Maybe the urgent need to focus more on the needs of OFWs in countries where most of them are based was the basis for the closure of these embassies. Let’s hope the DFA beefs up the resources of these embassies from the savings made. At the same time, it may like to give an opportunity for Filipinos living in those countries without an embassy to volunteer their services to act as honorary consul for the country. But it should make clear that the persons selected for these road will do it for public service not private personal gain.
From the Business Mirror
THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday announced the closure of five embassies, mostly in Europe, with five more to follow by October this year, in line with the administration’s decision to re-align the budget and funnel them to other embassies that need more funding.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael E. Seguis said that at the end of July, the DFA closed the embassies in Caracas, Venezuela; Barcelona, Spain; Dublin, Ireland; Frankfurt, Germany; and Koror, Palau.
The five others that will close in October are those in Bucharest, Romania; Havana, Cuba; Helsinki, Finland; Saipan, Northern Marianas Islands; and Stockholm, Sweden.
Seguis said the money saved from the closed embassies would be channeled to the Middle East, where many Filipino workers are under threat of being repatriated due to the ongoing conflict there.
The Philippines currently has 93 embassies and consulates worldwide.
Earlier, DFA Spokesman Raul Hernandez said the department evaluated the posts based on the three pillars of Philippine foreign policy: enhancing national security, promoting economic diplomacy, protecting and promotion of the rights and welfare of Filipinos overseas.
“Apart from being a cost-saving measure, other factors considered for closing down the foreign diplomatic posts were overall bilateral relationships with the host countries, the amount of trade and investments, and the number of Filipinos that have to be served out of those posts, among others,” he said.
Seguis said the government is trying to maximize the utilization of scarce resources.
Palau president appeals
PALAU President Johnson Toribiong had earlier appealed to President Aquino to spare the Philippine Embassy there owing to the presence of 5,000 Filipinos, comprising more than 20 percent of Palau’s population.
Toribiong said Palau’s economy would also suffer from the embassy’s closure as “Filipinos are employed in practically all job categories, from professionals to production and service workers.”
Shutting down the embassy in Palau will also affect Filipinos in neighboring countries, such as those working in Micronesia and Marshall Islands, because they transact with the embassy in Palau, Toribiong said.
In this connection, a global alliance of overseas Filipino workers expressed alarm over plans of the DFA to close these embassies and consulates abroad by the end of the year.
Migrante International said Filipinos abroad are up in arms against the DFA’s plan to close the embassies and expressed their disappointment over the administration of President Aquino for failing to consult them.
There are Filipino workers in at least 239 countries around the world, according to Migrante, and there are only 66 Philippine embassies, 23 consulates and four diplomatic missions worldwide.
Drilon supports closure of embassies
SEN. Franklin Drilon reportedly supports the closure of the 10 embassies and consulates abroad to help the government save an estimated P100 million ($2.3 million) to P150 million ($3.5 million).
Migrante opposed budget cuts in the 2011 national budget, especially on direct services for Filipino workers abroad by concerned agencies including the DFA.
According to the group, of the country’s P1.8-trillion budget ($42.2 billion), direct services for migrant Filipino workers only amount to no more than P3.14 billion ($74 million), or 0.17 percent, of the total budget, or a per capita spending of P261.83 ($6.20).
Funds for direct services for Filipino workers abroad in concerned agencies was slashed by approximately P792 million ($18.4 million), the group said.
The global economic crisis that hit Europe and the rest of the world made life difficult also for Filipinos working overseas.
Migrante said that in Saudi Arabia where there are an estimated 1.8 million Filipino workers, there are only two Philippine posts, an embassy in Riyadh and a consulate in Jeddah.
Most of Migrante International’s cases of human- and labor-rights abuses, mysterious deaths, jailed Filipinos and Filipinos on death row are in Saudi Arabia.
MIGRANTE said Filipino communities in Palau and Barcelona have already circulated petition letters, while overseas Filipinos elsewhere are gearing for protest actions.
Spain hosts a significant number of Filipinos, estimated at 30,000.
Migrante added that more than 20 Filipino organizations composed of various religious, civic and socio-cultural groups have expressed their dismay and disapproval over the government’s decision. Organizations such as Barcelona Exposure Club, Northern Star, Samahang Kabagis, Timpuyog ti-Ilocano, and Unified Bicolanos in Barcelona have taken their signature campaigns and lobbying initiatives to express their support for the retention of the consulate.
Meanwhile, the Kapulungan ng mga Lider Pinoy sa Barcelona, a federation of Filipino associations in Barcelona, with the support of other organizations, has sent a letter of appeal to the chairmen of the House Committees on Overseas Workers Affairs and on Foreign Affairs.