OFWs in Barcelona, Spain oppose impending closure of PH consulate
MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers in Barcelona, Spain, have petitioned the Department of Foreign Affairs to reconsider its decision to shut down the Philippine consulate general there, saying the diplomatic post has been serving a large number of Filipinos.
The Pasay City-based migrants’ welfare group, Blas F. Ople Center, relayed the appeal of the Filipinos to the DFA. BFO Center president Susan Ople said the Filipinos in Barcelona have organized a Facebook account with over 4,000 members to ventilate their misgivings over the DFA’s order to shut down the consulate as part of its rationalization plan.
“We support the appeals of Filipinos in Barcelona for a reconsideration of government’s decision to close down the Philippine Consulate, which services more than 20,000 OFWs. The consulate was opened in 2008 in response to the OFWs’ appeals precisely because it was too inconvenient and expensive for them to travel all the way to Madrid for consular assistance,” Ople said in a statement.
According to the former labor undersecretary, the consulate has been catering to Filipino seafarers, whose ships dock at major ports of the Spain’s Catalonia region, to which the province and city of Barcelona belong.
She quoted one Filipino community leader as saying, “Ships, manned mostly by Filipino seafarers who have urgent consular needs, often dock in the international ports of Barcelona and Tarragona.”
The limited time of seafarers while the ship is on dock prohibits them from going all the way to Madrid, Spain, to visit the Philippine Embassy, which is 600 km away from Barcelona, according to Ople.
In a resolution, the United Bicolanos of Barcelona also expressed a unified stand against the closure of the consulate. Its president, Victoria Madarieta, noted that the consulate started its operations only in March 2008 but has been a big help to communities in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the nearby independent principality of Andorra.
Even if honorary consuls were designated by the Philippine government, the number of Filipino families in these areas would be greatly deprived of consular assistance and services, Madrieta added.
Over 4,000 OFWs have signed on to protest the Philippine government’s decision to close down the consulate in Barcelona via Facebook.
The “No to Closure of Philippine Consulate in Barcelona. Yes to public service!” was created on Facebook by Filipino journalist Daniel Infante Tuano, a writer for Ang Bagong Filipino, a local paper for OFWs in Spain.
“The general sentiment is that while financial realignments may be called for within the DFA, it shouldn’t be at the expense of Filipinos overseas who are in dire need of consular services. We hope that the DFA will undertake more consultations with community leaders and OFW stakeholders prior to recommending the closure of embassies and consulates for cost-cutting purposes,” Ople said.
Due to the sizeable number of Barcelona-based Filipinos, the Roman Catholic Church approved the establishment of a parish for exclusively serving Filipino Catholics there in 1998. The so-called “personal parish” which is led by a Filipino priest, is the only such religious entity for Filipinos in the entire European continent.
The DFA announced the closure of 12 embassies and consulates by 2013. The agency did not disclose which diplomatic posts would be shut down, but recently the embassy in Palau and the consulate in Barcelona were confirmed to be among those to be closed.
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