Winnipeg Consular Outreach Program serves the needs of the Filipinos in Winnipeg

Winnipeg Consular Outreach Program serves the needs of the Filipinos in Winnipeg

By Rod E. Cantiveros

The second and last for this year, the Philippine Consulate Outreach Program in Winnipeg served the more than thousands applicants at PCCM where the 5-member consular team from Toronto conducted the processing of ePassport, Special Powert of Attorney, NBI clearance and the oath taking of dual citizens’ successful applicants.

This time, the applicants made appointments in advance to avoid the over-crowding and thus, it would be much easier to facilitate the demands for services. And those who had no appointment were given also a chance on the last day of the service.

“With the big number of Filipinos in Winnipeg, the possibility of setting up a permanent consular office is hampered by the budgetary constraint of the present administration. We are pushing to make this plan a reality in the near future,” says Consul General Pedro Chan who arrived Sunday to meet the Filipinos in Winnipeg to administer a dual citizenship ceremony. After the June consular outreach program, Consul General Pedro Chan presented a petition to the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs to research,evaluate and consider re-opening of a Philippine Consulate in Winnipeg after closing its door in 1985. According to Consul General Pedro Chan, it takes time and money to establish a consulate to serve the Filipinos abroad. In the meantime, a new honorary consul will be named and entrust to this person to represent the Philippine citizens who reside in Manitoba.

As observed by the numbers of applicants last June’s and in this month of October outreach consular services, the need to have a permanent consular office manned by career diplomats is very obvious. It seems that the twice-a-year outreach program is not enough to service the needs of the ever-growing numbers of new comers in Winnipeg. And there has been some cases when an emergency situation arises, the applicant has to go to Toronto to avail the services of the consulate.

“I hope naman na sa susunod, meron na ditong opisina. Aba, mahal ang pamasahe patungong Toronto,” one Filipino woman said.

Hosted by the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba, the flow and movement of the applicants run smoothly with very few hitches. Tau Gamma Fraternity, other community volunteers assisted the personnel of the consulate office in Toronto. As mentioned by one of the officers from the outreach program that volunteers are the great help to their work. As one volunteer said: “We learned a lot from what happened last June at Canad Inns Garden City.”

Consul General Pedro Chan addressed the applicants in the PCCM’s MPR and he stressed his two campaigns for the next Philippine election. His first campaign is to increase the overseas voters to at least 1,000,000. He says: “There were only 350,000 who voted last year’s election and we want to encourage you to apply for dual citizenship in order to vote. We believe that you have a different ways of looking at the election because you have been living in a country with good governance. Your active participation in our election is needed to make changes in the electoral process. You know better who will be the best possible candidates for senators, vice president and president. The one million votes from the overseas will change the playing field in our election.”

His second campaign is vote buying and Consul General Chan explains: “Yes, vote buying is the key. Filipinos abroad send money to their loved one in the Philippines. And the sender can request their loved ones to vote for the right candidates. The money you are sending will serve a purpose of changing the attitude of our voters. Your loved ones would not accept any bribe from the candidates. You buy their votes for the right and honest candidate for senators, vice president and president.”

The five-member consular outreach team worked twice as hard, twice as long. And every single volunteer had given twice of their time and energy. The 3-day consular service would have not been successful without the dedicated support and passion of the volunteers. Prospective applicants for the honorary consul had been interviewed by Consul General Pedro Chan and the announcement of new honorary consul will be made sooner than later.