New dept to take care of Filipinos' consular needs

Angel Tesorero/Dubai
Filed on June 5, 2016 | Last updated on June 5, 2016 at 07.16 am
Paul Raymund Cortes,Philippine consul-general
Paul Raymund Cortes,Philippine consul-general

At present, two government departments are in charge for the more than 10 million Filipinos abroad.

Philippine consulate officials in Dubai are "awaiting instructions and thinking of the implications" of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte's proposal to create a separate Department for Overseas Filipinos (DOF).

At present, two government departments are in charge for the more than 10 million Filipinos abroad. All consular activities like issuing of passports, notarial services and assistance to nationals are under the Philippine Embassy or Consulate which reports to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). The lead agencies in charge of the protection of rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are the Philippine Overseas Labour Office and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration which are both under the Department of Labour and Employment.

"But because of the 'one country team' approach, all agencies are under the leadership of the DFA," Philippine consul-general Paul Raymund Cortes told Khaleej Times. "We are awaiting instructions and we would like to know the repercussions of incoming President's proposal as far as the division of work and responsibilities will be."

Cortes added: "How different would Duterte's new policy be? It looks ... the same (as the outgoing administration) but a little drastic. We may have the same structure, with the DFA on top of everybody else ... But to be honest, it's not yet really clear what will be the function of the DFA (in the new proposal)."

When asked by Khaleej Times if he thought the proposed department is a welcome development or just another bureaucracy, he replied: "On our part, whether we like it or not, we have to support it. If that's what Duterte feels, we have to go with it and I urge everybody, whether they voted or not for Duterte, to support his administration."

Cortes added that the DFA has given its input to the congressional committee on overseas workers and one of the proposals is to strengthen the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

Speaking to Khaleej Times over the phone on Tuesday, Consul Ferdinand Flores said: "At the moment, nothing is concrete yet other than there is a proposal to create a DOF. But I understand that the bottom line is to come up with better services and to improve the system."

In an earlier interview, Flores had said: "A separate department for overseas Filipinos is actually not a new idea but nobody had the will to sustain the idea until it becomes an entity. It's hard to speculate but I agree with ConGen that the idea would be to take out the different functions from each agency and create a new structure to harmonise all functions and coordination.

"To be honest, we are looking at two to three years before the new department can be created - a legislation is required then there is a need for congressional approval for the budget."

Expats welcome move

But Filipino expat Jonathan dela Cruz, who is one of the 51,879 Filipinos in the UAE who voted for Duterte, said he "can't wait for the creation of DOF because it means services to Filipinos will be expedited".

Dave Nasiad, another expat, said: "We voted for Duterte because of his platform for change. Duterte said he wanted to address the security, needs and welfare of overseas Filipinos and to stop illegal recruitment. I believe the new DOF proposed by Duterte can address all these problems."

Duterte will take office as the 16th President of the Philippines on June 30 for a term of six years. He garnered 83.5 per cent, or 51,879 of the total 62,103 votes cast in the recent Filipino overseas voting in the UAE. 

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