DFA reveals plan to close down 12 PHL embassies, consulates

October 4, 2011 9:34 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 4 -– Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario revealed on Tuesday at the Senate budget hearing a plan to close down 12 Philippines embassies and consulates as part of the rationalization program of the department.

Del Rosario told the Senate committee on finance which deliberated on the P10.988 billion proposed budget of the DFA for 2012, that the first six embassies and consulates will be shut down in the next first six months and the other six in 2013.

However, Senate committee on finance chairman Senator Franklin Drilon urged the DFA to accelerate the rationalization program and complete the closure of the 12 embassies and consulates before the end of 2012.

”Secretary Del Rosario agreed that there is indeed basis to rationalize and has agreed to close 12 embassies between now and 2013 but we asked him to accelerate this so that the 12 foreign posts can be closed by the end of 2012,” Drilon told the media after passage of the DFA budget at the committee level.

Del Rosario agreed to consider the suggestion of Drilon to finish the closure of 12 posts by end of 2012 that would mean up to P150 million saving for the DFA.

Drilon said the savings that the DFA will incur from the rationalization program will not be returned to the treasury but will be distributed to the embassies which need additional funds.

The senator also said that the DFA career officers and staff who will be affected by the closure of the 12 posts will be deployed in the embassies and consulates of the countries where there are big number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

”We want to make it clear that the intention of the committee is not retrenchment of our employees in the DFA. Our intention is to strengthen and put money in our embassies where there were many OFWs,” Drilon said.

Del Rosario refused to name countries where embassies and consulates will be closed down but factors to be considered in the rationalization are the amount of trade, investment and tourism that the Philippines can generate as well as number of Filipinos that has to be served by the affected posts.

At present, the Philippines has 67 embassies, 23 consulates and four missions throughout the world, serving more than 11 million Filipinos abroad.

Aside from the rationalization of the embassies and consulates, the implementation of the Absentee Voting Act has also been tackled during the Senate committee deliberation of the DFA proposed budget which lower as compared to the current year’s budget of P11.1 billion.

”The absentee voting act has been dismal in so far as the record is concern,” Drilon said.

In the 2010 elections, the DFA has spent P24 million for the implementation of the absentee voting act but only about 150,000 OFWs participated in the election.

”As this level, we could not achieve the purpose of the law which is to influence our election of leaders of our country through our OFWs which are millions in number. We ask the Secretary to look at his this law will be implemented with the end view of increasing substantially the OFW voters in time for the next election,” Drilon said.

Despite some questions on the national expenditure programs, Drilon found the DFA’s proposed budget reasonable and, in fact, “we found it inadequate to respond to the needs of our OFWs.”

”In our opinion, the budget of the DFA is not enough to protect the welfare of millions of OFWs,” he added. (PNA)



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