Pinoys protest closure of Frankfurt consulate

by Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau Chief

Posted at Mar 14 2012 05:36 PM | Updated as of Mar 15 2012 01:36 AM

FRANKFURT, Germany - The extreme cold weather did not dampen the spirits of Filipinos in Frankfurt and other nearby federal states during their kilometer-long protest march.

Almost a hundred joined the protest action, including two Filipino priests and German supporters.
Carrying placards and yellow flowers with yellow ribbons, the marchers sang the protest song, “Bayan Ko”. They appealed to President Aquino to reconsider the government's plans to close the Frankfurt consulate. 
They maintained that the closure of its consulate will affect 11,000 Filipinos.
They said the Frankfurt consulate is able to process more passports compared to the Philippine Embassy in Berlin, which is about 6 hours away.
The protesters don’t buy the argument that the closure has something to do with budget cuts.
“O, bakit hindi ipasara ang Lisbon na embassy, wala naman masyadong Pilipino doon? Magastos din yun! Kung isasara dito, kabubukas lang syempre lalakihan nila ang Berlin,” said Vickie Villar, head of the protest march. 
They hope the Aquino government would rather downsize than close the consulate. .
“We have to convince our government na talagang kailangang-kailangan ang konsulado dito sa Frankfurt,” said Father Melchor Braga.
But Consul General Raul Santiago explained that the consulate closure will not mean the end for Filipinos based in Frankfurt.
As part of the plan, Santiago said two more small honorary consulates will be created. He said more outreach programs will be initiated to provide consular services for those in far-flung areas of Germany.
He doubted the figures cited by the protesters that more passports are being processed in Frankfurt compared to Berlin.
"What I'm saying is very simple. I don't know where they got their statistics, but I'm saying their statistics are inaccurate," Santiago said.
Ambassador Cleofe Natividad earlier explained the embassy in Berlin is relevant and strategically located because Berlin serves as the trade hub, commercial and political center of Germany.
The protesters also gathered more than 2,000 signatures. including Germans, in support of their cause.
It was a peaceful march as several German police and traffic enforcers kept an eye on the protest movement.
The Frankfurt consulate in Germany is only one of 10 embassies and consulates of the Department of Foreign Affairs that are targeted for permanent closure due to budget cuts and re-allocation of foreign service personnel to Middle East diplomatic posts.