Only two Philippine government offices have so far acknowledged receipt of the United Filipino Organization petition seeking for the retention of the Philippine Consulate General on Saipan.
Bong Malasarte, president of the umbrella organization of some 30 Filipino groups in the CNMI, disclosed yesterday that they received a response via postal mail from the office of Sen. Loren Legarda.
Legarda chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The letter dated March 28 was signed by Legarda's chief legislative officer, Ma. Victoria Evangelista.
“We have taken note of your concerns and these shall be raised at the appropriate forum,” Evangelista said.
Malasarte said UFO received another response, also by postal mail, in a memorandum form from attorney Grace N. Andres, deputy secretary general of the House of Representatives' Office of the Speaker.
The memo endorses the petition and a letter from the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa supporting the appeal not to shut down the Consulate General so it could continue to ensure the protection of the rights and interests of the 8,000 Filipinos living and working in the CNMI.
Malasarte said they have yet to receive a reply from the Office of the President and the Department of Foreign Affairs, although he noted that they have heard from DFA through its Office of Personnel and Administrative Services.
About 5,300 signatures were gathered for the petition conducted by UFO from February to March in the hopes of preventing the imminent closure of the Consulate General after Oct. 31.
DFA said that due to budgetary constraints, the Saipan Consulate General will be among the posts that will be closed down within the year, and its responsibilities will be transferred to the Guam Consulate.
Malasarte said in an interview that while they are pleased to receive a response, they have yet to hear one from the DFA, which made the decision to shut down the consulate in the first place.
“It only goes to show how slow our government is in taking action on a very important and urgent matter,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Malasarte said their group continues to follow up on the petition to provide updates to the Filipino community in the CNMI, particularly those who signed the petition.
“At this point, we're still hopeful that we will hear from them because our petition deserves a response from our government,” he added.