Consul General Bayani V. Mangibin said yesterday that the Philippine Consulate General in Guam is ready to rise to the challenge as it takes over the consular responsibilities of the consulate on Saipan, adding that their commitment to help the Filipino community in the CNMI is more important than their presence on the islands.
Mangibin said in a media briefing that the Guam Consulate is still capable of accomplishing its basic duties of documentation, facilitation, and coordination for Filipino workers in the Commonwealth, whether here or in Guam.
“The most important thing is not presence but commitment-commitment on the part of the Guam consulate to serve the Filipinos in the Northern Marianas and commitment from the Filipino community itself to make this possible. Through this commitment, we can alleviate the apprehensions of one another and we hope to adequately provide service to the people here,” he said.
Mangibin and Consul Edgar Tomas “Gary” Q. Auxilian arrived on Saipan Monday-their first visit on island since the announcement in February that the Saipan Consulate General will shut down after Oct. 31 as part of a wider effort to consolidate foreign service posts in the Pacific.
Mangibin acknowledged that the impending closure of the Saipan consulate has cast more concerns and doubts on top of the uncertainties that Filipinos in the Commonwealth already have to deal with in relation to the federalization transition period.
“The pressure is mostly on us,” he told reporters. “There is a challenge to provide services to the Filipino community in the CNMI to the best of our ability to make them feel that we did not turn our backs on them, given the closure of the Saipan consulate and the remoteness of Guam to the Northern Marianas.”
But thanks to modern communication technology, Mangibin said the Guam consulate will be able to bridge the distance separating the two island jurisdictions, allowing Filipinos in the Northern Marianas access to the Guam Consulate through phone call, email, website, and even their Facebook account.
“We'll use all social media to maintain what the Saipan consulate has done for the community here. The process and the responsibilities are the same. The only difference would be the approach,” he said as he urged the community to check the Guam Consulate's Facebook page, email firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.pcgagana.com for their consular needs.
Mangibin said they are also considering Macaraig's recommendation to have a (670) contact number so that Filipinos in the Northern Marianas can call them for assistance without incurring long distance charges in their phone bills.
He disclosed that Consul Auxilian has been assigned as the point of contact for Filipino workers in the CNMI at the Guam consulate. Subject to the approval of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, Auxilian will be back on island by the end of the month in anticipation of Macaraig's departure to his next assignment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Oct. 15.
Besides utilizing social media, Mangibin said there will be at least twice-a-year mobile consular services on Saipan, and at least annual visits to Tinian and Rota. He said the frequency of the mobile services may increase depending on “practicability” and “seriousness and immediacy of needs” in any of the three islands.
Additionally, Mangibin said they support Macaraig's recommendation to have an honorary consul for each of the three islands, who will have to be approved by the U.S. State Department. “While it is true that the Saipan consulate will close down, the truth is that there will be four of us who will take their place.”
Mangibin and Auxilian's five-day visit is part and parcel of the preparations involving the transfer of responsibilities from the consulate on Saipan to Guam.
Mangibin and Auxilian were accompanied by Macaraig in courtesy visits to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, House Speaker Eli Cabrera, and Senate President Paul Manglona.
Last Tuesday, Macaraig introduced the two Guam officials to Filipino community leaders at the Filipino Workers Resource Center-a meeting that resulted in the umbrella group United Filipino Organization accepting the challenge of being the Guam consulate's contact in the CNMI.
Recognizing the difficulties in any transition period, Mangibin called on the help of the Filipino community on Saipan in ensuring their success in taking over the responsibilities of the Saipan consulate and to serve Filipinos in the Commonwealth for their consular needs.