Secretary of Foreign Affairs

Pre-SONA Event of the Security, Justice, and Peace Cabinet Cluster

15 July 2021

Thank you, Secretary Lorenzana.

DFA is spread out in 94 foreign service posts around the world, across all time zones.  DFA works ‘round the clock to advance Philippine moral leadership:  

First, on the frontlines worldwide; most are still unvaccinated.  One ambassador died; another almost; two consular officers; scores in mortal danger.  You don’t hear them crying.  Brave and true like Filipino nurses. 

Then in human rights, peace and security, protection of migrants, asserting our sovereignty; broadeningcooperation and alliances, which paid off.  Why we are in the Human Rights Council in Geneva so we are not ex-parted.  

With the now finalized UN Joint Program, we strengthen national institutions to promote and protect human rights by technical assistance and capacity-building; even as we battle the worst of human rights abuses:  drug trafficking and drug addiction.  

The program is rooted in Duterte’s directive for constructive and open engagement with the UN in a non-politicized manner.  The joint Philippines-Iceland resolution is a major victory for our independent foreign policy.  Nobody dictates to us how to protect our own people.  But where we need it, we welcome help.  Thank you, Justice Secretary Guevarra and UN Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzales.  

We are making real progress in human rights; while protecting our society from the worst of scourges: drug trafficking that takes over states as in Central America; and drug addiction that destroys its willing victims.  

We led in the formulation and adoption of the Treaty 
to Ban Nuclear Weapons —  the first legally-binding international agreement.  It makes nuclear weapons illegal in 122 countries and increasing.  The world has less to guess where a nuclear attack came from and who to blame.  

We waded into the fight for women’s rights; not the abstract kind.  But the right to plain life and basic safety from widespread sexual abuses in the home, among trafficked women and children in brothels and alleyways; and to the military use of rape as the coward’s weapon of degradation. 

We were at the forefront in the fight for migrants’ rights to decency, dignity, and protection from de facto slavery.  

Our President did the unthinkable in formal diplomacy.  He denounced the customary kafala system on the way to its promised reform.  He set kafala firmly on the path to extinction.  The Arab states praise him.  

We laid down the terms of the migrant rights debate and shaped the Global Compact for Migration:  not pie in the sky but the achievable because we had already negotiated those protections from Germany.  Thank you, Germany. 

We deepened our engagement with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.  And we went to Rome, not as victims but proudly as victors; having vanquished ISIS in Mindanao by retaking Marawi with the bracing battle ratio of over 1,000 local and foreign jihadi dead, to 165 AFP soldiers — to our grief.  And the republic’s glory.  

We denied terrorism the lying excuse that it is the response of the poor to injustice.  The poor are never terrorists.  Terrorists are a privileged breed; terrorism is a fulltime job.  There is no solution for it but to stamp it out as I told the Global Coalition.  

We stopped the whining and the crying over milk spilled by the previous regime.  We have not surrendered a single inch of territory.  Not by word or deed have we weakened our right to everything in the West Philippine Sea.  Without inviting pity by asking, we achieved an international consensus that the right is with us and might cannot ever take it away.  DFA is proud to say:  just because we have differences does not mean we have to fight over everything.  But fight we will when we must.  

Most of all we did what foreign policy must do or spare the expense of this department:  protect our citizens abroad and foreign nationals in our country.  It isn’t usually done by foreign states; but we helped foreign nationals caught flatfooted here by the pandemic — on a scale unknown in the past.  With the best foreign ambassadors ever, — and the energy and initiative of Berna Puyat —  thousands of foreign nationals were rounded up and sent home.  The world watched with wonder.  Then we took out of harm’s way well over 400,000 overseas Filipinos; and brought them safely home.  

We returned foreign garbage back to sender; the senders were Filipinos of course.  Canada Ambassador John Holmes helped make it happen — his farewell gift to our country.  Ricky Razon waived a billion pesos in port charges.  Canada Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland pitched in; we had a mutual friend in Harvard.  Very Filipino of her. 

The face of the DFA is passport services. Making them available and accessible is numero uno.  We opened new consular offices.  We are cracking the whip on all of them — and on ourselves:  to keep us on our toes.  We opened temporary offsite services in rental-free spaces; thank you, SM and Robinson’s.  I’ve heard complaints.  Is this diplomacy?  Yeah, diplomacy is first for the Filipino.  

DFA is adapting to the enduring abnormal of a pandemic that loosens and tightens its grip like it is playing with us.  The Online Visa Appointment and Online Passport Application systems cut time and face-to-face contact.  

Now I am honored to introduce DILG Secretary Eduardo Año for his report.  Thrice wounded by the pandemic enemy, he is still fighting and winning battles.  Thank you.