10 PH embassies, consulates to be closed; Palau appeals

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03:13 AM January 25th, 2012

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By: Tina G. Santos, January 25th, 2012 03:13 AM

At least 10 Philippine embassies and consulates will be closed down this year because of budgetary constraints, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

However, the DFA has not yet disclosed the list of the foreign diplomatic posts to be shuttered, saying it has yet to inform all the host governments.

“We have not disclosed the list yet. We’re now in the process of informing the governments where the affected embassies and consulates are,” said DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez.

“What you have been hearing are unofficial reports,” he said.

The Palau President Johnson Toribiong has reportedly asked President Benigno Aquino III to reconsider the government’s decision to shut down the Philippine Embassy in his country.

Rationalization program

Hernandez said the Philippines currently has 94 embassies and consulates worldwide.

He said the closing down of posts is part of the rationalization program of DFA resources.

Diplomats affected by the closure will be reassigned to other posts.

“The DFA would like to rationalize and effectively use its limited sources to be of better service to Filipinos overseas and to the country as a whole,” Hernandez explained.

He said the DFA 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, investments, the number of Filipinos that have to be served out of those posts, among others,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, during a hearing of the Senate finance committee in October last year, said the recommendation to close the posts had been submitted to President Aquino for approval.

If the President would approve the recommendation, Del Rosario said the government could still serve its affected people through Philippine representatives from neighboring countries.

“In the manner we’re doing so now. We can serve those posts from neighboring countries where we have embassies,” he said.

Palau ‘disheartened’

In a January 23 letter to Mr. Aquino, a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Palau President said his country was “extremely disheartened” to learn that the Philippines was intending to close its embassy in Palau.

“On behalf of the government of the Republic of Palau I write to implore and formally request that your government reconsider its decision and plans in this regard and not close the Philippine Embassy in Palau,” said Toribiong.

Toribiong said the most compelling reason for maintaining the embassy in Palau is the presence there of some 5,000 Filipinos.

“These overseas workers from the Philippines comprise more than 20 percent of Palau’s population, and about 60 percent of all foreign workers in Palau, or around 25 percent of the country’s total work force,” he said.

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.”

“The Filipino overseas workers are a vital component of Palau’s economy,” he said.

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.   With Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao

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