That most special time of the year is upon us when the world rejoices in the Yuletide season. During this blessed time, we pause from our busy lives to reflect on the true meaning of the season and to joyfully share our blessings with loved ones. Peace and goodwill reign in our hearts.
Our thoughts promptly turn to Filipinos overseas and to the diaspora of relatives and friends making their mark beyond our shores. We admire their perseverance and we are grateful for their contribution to Philippine economic growth.
We also think of our Foreign Service personnel in 94 Philippine embassies, consulates general and missions who faithfully serve at the frontlines of Philippine diplomacy and consular services. We acknowledge the service they provide to the Filipino people.
During the Overseas Absentee Voting administered by our Foreign Service Posts this year, Filipinos abroad exercised their right to vote thus demonstrating their commitment to democratic ideals.
President Aquino's resolve in bringing about meaningful reforms in governance rekindles our optimism for the future.
In the international stage, the Department was fully behind President Aquino in his initial engagements as chief architect of Philippine foreign policy. The DFA participated in the following international fora where the Philippines made great strides in advancing our interests:
- In New York for the 65th UN General Assembly, the 2nd ASEAN-US Leaders Meeting, the signing of the MCA Compact Agreement, pull-aside talks with President Obama and bilateral meetings with Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore, as well as business meetings promising P2.7 billion worth of investments;
- In Hanoi, Vietnam for a State Visit and the 17th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, where, among others, the ASEAN member-states adopted the President's proposal for an ASEAN Nautical Highway or an ASEAN Ro-Ro to promote further connectivity among the various ASEAN states and its peoples; and
- In Yokohama, Japan for APEC 2010 where the President secured investment pledges worth $3.655B from three Japanese companies and mounted an appeal for the leveling of the playing field on the issuance of travel alerts.
During his first 100 days in office, the President interceded for the lives of Filipinos facing death penalties in Malaysia and China. Under his guidance, government representations continue for the commutation of death penalty cases in the Middle East. Distressed OFWs in Kuwait, Bahrain, Jeddah, Maldives and Martinique have been repatriated in addition to seafarers rescued from Somali waters.
In line with the President's marching orders for efficient public services, the passport application process has been improved so that waiting time from entry to exit has been reduced to one hour or less; special passport lanes dedicated to OFWs, senior citizens, People with Disabilities and families with small children. An on-line passport appointment system and ePayment of passport fees through Land Bank of the Philippines are now available, along with a passport delivery service system nationwide. These improvements demonstrate the Department's unfailing resolve to heed the clamor for change.
With all of these achievements of the Department this year, the Yuletide season brings with it more than the usual holiday cheer; we have every reason to keep the faith with the promise of a better country for our people.
Especially this Christmas, we pray for the safety and well-being of our beloved overseas Filipinos and their families. May all of your sacrifices in the name of family bring forth dreams fulfilled and a brighter future.
ALBERTO G. ROMULO
Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Pasay City, 24 December 2010