Said High Commissioner Yala, “It is both an honour and a privilege to have attended the inaugural gathering of two such distinguished and important regional groupings here in Wellington”.
“As a founding member of the PIHOM, the Cook Islands places great importance on our connections with regional partners and, as signalled by this recent gathering between the PIHOM and the ASEAN Community in Wellington, we further find great value in our relationships with our partners from the Southeast Asian region.
“In common with our Southeast Asian partners, the Cook Islands shares a great deal of interest in the challenges of climate change, sustainable development, transnational crime, oceans governance, diversification of micro-economies and the promotion of intangible cultural heritage.
“The meeting between the PIHOM and the ASEAN Community in Wellington is an important first step in strengthening the dialogue between our regions in addressing these issues.
“In my observation as High Commissioner, Pacific nations have come a long way from the early days of independence and are becoming more assertive in managing a maze of relationships with new partners. This most recent gathering is a strong indication of the diversification and strengthening of relations between the Pacific and partners beyond our region.”
The Pacific Islands Heads of Mission group (PIHOM) was established in 2013 to encourage mutual support of development efforts in areas of shared interest, to encourage strengthening of connections with institutions of regional and international cooperation, and to provide a platform for PIHOM members to articulate common interests and concerns as related to regional imperatives. The founding members of the PIHOM – the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and the Solomon Islands – are representative of all Pacific Missions resident in Wellington. Since its establishment in 2013, the PIHOM is now set to increase in membership with the addition of fully accredited Diplomatic Missions for Tuvalu and Vanuatu in Wellington in recent years. The PIHOM group is therefore representative of a large and substantive section of the Pacific, consisting of diplomatic representation for eight Pacific nations covering approximately 9.5 million people and a combined EEZ of approximately 40 million square kilometres.
The ASEAN community in Wellington constitutes Heads of Mission from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The ASEAN region has a young population of more than 600 million people and is one of the world’s most dynamic centres of economic growth.
As articulated by the current Chair of the ASEAN community in Wellington, His Excellency Tantowi Yahya, and further supported by the Her Excellency Teremoana Yala, it is hoped that the gathering of the PIHOM and the ASEAN community in Wellington will become a standard fixture on the calendar of diplomatic engagements for both groups.