Ople Center backs calls of OFWs in Barcelona for consulate to remain open
OFW and labor advocate Susan Ople urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to reconsider its decision to shut down the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona, Spain in view of the large number of Filipinos under its jurisdiction.
The president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that specializes on migration issues, noted that Filipinos in Barcelona have organized a Facebook account with over 4,000 members to ventilate their misgivings over the DFA’s order to shut down the consulate as part of its rationalization plan.
“We support the appeals of Filipinos in Barcelona for a reconsideration of government’s decision to close down the Philippine Consulate which services more than 20,000 OFWs. The consulate was opened in 2008 in response to the OFWs’ appeals precisely because it was too inconvenient and expensive for them to travel all the way to Madrid for consular assistance,” Ople pointed out.
The former labor undersecretary said the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona also caters to Filipino seafarers whose ships dock at its major ports. This concern was echoed by Filipino community leader Ritzie Ann Taruna who wrote: “Ships, manned mostly by Filipino seafarers who have urgent consular needs, often dock in the international ports of Barcelona and Tarragona.”
Ople pointed out that the limited time of seafarers while the ship is on dock prohibits them from going all the way to Madrid, Spain to visit the Philippine Embassy which is 600 kilometers away from Barcelona.
In a resolution, the United Bicolanos of Barcelona also expressed a unified stand against the closure of the Philippine Consulate General. Victoria Madarieta, president of UBB, noted that the Consulate General started its operations only in March 2008 but has been a big help to communities in Barcelona, Andorra, and the Balearic islands. Even if honorary consuls are to be designated by the Philippine government, the number of Filipino families in these areas would be greatly deprived of consular assistance and services.
Over 4,000 OFWs have signed on to protest the Philippine government’s decision to close down the consulate in Barcelona via Facebook. The “No to Closure of Philippine Consulate in Barcelona. Yes to public service!” was created on Facebook by Filipino journalist Daniel Infante Tuano who writes for the Ang Bagong Filipino, a local paper for OFWs in Spain.
“The general sentiment is that while financial realignments may be called for within the DFA, it shouldn’t be at the expense of Filipinos overseas who are in dire need of consular services. We hope that the DFA will undertake more consultations with community leaders and OFW stakeholders prior to recommending the closure of embassies and consulates for cost-cutting purposes,” the Ople Center said.