Statement: The Secretary of Foreign Affairs during the 149th Birth Anniversary of Apolinario Mabini and Conferment of Awards Ceremony, July 23, 2013

Statement of Secretary Albert F. del Rosario:
During the 149th Birth Anniversary of Apolinario Mabini and Conferment of Awards Ceremony

 [July 23, 2013]

Distinguished guests, colleagues in the Department, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning.

On this beautiful day we celebrate the life of a hero whose brilliance, greatness and passion for reform are very well known to us.

As a young man, Apolinario Mabini exhibited fortitude and defied expectations. With his uncommon intelligence and keen sense of determination, he refused to succumb to complacency and rose above the challenges of his time.

As a revolutionary, he demonstrated unwavering commitment to freedom and independence. He valiantly fought colonial occupation and aroused patriotic fervor in many Filipinos, keeping the struggle for freedom very much alive.

And as the country’s first Secretary of Foreign Affairs, he tirelessly advocated a foreign policy anchored on sovereignty and self-determination.

Indeed, Mabini’s life was one that was not defined by the constrictions of fate or circumstance, rather than by his vision of what the nation could achieve as an independent State in the community of nations.

Today, as we commemorate the legacy of the man whose profound patriotism, uncompromising beliefs and remarkable intellect helped shape Philippine diplomacy, we also honor the men and women of the Department who have exhibited  remarkable dedication in pursuit of the three pillars of our country’s foreign policy.

Safeguarding our sovereignty and national patrimony

In the past year, we became witness to persistent threats on the peace and stability of our region. Through all of these, we at the Department ensured that the Philippines stood firmly as the voice of reason, championing an advocacy for peaceful relations through diplomatic consultations and strict adherence to international law.

Amidst the developments in the West Philippine Sea, we continue to steadfastly defend what is legitimately ours. Defending our country, including our maritime territory, is a fundamental right of the Filipino people. We have reaffirmed before the international community the Philippines’ legitimate rights in the West Philippine Sea by initiating arbitral proceedings under UNCLOS.  We remain committed to freedom and safety of navigation and commerce.  We seek the preservation of a stable and secure environment in the region.

Enhancement of economic diplomacy

The Aquino Administration’s governance mantra, “good governance is good economics,” has solidified the country’s economic performance in the past three years.

Through its Foreign Service Posts, the Department intensified its economic diplomacy efforts, working 24/7 to supplement efforts to attract foreign investment, boost trade and tourism and encourage development assistance to the Philippines.

From maritime security to economic cooperation, from counter-terrorism to cultural exchanges, not only do we continue to articulate Philippine interests and initiatives through active participation in various international fora but we also spearhead the organization of leadership events.

In 2015, the President will host the annual meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the DFA will help ensure the success of these events.  The hosting of APEC, our second since 1996, will reaffirm the leadership role that the Philippines is able to play in the global arena.

Diplomacy that truly cares for Filipinos overseas

Faithful to our mandate of keeping watch over Filipinos wherever he or she may be, we have maintained a proactive stance and strengthened our capacities in ensuring that the rights and welfare of Filipinos overseas are promoted and protected at all times.

Since 2010, the DFA has extended assistance to more than 31,000 overseas Filipinos in distress, including members of their families. These include those with pending death penalty cases, seafarers held hostage by Somali pirates, and victims of human trafficking.

In the wake of the civil strife in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, or natural disasters in other countries, we exerted every effort to ensure that our nationals  are kept out of harm’s way. We have devised innovative, cost-effective and even creative mechanisms in repatriating many thousand Filipinos. Our diplomatic and consular personnel have risked life and limb to make certain that no one exposed to danger is left behind.

Furthermore, the DFA has actively implemented programs and activities to strengthen its capability to deliver efficient, prompt and responsive frontline service to all Filipinos, both here and abroad.  We have brought our consular services closer to the people by opening over 15 offices through partnerships with leading shopping malls, at no cost to the Department.  These successful partnerships are expected to save the government around P1.2 billion in the next ten years.  We do plan to open more consular offices soon.

To all our foreign service posts, I commend you for your sustained commitment in “helping realize the Philippines’ full potential.”

To all the awardees today, l congratulate you for all your accomplishments and valuable contribution to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Your steadfast commitment and positive contributions would have made Apolinario Mabini proud.  And I am very proud of all of you.

Finally, l wish to echo these timeless words of wisdom from our founding father —

Develop your special talents, work and study according to your capabilities, never stray from the path of good and justice… and by this means, contribute to the progress of humanity.

Ladies and gentlemen:

The Department of Foreign Affairs continues to follow this “path of good and justice” as we pursue a responsive, focused and forward-looking foreign policy.

I thank you and a good morning to all of you.