Remarks of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs on the 148th birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini, July 26, 2012

Remarks of Secretary Albert del Rosario:
On the celebration of 148th birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini and the 114th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs

[Delivered in Pasay City on June 26, 2012]

His Excellency, Mr. President; distinguished guests; colleagues in the service; ladies and gentlemen:

Today we are honored to have His Excellency, the President, with us in commemorating the 148th Anniversary of the birth of Apolinario M. Mabini, the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs. As we know, despite being afflicted with polio as a young man, Mabini rose from humble beginnings to become the “brains of the revolution” and one of the founding fathers of our nation. A brilliant lawyer, philosopher, writer, and a patriot with few equals-he was.

It was at the dawn of Philippine nationhood when Mabini assumed the position of Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He organized and led the fledging Department of Foreign Affairs even as the revolutionary government and the country were under a grave threat of foreign invasion.

He died at the young age of 39, yet his vision of a free, democratic, and prosperous nation continues to guide and inspire our country, especially the department, as we face the new realities, complexities, and challenges in global affairs.

The legacy of Mabini lives on in the tradition of the DFA. A tribute to his greatness, the Gawad Mabini, was created in 1974 as a special award for excellence in diplomacy and distinguished service to the country in the field of foreign relations. It is conferred by the President of the Republic to Foreign Service personnel and other Filipinos for exemplary and dedicated service in promoting the interests of the country at home and abroad.

We are confident that the conferment of the Gawad Mabini will further inspire and reinvigorate our career officials and staff to reach beyond their grasp, to do more with less, and to set the highest standard of performance and service to our country and our people.

The DFA Strategic Plan 2012-2014, launched in April this year, provides a blueprint for the DFA and the Foreign Service as we synchronize and focus our efforts and resources to attain the targets set by the Aquino Administration in the short- and medium- term.

We in the DFA are always mindful of the fact that our foreign policies must first and foremost serve our national interests, particularly the protection and enhancement of our sovereignty and security, the defense of our territorial integrity, the promotion of economic and development needs of our country as well as the protection and advancement of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos.

We will endeavor to attain these goals by maintaining and strengthening fruitful and beneficial relations with our neighbors and the wider international community based on mutual respect and mutual regard for each other’s sovereignty and independence.

Here in the DFA, the pursuit of economic security is a priority pillar. Our foreign service missions abroad were given a categorical mandate to channel all possible economic opportunities overseas, whether in trade, investment, development assistance, public-private partnership, and tourism, into the Philippines for the benefit of our country and our fellow Filipinos. To accomplish this goal, in partnership with AIM, we trained our foreign service officials including our honorary consular officers on the effective conduct of economic diplomacy, we set economic targets and work plans for our foreign missions, and we established a process to monitor and sustain our economic diplomacy efforts.

The promotion and protection of the welfare of our fellow Filipinos overseas is of equal importance to the DFA. We are relentless in pursuing mutually beneficial partnerships with foreign governments and other organizations such as labor cooperation and similar collaborative efforts to expand the opportunities for our OFWs and to ensure the protection of their rights.

We have dedicated significant focus to keeping our people safe in conflict stricken areas. These efforts, until now, present a constant challenge in order to implement the presidential mandate that no one gets left behind.

We also participate in international efforts to curb human trafficking, human smuggling, illegal recruitment, slavery, and unfair labor practices, among others.

We have also made it our business to improve our basic services and to bring these services closer to the people. The DFA Office of Consular Affairs works 24/7 to improve the passport appointment, processing, encoding, and releasing system. We made a quantum leap from the past when it took months of waiting before the release of passports into our current waiting time of three to five days for appointment, and 7 and 15 days for releasing of passports. We have also started relocating our consular offices nationwide to our partner malls such as the Pacific Mall in Mandaue, Robinsons Star Mills in San Fernando, and Marquee Mall in Angeles City to make our services more accessible and convenient to the public. By yearend, the DFA expects to open the rest of its consular offices in different shopping malls in the country. In Metro Manila, the DFA will also open consular offices in SM Megamall, Robinsons Galleria, SM City Manila, and Alabang Town Center, to accommodate our growing metropolitan clients. These new initiatives have resulted in a cost savings of at least P1.14b for the DFA over a ten-year period.

Allow me also to share with everyone that our foreign-service posts’ active overseas absentee voting registration exercises enabled the DFA to register a total of 750,993 overseas Filipinos as of July 3. We will work harder to meet our goal of one million registered overseas voters for the upcoming 2013 senatorial and party-list elections.

With the myriad difficulties and challenges, we nevertheless believe that the men and women of the Foreign Service have the full capacity and competence to serve at all times as the first liners for our country.

Finally, I wish to congratulate all the awardees today for their accomplishments and valuable contribution to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Service. Their legacy will serve as a great inspiration to all of us.

Thank you and may you have an enjoyable day.

Related: Speech of President Aquino on the 148th birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini and the 114th anniversary of the DFA, July 26, 2012