Foremost, I wish to send my warmest greetings to our kababayans in Berlin, especially to the officers and employees of our Embassy who I wish to commend for the hard work that they do in promoting our nation’s interests and protecting our citizens.
Much is expected from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and all the embassies and consulates under it. It is the prime agency of government responsible for the pursuit of the country’s four pillars of foreign policy, namely, the preservation and enhancement of national security, the promotion and attainment of economic security, the protection of the rights and the promotion of the interest of all Filipinos overseas, and the promotion of cultural diplomacy. Our diplomats and our foreign service officers are our silent heroes, who work with much passion and dedication.
As Chair of both the Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Finance in the Senate, the needs and concerns of our foreign service posts have been brought to my attention. Among the concerns include additional funding of existing consular offices and embassies, opening of new consulates, cultural diplomacy programs, training programs, and hazard pay of DFA employees in hardship posts, among others.
It is a must that we address these concerns to ensure that our embassies and consulates would ably carry out their duty to our country and our people. We must ensure that not only our diplomats and foreign service workers are dignified but also our chanceries look dignified because these are representations of our nation.
I am happy that I am able to support the DFA by ensuring that these needs are funded under the national budget. We have already reopened the consular office in Frankfurt recently, and now, we have a new chancery here in Berlin.
It was Ambassador Melita Sta. Maria-Thomeczek, during her time as Philippine Ambassador to Germany, who told me that a new chancery was needed. I did not think twice as I wanted to give my full support to our posts. We found funding for it and now we are proud to inaugurate this new chancery.
Meanwhile, the Consulate General in Frankfurt is a must. Frankfurt is a banking and commerce hub and is home to approximately 15,000 Filipinos and Filipino-Germans.
But our efforts go beyond the needs of our posts. We have also initiated programs that would benefit our country and strengthen our diplomatic ties with Germany.
Since 2016, we have ensured the participation of the Philippines through a country pavilion at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. Our continued presence in the Frankfurt Book Fair is a good opportunity for the Philippines to promote our publishing industry in the global arena, as well as to showcase the world-class talents of our Filipino writers and the gems of Filipino literature, espousing our rich culture and traditions.
We have provided funding for tourism promotion activities of the Department of Tourism office in Frankfurt, and the participation of the Philippines in Ambiente 2019, the leading international consumer goods trade fair, which was held in Frankfurt from February 8-12.
In November last year, the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino Travelling Exhibition, a showcase of our handwoven and embroidered piña-seda fabrics, was displayed at the Design Offices Work Loft Wiesenhüttenplatz in Frankfurt. This is a project I initiated with the National Museum.
I am also looking forward to the exhibition of the Dr. Jose Rizal textile collection in the Philippines in 2020. It was in 2013 when I discovered the collection at the Berlin Ethnological Museum and since then I have been working on bringing it to the Philippines for an exhibit. The textile collection had been donated by Rizal to his friend, Dr. Adolf Bastian, a German ethnologist and founder of the Berlin Ethnological Museum, and Mr. Rudolf Virchow, a German prehistorian and anthropologist. Among the items are handwoven textiles like piña barong and shawl, a Bagobo attire, a Mandaya baby carrier, and a Tboli abaca wrap skirt.
Soon, we will also have a Sentro Rizal at the Consulate General in Frankfurt. Sentro Rizal is a repository of various materials relating to the promotion of Philippine history, arts, culture, language and tourism. One of its main goals is to provide a place where children of overseas Filipino workers can learn about their heritage through cultural programs and activities.
Other programs that we are also looking forward to this year include the Philippine Studies in Humboldt University and in Ruhr University. Moreover, we can also establish diplomacy thru sports. This year, we have given funding for a football clinic to be done by a renowned German team, and would train our kababayans in the Philippines.
Many of our initiatives are on cultural diplomacy because this is an equally important pillar of our foreign policy that we must strengthen.
Cultural diplomacy is a soft opener to our political and economic initiatives with other nations. Through cultural diplomacy, we foster deeper understanding with other nations and we discover that no matter how diverse our respective cultures are, we see similarities or points of convergence, which spark our curiosity to learn more about the culture of the other nation, and bring about deeper appreciation and understanding among citizens of different cultures. This will also be beneficial to our overseas Filipino workers.
With the inauguration of the new chancery of our Philippine Embassy in Germany, we hope for more good things to come between the two nations. This is just the beginning of many more programs that will foster deeper ties.
It is also my hope that these developments will further inspire our foreign service workers in carrying out their noble duty. I will always be a partner of the DFA and I will continue to support our foreign service posts in whatever way I can.
Congratulations and Mabuhay!