Palau president appeals to Aquino: Don’t close Philippine embassy
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Palau President Johnson Toribiong has asked President Benigno Aquino to reconsider a decision to shut down the Philippine Embassy in the Pacific island nation.
In a four-page letter dated January 23, Toribiong told Aquino that Palau was “extremely disheartened to recently learn that the Republic of the Philippines intends to close its embassy in Palau later this year, ostensibly as a cost savings measure.”
Copies of the letter were released to journalists in Palau, including some who are natives of Davao who in turn forwarded a copy to the Inquirer’s Mindanao bureau.
“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,” Toribiong said.
He 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 hinted that Palau’s economy would also suffer from the closure of the embassy 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, adding, “The closure of the Philippine Embassy in Palau would likely make it very difficult for Filipinos to do business in Palau. Similarly, the closure of the embassy would likely inhibit the burgeoning trade between our countries.”
Toribiong said closing the embassy would also affect Filipinos in neighboring countries, such as those working in Micronesia and the Marshall Islands because they transact with the embassy in Palau.
Palau and the Philippines have intensively discussed economic cooperation as early as 2008.
Then Palau president Tommy Remengsau Jr. and the Arroyo administration crafted at least six agreements on fisheries cooperation, labor cooperation, cooperation in combating transnational crime, training of Palau law enforcement officers, training of Palauan diplomats, and remunerated employment for embassy dependents.
The Philippines has not signed these agreements yet.
Toribiong said he was ready to meet with Aquino to discuss the issue on the closure of the embassy.
“I stand ready to do whatever I can for the Philippines to reconsider its decision, and to not close its embassy in Palau,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.