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.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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  • Henidina Pelin Toledano

    Thank you for supporting our cause here in Barcelona. We need people like you to be one with us in our crusade against the decision of the government to close the consular office in Barcelona. In fact ,we took moves already of reaching out to our Representatives in Congress to intercede for us , like you,they can take more concrete actions on ouir behalf.

    For us here, we cannot see the wisdom of such a drastic decision for this runs counter to the very end of public service which the Philippine Government owe us. The services afforded us by the consular office from the time it was established approximate our ideals of public service.

    As overseas workers,we epitomize denial of ourselves in its truest sense. This ,we do for the upliftment of the lives of our dear ones back home. Only those who have had experiences in working abroad can truly understand what these words stand for…

    .In the midst of our physical, emotional, mental and all kinds of turmoil, we need to feel that we are being cared for. We need to feel that we are important. This feeling of helplessness is at its worst when the government which owe its citizens basic services and protection cannot afford the same in the most accessible and expeditious means.

    The establishment of the PCG in Barcelona made a lot of difference in us . Not only that the government was made closer to us but more significantly we have gradually become used to live with a government within our midst. It has become not only our refuge but our HOME. ..A home , we deserve… A home , worth defending!!!! MABUHAY ANG MGA PILIPINO SA BARCELONA!!!!

  • janelle

    Dear Ms. Ople,

    Thank you for your concern for our ofw’s. The country profits by souls like yours. Cheers,

    Janelle

  • Thank you Janelle!

  • Hello Dina. I hope that the government will reconsider its decision to close down our embassies and consulates especially in places like Barcelona. It really doesn’t make sense. Why close it down only to pass on the burden to the Filipinos in Barcelona? Nagtipid nga pero nakadagdag naman sa problema ng mga OFWs. I am with you in this fight. Unfortunately, I think that the DFA has made up its mind and no one seems interested in the higher echelons of power to tell them otherwise. But hope springs eternal. God bless!