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Philippine diplomats will now use PH or PHL instead of RP

October 28, 2010 5:31pm

The Philippines has long been known by the initials "RP" for "Republic of the Philippines."

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) says from now on, it will be using the initials "PH" or "PHL" when referring to the Philippines.

The DFA says the move complies with the country codes set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The DFA said the use of the designated country codes PH or PHL would “avoid the ambiguity and confusion with the use of the initials RP."

“The long standing usage of the initials RP is not in accordance with ISO codes, leading to ambiguous initials that can also refer to other countries," the DFA noted.

However, on the ISO country lists online, there is no RP. The closest are Romania (RO) and Puerto Rico (PR).

In a department order issued on October 20, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo directed the DFA’s 67 embassies, 23 consulates general and four permanent missions to use the initials PH or PHL in their dispatches and reports to the Home Office.

The DFA already uses the ISO numeric code for the country, 608, in passports, visa issuances, and authentication documents.

Aside from abbreviated confidential cables from Philippine embassies abroad, RP is also commonly found in media headlines. Vergel Santos, BusinessWorld editorial board chairman and author of journalism books, doesn't think PH or PHL will catch on. "Usage is a matter between us and our audiences," Santos said via SMS.

DFA spokesman Ed Malaya acknowledges, "it needs getting used to, but in due time, it should have wider use and acceptance." He added that the DFA will work with the Philippine Intellectual Property Organization to encourage wider adoption of the PH and PHL codes.

"I don't think it's been discussed at the Cabinet or subcabinet level so for now it seems a purely DFA initiative, although domains have been ph for ages," says Manuel Quezon III, Undersecretary of Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning.

Others would welcome the change for branding reasons. "I've always thought RP was close to RIP," says poet and essayist Krip Yuson.

International standards

The ISO is an international-standard-setting body comprised of representatives from various national standards organizations. The Philippines is a member of the ISO.

Founded on February 23, 1947, the ISO, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, promulgates worldwide proprietary industrial and commercial standards.

While the ISO defines itself as a non-government organization (NGO), its ability to set standards that often become law, makes it more powerful than most NGOs.

The Philippines is represented in the ISO by the Bureau of Product Standards of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Country codes

The ISO developed the ISO3166-1 country codes, assigning two-letter (alpha-2) and three-letter (alpha-3) codes to member countries. It also assigns numeric codes to member countries. The standard defines codes for the names of countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest.

According to the ISO web site, "the alpha-2 code (e.g., PH) is the most widely used one of the three and apart from that it is the basis for other coding systems," such as the ph currently used in many Philippine domain names.

PHL follows the ISO's alpha-3 code, which "allows a better visual association between country name and code element than the alpha-2 code."

Passports and airline tickets

The ISO codes are likewise used in the Philippines and abroad in airline ticketing, passport issuances, currencies, and internationally-traded shares of stocks, among others.

The DFA Office of Consular Affairs has adopted the ISO three-letter codes that appear on the data pages of the Philippine electronic passport.

Societal benefits

The ISO standards have technological, economic and societal benefits. For businesses, the adoption of ISO standards implies that suppliers meet specifications that have wide international acceptance in their sectors.

For governments, ISO standards provide the technological and scientific bases for formulating laws concerning health, safety, and the environment. –VVP/HS, GMANews.TV
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