Drilon asks DFA to rationalize embassies, consulates abroad PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 October 2010 13:19

Senator Franklin Drilon has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to rationalize the operations of embassies and consulates abroad, a move that would enable the government to cut expenditures amid a widening budget gap.

Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the DFA should “review” Philippine presence and standards should be put in place that would prompt the establishment of embassies and consulates overseas.

“I would like to think that there was really a substantial number of our compatriots in a particular country that would justify an embassy, because if we say that if there are Filipinos in a particular place, we will put our embassy in every corner of this universe… Given our limited resources, we should rationalize our presence in many countries,” Drilon said.

Drilon was reacting to a statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo that the main criterion for the establishment of embassies and consular offices abroad is that there are Filipinos residing in that particular country and the economic partnership is substantial.

There are 67 embassies and 23 consular offices and four missions abroad. The “economic diplomacy and political and security issues” are also considered, Romulo added.

Drilon, however, said the Philippines seems like a rich country, with consular offices and embassies “almost in every corner of the world.” He said several countries have a “very minimal” number of Filipinos and the trade is “not substantial” to justify Philippine presence.

“We are not a rich country which can just keep on opening embassies all over the place… It is as if our finances are never ending,” said Drilon during a hearing on the proposed P10.98 billion DFA budget for next year. The DFA’s budget is 13% lower than the P12.74 billion appropriated in this year’s national outlay.

For one, the government maintains three separate embassies in three neighboring countries—Romania, Hungary and Poland, Drilon said. The lawmaker said that there are 377 Filipinos in Romania, 170 in Hungary and 245 in Poland, adding that trade in Romania and Hungary stood at $80 million or about P3.46 billion and $51 million or P2.21 billion in Poland.

Compared with other nations, total trade with the three countries remains minimal, with Singapore at $6.2 billion or P268.2 billion; Malaysia, $3.1 billion or P131.5 billion and Indonesia, $2.1 billion or P91.4 billion.

As for expenditures, the government spends about P57-125 million annually to maintain an embassy in abroad.

Drilon said the government could save hundreds of millions of pesos, if not billions, annually if state presence is rationalized in several countries.

Romulo concurred with Drilon’s observation, saying “we are certainly willing to review the criteria for all of this.”