Palau president appeals to Aquino to keep embassy

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012


PALAU President Johnson Toribiong appealed to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to keep the Philippine Embassy in Palau open.

Toribiong said the Embassy is not only essential to the welfare of the more than 5,000 Filipino overseas workers there but also to the Palau Government that plans to send more of their residents here to study and do business.

In a January 5, 2012 letter, the Philippine Embassy in Koror, Palau declared that it will be closing its Embassy by end July 2012.

"In its current thrust to further rationalize fiscal expenditures at all levels, the Philippine Government has deemed it necessary to realign existing resources of the Philippine Foreign Service," the Philippine Embassy in Koror stated.

In a letter dated January 23, 2012, President Toribiong said the people of Palau are disheartened to learn about the Embassy’s closure.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Palau, I write to implore and formally request that your government reconsider its decision and plans in this regard and not close the Philippine Embassy in Palau,” President Toribiong said.

The Palau President said presence of about 5,000 Filipino workers in Palau is enough reason to maintain the Philippine Embassy in his country.

He said Filipino workers are vital component of the Palau economy considering that Filipinos comprise 60 percent of all foreign workers in Palau and 20 percent of the total population.

“The Philippine Embassy plays a critical and necessary role in providing counselor and other assistance to its citizens living and working here in Palau. Moreover, the presence of the Philippine Embassy has considerably lessened the cases of abuse against Filipino workers in Palau and has helped in the early resolution of the cases that do occur,” President Toribiong said.

Being neighbor with the Philippines, Palau shares a lengthy and contiguous maritime border with our country. Toribiong said Palau has an important role in defining the territorial integrity of the Philippines.

“The exact boundaries of our adjacent maritime borders still remained to be defined in delimitation talks, and these talks should be priority for our respective governments. A Philippine Embassy in Palau would greatly facilitate such talks,” the Palau President said.

It was learned that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was supposed to visit Palau in 2010 to forge an agreement with Palau on matters of fisheries cooperation, labor cooperation, cooperation in combating transnational crimes, training of Palau law enforcement officers, training of Palauan diplomats, and remunerated employment for Embassy dependents.

President Toribiong said the most important function of the Philippine Embassy in Palau, as far as Palauans are concerned, is to facilitate Palau’s Medical Referral Program to the Philippines. The program which is in existence for 20 years now sends an average of 100-150 patients a year to the Philippines for medical treatment.

“Besides the medical referral program, many of our citizens have continued to avail themselves of the opportunity to attend colleges and universities in your country over the years, and your Palau Embassy will facilitate access by our citizens to institutions of higher learning in the Philippines,” Toribiong said.

The Filipino Community in Palau earlier appealed for help to stop the impending closure of the Philippine Embassy there. The group with about 5,000 Filipino members said the absence of a Philippine Embassy in Palau would put the overseas Filipino workers in a disadvantage.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 25, 2012.

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