The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to react and take action to the petition of Filipinos in the CNMI calling for the retention of the Philippine Consulate General on Saipan.
United Filipino Organization, the umbrella organization of some 30 Filipino groups in the Commonwealth, spearheaded the petition in February to oppose DFA's plan to close down the Saipan Consulate and other consular offices within the year.
UFO president Bong Malasarte yesterday expressed dismay over the lack of response two months after sending the petition to DFA secretary Albert F. Del Rosario and other government offices that received hand-delivered copies of the petition, including the Office of the President, Office of House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, House Committee on Foreign Affairs chair Al Francis Bichara, and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chair Loren Legarda.
Malasarte said over 4,800 Filipinos signed the petition in support of the clamor not to shut down the Consulate, the last day for which is Oct. 31. However, several hundreds more endorsed the petition at the last minute, bringing the total number of signatures to about 5,300.
The petition was supported by a separate letter from Fr. Ryan P. Jimenez, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, who wrote the appeal on behalf of the 13 parishes in the CNMI for the Consulate to continue its operations and ensure the rights, interests, and welfare of Filipinos living and working in the islands.
“We haven't received any answer from them and we are in the process of following up on this matter through our UFO members based in Manila,” Malasarte told Saipan Tribune.
Consul General Medardo Macaraig, in a separate interview, said that the petition was never discussed when he met with Del Rosario and other consular heads in the U.S. in early March.
“The petition was never discussed during that meeting and even to this day. But I don't want to follow up on this because it's almost always interpreted that it's my initiative,” said Macaraig.
He noted, though, that the petition merits a response or a course of action from DFA.
“The closure of the Consulate is a done deal now but the only thing that can affect it is the petition from the community. That's the only thing that's still in play,” Macaraig emphasized.
UFO's Malasarte, for his part, said that while their group is already working on getting a reply from the Philippine government regarding the petition, they cannot implore these officials or expedite whatever protocol their agencies follow.
“But as soon as we hear from them, we will surely inform the Filipino community because they deserve to know the answer,” he added.
Malasarte also welcomed any individuals or groups that want to extend assistance in following up on the petition.
“Anything that would help our appeal to retain the Consulate's presence in the CNMI is always welcome because it would benefit all Filipinos here in the islands,” he said.