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A labor advocacy group said 4,000 Filipinos urged the Philippine government through Facebook not to close down its consulate in Barcelona. In a press statement on Tuesday, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization, said the Filipinos protested against the planned closure of the consulate via the "No to Closure of Philippine Consulate in Barcelona. Yes to public service!" page on Facebook. The page was created on Facebook by Filipino journalist Daniel Infante Tuano who writes for the "Ang Bagong Filipino," a paper for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Spain.
"We support the appeals of Filipinos in Barcelona for a reconsideration of government's decision to close down the Philippine Consulate which services more than 20,000 OFWs," said Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. "The consulate was opened in 2008 in response to the OFWs' appeals precisely because it was too inconvenient and expensive for them to travel all the way to Madrid for consular assistance," Ople noted. A former Labor undersecretary, Ople explained that the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona also caters to Filipino seafarers whose ships dock at its major ports. Ople pointed out that when ships are on dock, seafarers have little time to go all the way to the Philippine Embassy in Madrid, some 600 kilometers away from Barcelona. The advocacy group quoted Filipino community leader Ritzie Ann Taruna as saying, "Ships, manned mostly by Filipino seafarers who have urgent consular needs, often dock in the international ports of Barcelona and Tarragona."
"The general sentiment is that while financial realignments may be called for within the DFA, it shouldn't be at the expense of Filipinos overseas who are in dire need of consular services," the Ople Labor Center said. "We hope that the DFA will undertake more consultations with community leaders and OFW stakeholders prior to recommending the closure of embassies and consulates for cost-cutting purposes," it added.
In a resolution, the United Bicolanos of Barcelona (UBB) also expressed a unified stand against the closure of the Philippine Consulate General. Victoria Madarieta, president of UBB, noted that the Consulate General started its operations only in March 2008 but has been a big help to communities in Barcelona, Andorra, and the Balearic islands. - VVP, GMA News