How the lives of ordinary Filipinos improved in PGMA’s 'people' policy cited

June 2, 2010 8:26 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, June 2 — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) projects ranging from superb consular services and human rights promotion to proactive assistance to seafarers, interfaith dialogue and business outsourcing were this week cited by a cross-section of Filipinos as a testimony to how Philippine foreign policy under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has improved the lives of ordinary Filipinos.

A foreign-based Filipino worker and individuals from the private sector, religious community and the academe were among those who attested to the direct impact of such DFA initiatives at the 112th “DFA Day” on Tuesday.

Lydio Manolo Merano, who worked abroad for 18 years, compared how alleged passport “fixers” in the old days have practically disappeared, lessening the woes of would-be Filipino workers abroad.

He also admired the fast processing of e-passports which are compliant with safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. “What I can say is that the DFA is better (now),” he said.

Celine Clemente, private sector member of the Philippine Tourism Promotions Board, said DFA was “instrumental in opening new and expanded tourism markets through the negotiations of wider bilateral air services agreements.” As a result, more flights came into airports other than the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, she added.

“In recent years, we in the tourism industry witnessed the tremendous activities, continuing programs and advancement in technology being embarked by the DFA,” she said.

Doris Magsaysay-Ho, President of the Magsaysay Shipping Lines and Philippine Representative to the APEC Business Advisory Council, also expressed thanks to DFA “for helping save the lives of Filipino seafarers who were held captive by Somali pirates.”

Scores of such captives are still in the hands of the pirates, DFA said, whose hands are tied at times because of huge ransoms demanded from shipping company owners.

“The DFA has been proactive and has been amazing in protecting our men and women as they face the hazards of piracy, war and other threats.

"I have personally witnessed the direct intervention of the President and the Secretary, and the dedication with which government officials like (DFA Undersecretary) Sonny Conejos and the Ambassadors around the world and others have helped hostages, families and crew in times of difficulty,” Magsaysay-Ho said.

On his part, Oscar Sañez, chief executive officer of the Business Process Outsourcing Association of the Philippines (BPOAP) said there is a strong partnership between Philippine BPOs and the government in promoting the industry worldwide.

“I represent a true global industry that is truly Filipino and what had happened in the industry for the past few years in the industry has never happened before in the history of the country in terms of how to turn a small industry into something that is truly global.

"It would not have happened without the kind of collaboration and leadership that we have seen between the industry and government,” Sañez said.

Because of the collaboration, the Philippines became the No. 2 global player in the IT/BPO industry with more than 460,000 workers and over US$ 7 billion in revenues in 2009, according to Sañez.

Through the DFA, the Philippines also leads the advocacy for the promotion of human rights in Southeast Asia, and lawyer Carlos Medina of the Ateneo Human Rights Center attested that the DFA “has always been very supportive, and has carried this advocacy forward.”

As a member of the Philippine Working Group of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on human rights, “the Philippines has striven to be the most progressive of vanguards when it comes to human rights in ASEAN and has sought to keep its foreign policy decisions in line with ASEAN’s vision of a truly people-oriented community,” Medina said.

As for interfaith dialogue, Bishop Cesar Punzalan III lauded the Arroyo administration’s advocacy “which has brought greater partnership with the international Islamic community in seeking peace and development to the region.”

The Philippines hosted the Special Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development in Manila last March in support of this advocacy.

Punzalan credited the Philippines’ open communication with the Islamic world to the number of pardons for Filipinos accused of crimes in Islamic countries.

“Our proactive engagement and dialogue with the international Islamic community has brought pardons for Filipinos accused of crimes in these international Islamic communities. But most importantly, it has allowed us the opportunity to sit down with our neighbors and be one with them in seeking peace and development in our region,” he added.

Rodrigo Fuentes, the executive director of the ASEAN Biodiversity Center, expressed the Center’s sincerest support and gratitude for the administration for its unwavering support and efforts to conserve biodiversity not only in the Philippines, but in the entire ASEAN region.(PNA)

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