JUST ARRIVED

Philippine Consulate in Sydney expands as demand for consular services rises

The Consulate's calendar of activities is, to use Aussie lingo, chock-a-block, writes MICHELLE BALTAZAR.

A second Consul and two new staff will join the Philippine Consulate General in Sydney by July this year, as more Filipinos seek consular services, such as passport, visa and dual citizenship applications.

Consul General Anne Jalando-on Louis made the announcement at the biannual meeting with Filipino community leaders and media last night, held at the Consulate's office in Sydney.

"Since I arrived [three years ago], the volume of transactions has gone up," she said, averaging 30 transactions a day back then to now 40 transactions, reaching as high as 65 during peak times.

To cater for the increased traffic through its doors, the Consulate will expand the Passport section area and has since swapped its previous telephone system to one that takes double the number of calls-in-waiting.

In addition, the information brochure on Passports has been updated this year to answer many of the most commonly asked questions.

PAVING THE WAY

It has been a busy time for the Consulate since the last community meeting held two years ago.

Consul General Ann Jalando-on Louis
Consul General Ann Jalando-on Louis

Among the highlights were: the visit of the Philippine President Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino, Jr. in 2012; the consequent visit of the NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to the Philippines early this year; ongoing advocacy on the Philippines as an investment hub and a business process outsourcing (BPO) destination; and provision of regular updates on the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea territorial dispute.

In November last year, the super-typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda disaster, added to the Consulate's ever-expanding day-to-day responsibilities. The Consulate hopes to have a comprehensive record of all fundraising initiatives in NSW and encouraged attendees last night to inform the Consulate of fundraising efforts for documentation purposes.

To date, the Consulate managed to gather progress reports that showed more than 40 individuals and associations combined have raised at least $247,000 in cash to go towards various typhoon Haiyan aid programs.

The list is by no means complete as more fundraising projects are planned and not all fundraisers submitted their details.

A FULL DANCE CARD

Consul General Louis also took the opportunity last night to share the Consulate's calendar and a list of community activities centred on three key occasions this year: Independence Day Celebrations in June, national hero's Jose Rizal's 153rd birthday anniversary on June 19, and Apolinario Mabini's 150th birthday anniversary on July 26.  

Starting in May, the Consulate will be accepting overseas vote registrations ahead of the 2016 Presidential elections, and has encouraged those who have just had their dual citizenship approved to register.

To make it easier for those who live in the southwest of Sydney, the Consulate will open a Mobile Mission at the October 6 Fiesta Kultura, which is likely to be held at the same venue last year, the Fairfield Showgrounds.

Attendees arrive at biannual meeting
Attendees arrive at biannual meeting

"Every year we are there, but we don't get too many clients. Still, we want to continue this mobile mission and accept applications at the venue," she said, with consular services such as passporting and civil registries available on the spot. 

The Consul General covered a lot of ground in the two hours she spoke to more than 90 community leaders and press members. 

She said there's never been a better time to improve bilateral relations between the Philippine Government and the NSW Government, with Premier O'Farrell's visit prompted by President Aquino's invite, following the president's visit a year earlier to NSW.

"We hope the community leaders will help in really putting the Philippines forward, specially now that it is taking off economically," she said, referring to the country's investment grade status, better-than-expected GDP growth and rising overseas remittance and BPO figures.

Photo credit: Violi Calvert

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