Letters to the Editor

The 3 Pillars of Philippine Foreign Policy: Economy, Security and OFWs

- Alberto G. Romulo -

(Last of 2 Parts)

A more pro-active economic diplomacy

Under the leadership of President Aquino, the DFA will continue to work with other departments and the private sector to meet the priority economic diplomacy objectives of generating more employment and economic opportunities at home, and making the country more attractive to foreign investors.

The Aquino Administration significantly advanced the country’s economic diplomacy with the signing of the US$434-million Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Compact Agreement in New York last October, which will fund projects for poverty eradication and economic growth.

The meeting of President Aquino with key business leaders and investors in New York and San Francisco also netted P2.7 billion worth of investments.

On the sidelines of the President’s attendance at the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Yokohama, the Philippines secured US$2.85 billion worth of investment pledges from three Japanese companies.

This year, the DFA will remain active in its robust diplomacy for development, enhance foreign investments, boost exports, promote tourist destinations, and mobilize foreign official development assistance (ODA) and economic cooperation.

The DFA’s 94 Embassies and Consulates General and Permanent Missions will relentlessly pursue our country’s economic diplomacy abroad.       

Responsive to the needs of Filipinos

The President’s instruction to be “even more responsive to the needs and welfare of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)” is the Department’s guidepost in improving its frontline services at the home front and overseas.

In 2010, the DFA provided world-class service and facilities to the Filipino overseas workers and travelers with the shift to the electronic passport (ePassport) and the opening of the new Office of Consular Affairs at the ASEANA Business Park, where passport applicants now enjoy the convenience of a fully modernized and state-of-the-art facility.

Almost 20 years after the ePassport project was first proposed, the Philippines finally has state-of-the-art, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)-compliant, credible, secure, and tamper-proof ePassports which are the least expensive in Asia and the world. Today, the Philippines is among only 60 out of 192 countries and only four out of 10 ASEAN members that issue ePassports. With the ePassport, foreign travel and immigration clearance is now easier for all Filipinos, especially OFWs.

Furthermore, the DFA through its Foreign Service Posts, successfully conducted the 2010 Overseas Absentee Voting for qualified Philippine citizens abroad.

Fighting illegal recruitment and exploitation of Filipinos overseas

The DFA is an active member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) chaired by the Secretary of Justice which has taken firm measures against all forms of trafficking of persons and illegal recruitment, particularly of minors, women and other vulnerable individuals.

To prevent the further victimization of Filipinos as “drug mules”, the DFA recommended the creation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Drug Couriers (TFDC). Last May, the TFDC neutralized a foreign drug-running syndicate with “Operation Homerun.” The Task Force conducts continuing law enforcement operations and information and awareness campaigns.

This past year, “the Department that never sleeps” responded to distress calls from Filipinos all over the world regardless of the hour and the place.

The DFA extended assistance to more than 22,000 OFWs in addition to 6,217 walk-in clients, and attended to 204 cases of human trafficking and illegal recruitment involving 559 victims.

While steadfast in monitoring 116 pending capital punishment cases in other countries, the DFA has to date helped secure the commutation of death sentences meted for 38 Filipinos; 16 of whom have already been brought home.

As of end-2010, the Department secured the release of 520 Filipino seafarers in 42 ships out of the 627 held hostage by Somali pirates. The Department continues to pursue the release of the remaining 107 aboard nine vessels.

With the enactment of Republic Act 10022, known as the Amended Migrant Workers’ Act, the Philippine Congress has set a clear mandate for government to ensure the full protection of the rights and welfare of our nationals overseas through a certification process where our OFWs will be deployed only to countries where their rights and welfare are guaranteed. Philippine Foreign Service Posts and the Department will tirelessly carry out this mandate in making the certifications for the consideration of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Looking forward

Through their untiring collective efforts, the men and women of the DFA and of the Philippine Foreign Service delivered in 2010 the world-class frontline services that our country and people deserve.

In my years in the Department, I have witnessed every day their selfless dedication and commitment. I take this opportunity to thank them for their integrity, industry, support and teamwork.

As we welcome the New Year inspired by what we have achieved, we will all continue to give greater meaning to the Department’s legacy of patriotic service and devotion to duty in the service of the Filipino people.

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