A homegrown Dumagueteno is elected as secretary of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Australia-Philippines (CCIAP) Incorporated.
After having been appointed twice as Brisbane International Student Ambassador — first by former Lord Mayor (now Queensland Premier) Campbell Newman in 2011, then in 2012 by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk —Xavier TilosVillagonzalo, now 28, is currently one of the youngest members of the Queensland-based chamber of commerce in Australia.
The CCIAP is the first local Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia whose charter is focused on bilateral trade relationship between Australia and the Philippines.
Villagonzalo’s previous honorary role as a two-time Filipino representative in the Brisbane International Student Ambassador Program along with 28 other international students from 24 countries paved the way to being noticed by different Filipino communities in the state of Queensland, including the chamber.
The Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, who announced Villagonzalo’s appointment in 2012at an official ceremony, said that Brisbane’s international student ambassador program is part of a wider strategy outlined in his Economic Development Plan 2012-2031, to deliver a first-rate experience for international students and empower them to become strong advocates of the city and promote Brisbane to the world.
“International education is our largest export industry and these keen, enthusiastic students are ideally placed to promote Brisbane as a leading international student destination in their home countries,” Lord Mayor Quirk said.
But now,Villagonzalo takes on a rather challenging role as secretary of CCIAP after finishing his degree Bachelor of Information Technology at Queensland University of Technology last December 2012, where he was nominated as Outstanding International Student by the Council ofInternational Students Australia (CISA). He first obtained his Bachelor of Mass Communication degree at Silliman University in 2006 with a YMCA Outstanding Student Award of Negros Oriental in the same year.
Connie da Cunha, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Australia-Philippines first supported the former youth ambassador’s initiative in 2011 to help the victims of both Typhoon Sendong and the earthquake that hit the province of Negros Oriental, through the Filipino Students in Brisbane, an organization co-founded by Villagonzalo.
Rev. Msgr. Julius Heruelaof the Diocese of Dumaguetesent Villagonzalo a message through Facebook saying, “We received the box with clothes and footwear. Thank you so much for your concern and generosity to the victims of floods and earthquake. This will go a long way. May the good Lord bless you and the Filipino students in Australia.”
In October 2012, the Australian government commissioned a White Paper on Australia in theAsian Century to consider the current and likely future course of economic, political, and strategic changes in Asia, encompassing China, India, the key ASEAN countries as well as Japan and South Korea; and what more can be done to position Australia for the Asian Century.
As a chamber member, Villagonzalo is being mentored by Ms. da Cunha whose career has spanned stints within the Queensland government. According to her, Brisbane is well positioned to take advantage of the country’s quest for renewable energy, education, and newly minted middle classes.
”But Brisbane doesn’t yet have a sister relationship with the Philippines,” she said.
“That’s one of the things I’m pursuing because we need to look at it from a local level – there are strategic goals that need to be achieved,” added Ms. da Cunha.
Both Villagonzalo and da Cunha, along with other CCIAP executive committee members, welcomed Australian Senior Trade Commissioner to the Philippines Anthony Weymouth in Brisbane on March 15, 2013 in an exclusive meeting for chamber members to learn first-hand the tradeopportunities available in one of the fastest growingeconomies in the Asia Pacific.
According to the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) in its website, the Philippines has recorded a 23.8 percent increase in commencement of international students in Australia on a student visa in 2012.
Meanwhile, Villagonzalo is expected to return to Dumaguete this month for a vacation and, at the same time, coordinate with Austradethrough Mr. Weymouth to participate in an education forum in Manila sometime in May where he might share his life experiences as an international student in Australia.