VOLUME 17 | NO. 19 | 02-DECEMBER-2009
New consulate, transfer of embassy and consular jurisdictions urged
TWO legislative measures urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to provide better services to the growing number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by keeping embassies and consulates near and accessible to them were adopted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by Representative Antonio Cuenco (2nd District, Cebu City).
House Resolution 1209 calls for the establishment of a Philippine Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey, while HR 1456 calls for the transfer of jurisdiction over the Bahamas, the Grand Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands from the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. to the Philippine Embassy in Havana, Cuba.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan De Oro City), author of both resolutions, underscored the importance of establishing a Philippine Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey owing to the huge number of OFWs in the area who need consular assistance and services. “There are close to 5,000 Filipinos in Istanbul and this is gradually increasing,” he said.
In further justifying the establishment of a consulate in Istanbul, the author also noted the distance between Istanbul and the Turkish capital of Ankara, where the Philippine Embassy is located.
“The Philippine Embassy located in the Turkish capital of Ankara is approximately 500 kilometers away from Istanbul,” Rep. Rodriguez stated, emphasizing the embassy’s financial and logistical constraints in catering to the needs of the OFWs based in Istanbul.
Director Emilio Fernandez of the Office of European Affairs of the DFA expressed support for HR 1209 acknowledging Istanbul as one of the largest, most prosperous and fastest-growing cities in the world where the Philippines can explore trade and investment opportunities and job prospects for the growing number of OFWs.
As regards the proposal to transfer embassy and consular jurisdictions over the Bahamas, the Grand Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos from the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. to the Philippine Embassy in Havana, Cuba, Rep. Rodriguez cited the same reasons.
“(There is) difficulty in obtaining assistance to nationals and consular and other services from the (Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.) due to geographic distance and strict US visa rules,” Rep. Rodriguez averred. Filipino nationals may enter Cuba and get visas upon arrival in that country, he added.
Manifesting her support for HR 1456, Assistant Secretary Lourdes Yparraguire of the DFA’s Office of American Affairs agreed that just by the distance, consular services will be better delivered to Filipino nationals based in the Caribbean Islands if the Philippine Embassy in Havana will have jurisdiction over them.
At the same time, it would be easier and cheaper for Filipinos to seek the assistance of the embassy in Havana because of its proximity to the Caribbean Islands, she stated further.
Yparraguire also informed the Committee that the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. interposes no objection to the said transfer of jurisdiction, but she recommended that a labor attaché be stationed in Havana to help the embassy in rendering consular services to more than 250,000 Filipinos based in the Caribbean Islands.