Europe is with Germany. Trade-wise, he finds that there are still much untapped opportunities in the Philippines, and Germany has a bigger presence in other Asian countries than in the Philippines. It was only a few years ago when the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce was established, and Ambassador Kricke says the organization is doing a good job of creating awareness of the untapped opportunities here among German companies.
There are quite a few German BPOs now operating in the Philippines and faring profitably. When the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce organized a program called Mabuhay, the German Embassy fully supported it. There is a division in the German Embassy, the Ambassador said, that promotes Germany as a destination for Philippine overseas workers, especially those working in the health sector. According to the Ambassador, Filipinos in Germany have earned a good reputation in health care as well as hospice care.
In the field of education, Ambassador Kricke mentioned that at present, they have forty one partnerships between Philippine and German universities. There are already quite a few Filipino students in Germany and he is keen on raising awareness among Filipino students of Germany as an ideal destination for education, especially since many institutions here have English programs, unlike in other European countries. There are three hundred Filipino students in Germany's academic exchange service and this program is doing quite well, we heard.
He recognizes that Filipinos are a basketball-loving country, but Germany is strong in football. However, they are open to having more cooperation in sports programs between our countries.
Fortunately for him, his first visit to an out-of-town destination was Palawan, and like many Europeans, he found the experience exhilarating. He loves scuba-diving, and Palawan was ideal for this. He has also gone scuba-diving in Negros and shared his passion and admiration for the country's rich and diverse marine ecosystem. He also shared his extreme dislike for the illegal trade of any sea species, obviously a warrior for the protection of the environment. Our diverse marine ecosystem is definitely a big plus for our tourism efforts in the European Union, he said. There are in fact many institutions in Germany dealing with tourism that can be open to more intensified cooperation with Philippine tourism institutions to enhance our bilateral relations in this area.
To H.E. Ambassador Gordon Kricke, a warm welcome to you and we hope you can discover and enjoy more scuba diving spots in the country.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.
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