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Review sought over number of RP embassies

First Posted 15:22:00 10/20/2010

MANILA, Philippines ? Is there a need for a Philippine embassy in a country with only 173 Filipinos?

The existence of three separate embassies in three neighboring countries ? Hungary, with 170 Filipinos, 245 in Poland and 377 in Romania has prompted Senator Franklin Drilon to call for a review of Philippine presence overseas.

Drilon said the Department of Foreign Affairs should rationalize the operations of embassies and consulates abroad to cut the government's expenditures.

?I would like to think that there was really a substantial number of our compatriots in a particular country that would justify an embassy because if we say that there are Filipinos in a particular place, we will put our embassy in every corner of this universe,? he said in a statement on Wednesday.

?Given our limited resources, we should rationalize our presence in many countries,? he said.

Drilon was reacting to a statement by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo that the main criterion for the establishment of embassies and consular offices abroad was that there were Filipinos residing in that particular country and the economic partnership was substantial.

At present, Romulo reported that the Philippines has 67 embassies and 23 consular offices and four missions abroad.

But Drilon pointed out that the number of Filipinos was ?very minimal? and the trade was ?not substantial to justify the Philippine presence in several countries.

He then specifically pointed the case in the three countries ?Hungary, Poland and Romania. The trade in Romania and Hungary, he said, stood at $80 million or about P3.46 billion and $51 million or P2.21 billion in Poland.

Drilon said the total trade the Philippines has with these three countries is much less compared to Singapore at $6.2 billion; Malaysia, $3.1 billion and Indonesia, $2.1 billion.

?We are not a rich country which can just keep on opening all embassies all over the place...It is as of our finances are never ending,? said the senator.

Drilon said the government spent about P57 million to P125 million annually just to maintain an embassy in another country. And he believes that the government could save hundreds of millions of pesos, if not billions, annually if state presence could be rationalized in several countries.

Romulo, who attended last week's budget hearing in the Senate, concurred with Drilon, saying they are willing to review the criteria on this.


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