March 8, 2012
A great disservice to non-Middle East OFWs
Sen. Ralph G. Recto yesterday the government may be committing a great disservice to its countrymen working and living abroad by closing down at least 10 embassies and consulates, which are mostly in Europe.
"This is a wrong cost-cutting strategy," Recto, Senate ways and means chair and Senate foreign relations member, said.
"Serving Filipinos abroad through the presence of embassies should not be treated as a budgetary expense but an investment or rather an obligatory "thank you" note," Recto added.
Recto said the estimated savings of P100 million to P150 million is nothing compared to the contributions of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working in Europe and other major cities of the world.
"If we can spend P34.9 billion for the poor under the conditional cash transfer program, what's P150 million to serve productive OFWs who are also symbolically playing the role as our de facto ambassadors to many foreign households and workplaces," the senator stressed.
Recto likewise said the embassies and consulates also double as the country's tourism totem pole to European tourists who might want to validate "how fun it is in the Philippines."
"There is sadness written all over this proposal and foreign tourists would easily sense that nothing is fun in a country that is shutting down its embassies to the detriment of migrant Filipinos," he said.
Recto said the plan likewise goes against the trend of diplomatic expansion that is being aggressively waged by some countries to reach out to far-away neighbours to seek common interests in tourism and trade.
Of the 239 countries, there are only 66 Philippine embassies, 23 consulates and four diplomatic missions worldwide.
"I care for our Middle East OFWs who really need more help from the government but this does not preclude me from also caring for our OFWs in Europe and other parts of the globe," he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is closing down 10 to 12 embassies and consulates around the world to save money to be channeled to missions in the Middle East, where OFWs are under threat from bloody civil uprisings.
Among the embassies and consulates marked for termination this July are Barcelona, Dublin, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Bucharest, Helsinki, Caracas, Havana, Saipan and Palau.
Thousands of Filipinos will be denied of the easy access to the services of their embassies and consulates once the proposal pushes through.
There are about 40,000 Filipinos working and living in Frankfurt; 30,000 in Barcelona, more than 8,000 OFWs in Palau and Saipan and at least more than a thousand Filipinos in Dublin, Stockholm, Bucharest, Helsinki, Caracas and Havana.
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