Pinoys on Facebook Oppose Barcelona Consulate Closure

31 Jan

4000 members and counting.

This is the number of Filipinos that comprises a group in Facebook, which opposes the closure of the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona.

The group called “NO to Closure of Philippine Consulate General in Barcelona. YES to Pubic Service!” was created last Monday, 23 January, and within just a week  more than 3000 members have already joined.

The social media has been used by the Filipino community in Spain as a democratic platform where they can express their reactions towards the decision of the government to close down the four-year-old Consulate.

Aquí no (Translated literally in English: Not here). Courtesy of Barcelona Exposure Club.

Many members of the group unanimously express the need for a full time Consulate in Barcelona especially now that the population in the areas of Catalonia and Balearic Islands have been continuously increasing given the privilege the Philippines has over family reunification in Spain.  Barcelona and Tarragona also have important ports where most ships manned by Filipino seafarers dock. Ibiza in the Balearic Islands and the nearby principality of Andorra are also home to large Filipino communities. All in all, there are more than 20,000 Filipinos who will be affected by the closure of the Philippine Consulate.

Some members of the group cannot contain their disappointment and despair over the decision. One asked: “don’t abandon us in the middle of the (Spanish economic) crisis…we will be strayed like orphans.”

Another member claims this decision as “injustice since we fought to have it established and there no was no consultation whatsoever (with the Filipino community)”

“Why not cut cost, instead of closing it down?”, another member suggested and enumerated ways to cut costs such as doing away with the Mercedez Benz (used by the Consulate) and first class trips and cut on per diem expenses among others. One added that cost cutting should not start with services rendered by simple hardworking staff but it should start with public officials.

One member suggested that the Filipino community could invite public officials from the Philippines to come to Barcelona to see for themselves how the Filipino migrants live and how much workload of the consular staff have here.  “It’s so easy to give mandate without experiencing the real situation…”

More than 1000 signatures in one day

The big Filipino community in Barcelona has enthusiastically participated in the first day of the signature campaign against the closure of the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona. Photo by Karen Joy Salvador of Barcelona Exposure Club.

The group’s enthusiasm to let the Philippine government know their opposition has resulted to an overwhelming response to the first day of signature campaign held in the Parroquia de San Lorenzo Ruiz Church, a Roman Catholic Church especially dedicated to Filipino residents in Barcelona.

More than 1000 signatures in just one day have been gathered supporting the retention of the Consulate. In Ibiza, according to Parish Migration Desk of Ibiza, Filipinos have already started with the collection of signatures.

The message is clear. Photo by Albert Ian RP of Barcelona Exposure Club.

Four remittance centers and even Pinoy restaurants have also volunteered to be signature gathering centers.

More than 20 Filipino organizations say NO

In Barcelona, more than 20 Filipino organizations composed of various religious, civic and socio-cultural groups have expressed their dismay and disapproval over the government’s decision.  Organizations such as Barcelona Exposure Club, Northern Star, Samahang Kabagis, Timpuyog ti-Ilocano, and Unified Bicolanos in Barcelona have taken their signature campaigns and lobbying initiatives to express their support for the retention of the Consulate.

Meanwhile, Kapulungan ng mga Lider Pinoy sa Barcelona (KALIPI), a federation of Filipino associations in Barcelona together with the support of other organizations, has sent a letter of appeal to the Chairpersons of the House Committees on Overseas Workers Affairs and Foreign Affairs namely Congressman Walden Bello of Akbayan Party List and Congressman Al Francis DC Bichara of Albay.

In its petition letter, it pointed out that “an Honorary Consulate cannot effectively respond to the growing number of Filipinos in Barcelona, nor can a provisional consular service from Madrid, located 600 km away, attend to the urgencies of our Filipino seafarers.”

The letter also cited that the strong relationship between the Barcelona city government, the Philippine Consulate and the Filipino community has already produced significant political, economic and cultural achievements in just short span of time and these will all be put into waste and will incur larger social cost if the full Consulate will be closed.  One of major political parties in Barcelona, Partido de los Socialistas en Cataluña already expressed their support for the retention of the Philippine Consulate.

The Filipino community feels that this decision will send a wrong signal to the people that the government is abandoning them and that the migrants’ good reputation and patriotism are not important for them.

“How can we encourage political participation (Absentee Voting) now if the Consulate is to be closed? The government’s apathy will breed its people’s apathy… The first Absentee Voting held in Barcelona got one of the highest voter’s turnouts in Europe where the current (Philippine) president got the most number of votes,” the letter added.

Over the budgetary reason for closing the Consulate, the letter states that “we do not wish to be considered as simple figures and economic peons. We reject the title ‘Bagong Bayani’ if it is mere lip service. We are more than our remittances, and we are hoping that they…see us as hardworking people who merit their commitment and full service.” Daniel Infante Tuaño, Kay S. Abaño

The young migrants also oppose the government’s decision. Photo by Albert Ian R P of Barcelona Exposure Club.

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