ROME, Italy - The much-awaited first global conference of Filipinos in Europe started Thursday in the capital of Italy.
Filipinos in Europe were pleased and proud that the Diaspora 2 Dialogue (D2D) conference was held by the Global Filipino Diaspora Council in Rome, the eternal city to which they say all roads lead.
“The first time I attended was in Hawaii and I found it very positive because we are able to relay our messages to the Philippine government and I hope we will continue this,” said Leonor Vintervoll from Norway.
According to official statistics released by Eurostat, there are an estimated 33.3 million foreigners living in the whole of Europe, which comprise 302,509 Filipinos, or about 1%.
This figure is low, since the official statistics compiled by the Commission of Filipinos Overseas show that the total number of Filipinos across Europe is closer to 700,000, including undocumented workers.
The figures nevertheless indicate that there is a huge Filipino population in Europe and it is growing.
In the UK alone, according to the Philippine Embassy, it is estimated that at least 5 children are born to Filipino parents every day.
There are now some 10 million Filipinos living outside the Philippines.
“Napakaganda ng conference na ito dahil sa ang regional meeting na ito ay attended by 12 countries in Europe, and many of us here are here for the first time attending a conference of all Filipinos so its a great initiative.”
“And once you come together and talk to one another ang dami mong malalaman hindi lamang how to improve themselves here in their adopted country, but also how we can help the Philippines back home,” said Loida Nicolas Lewis, interim chair of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council.
The council was formed in September 2011 in a summit held in the middle of a typhoon in Manila and attended by some 400 Filipinos living in 18 countries.
The attendees at the first summit recognized that there is a need for them to organize globally to show they have the power to influence events in the Philippines, to push for development in the country using their billions of dollars of remittances, and to encourage development of their communities scattered around the world.
It is in this spirit that the 'Diaspora 2 Dialogue' conference was put together by the interim council, with assistance from the CFO and the Philippine embassy and community in Rome.
“This is a historic conference because we are coming together to speak with one another, to learn from each other especially in terms of experiences and the lessons learned by Filipinos living and working in Europe,” said CFO Secretary Imelda Nicolas.
Some 150 participants from across Europe, as well as the USA, Canada, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, converged at the Aran Mantegna Hotel to dialogue with one another.
“What I expect from this conference is that there is a tripartite between government, the public sector and private sector. I just want to see a concrete action coming,” said Rona de Guzman from the Netherlands.
“Para malaman namin ang mga issues at kung kinakailangang mag-participate sa policy making para sa ikauunlad ng mga komunidad o mga Pilipino na naninirahan sa ibang bansa eto po ay gagawin namin. Kailangan alam muna namin kung ano-ano ang ginagawa ng ibang asosyasyon sa Europa upang aming maibahagi sa komunidad,” added Jeanette Cueto from the Czech Republic.
Officials who attended the D2D Conference agreed that they too must listen to the concerns of overseas Filipinos who at 10 million now from a solid constituency whose needs and concerns must be addressed by the government.
“Alam nyo po ang sistema noon o siguro isang problema noon minsan defensive ang pamahalaan e kung mayroon nakikitang hindi maganda ang mga kababayan natin maraming dahilan. Ngayon, dahil tapatan na ang usapan problem solving na ang orientation, so may sistema, pwede ninyong ipaabot sa mga kinatawan ng pamahalaan, may proseso at dadaan sa tamang paraan para dito,” said Manuel L. Quezon, undersecretary for Presidential Communications Development & Strategic Planning Office.
It is early days for the conference, but participants look forward to a productive 3 days of interaction with Filipinos from other countries and to agree on an action for the future. - With Diego Evangelista, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau