PH chancery has a 'wiener view'

By Marvin Sy, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 15 2012 09:14 AM | Updated as of Aug 15 2012 08:42 PM

MANILA, Philippines - To have a diplomatic post situated on top of a supermarket with German frankfurters in plain view outside its windows is absolutely unacceptable and embarrassing for the country.

This was the view of Senate committee on finance chairman Franklin Drilon, who emphasized the need for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to purchase more suitable and decent properties to house the people who officially represent the Philippines in other countries.

“I have visited a number of our embassies abroad and to say that some of them need improvement is an understatement,” Drilon said.

He recalled his visit to Berlin, Germany several years ago where he had a chance to look at the Philippine chancery there.

Drilon said that he was given a tour of the chancery by then ambassador Jose Zaide and he could not forget the image of German frankfurters hanging outside the window.

“It’s an embarrassment. An embassy on top of a supermarket,” Drilon said.

According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, the chancery is still situated on top of that supermarket.

Del Rosario said that the DFA has found a new location in Berlin to house both the chancery and the residence of the ambassador and that it is currently under construction.

He lamented that the DFA has limited funds for purchasing its own buildings that would serve as embassies, consulates or residences of the ambassador.

Del Rosario noted that the DFA has proposed a budget of P893.5 million for capital outlay in the proposed 2013 national budget.

He said that P482.3 million of that amount would serve as a building fund, which would cover the costs of various buildings of the DFA, including the amortization of the new consular office along Macapagal Boulevard, a chancery in London, the embassy in Seoul, Korea and the chancery in Berlin.

The building fund is sourced from the consular income of the DFA, representing 10 percent of the total amount.

There are currently 84 diplomatic posts being maintained by the DFA and several of these are being leased by the department.

Drilon pointed out that the DFA spends around P670.9 million a year for rentals of its embassies and consulates alone.

In fact, the DFA has already closed down five of its diplomatic posts in Barcelona, Spain; Koror, Palay; Dublin, Ireland; Frankfurt, Germany; and Caracas, Venezuela to save on cost.

Five more would be closed by the end of October namely Stockholm, Sweden; Bucharest, Romania; Havana, Cuba; Helsinki, Finland; and Saipan.

Drilon noted that around P162 million a year would be saved by the DFA with the closure of the 10 diplomatic posts.

In order to help the DFA in its efforts to secure its own buildings overseas, Drilon said that he would work for the increase in its building fund by 100 percent.

“I am willing to consider amending your budget to increase the percentage of the use of the consular fund on the condition that it will be used exclusively for the acquisition of embassies, chanceries or residences,” Drilon said.

He directed the DFA to submit a list of diplomatic posts that would be prioritized for upgrading, which the committee on finance would consider.

Drilon also directed the DFA to step up its efforts to encourage Filipino expatriates to reacquire their Filipino citizenship as provided for under the Dual Citizenship Law.

According to Drilon, only 95,000 Filipinos overseas have regained their citizenship since the law, of which he was the principal author, was passed.

“I am disappointed at the implementation of this Dual Citizenship Law. The 95,000 is a very small percentage of the universe of former Filipino citizens who could have availed of dual citizenship law,” Drilon said.