04 October 2013 - As the Philippine Embassy continues to reach out to the Filipino communities in New Zealand and in the Pacific countries under its jurisdiction, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez led the Philippine Embassy mobile consular team, composed of Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa and Atty. Levy Strang, in conducting a mobile consular services for the benefit of Filipinos in Fiji from September 08 to 10. Called “The Philippine Embassy in New Zealand: Serving with a Smile, Going the Extra Mile and Reaching Beyond Our Grasp” mobile consular services, Filipinos in Fiji availed of e-Passports, notarial documentation, dual citizenship acquisition and registration of births and marriages services.
Filipinos have grown in number in Fiji and, in their own way, continue to contribute to the country’s pursuit of development. Pioneering Filipino doctors opened the doors for Filipinos to come to work in Fiji in the early 1970s. Since then, waves and batches of Filipino doctors have been recruited by the Fiji government. Today, there are about 152 registered families in Fiji and about 25 Filipino doctors in the private sector doing general practice and about 6 doctors teaching at the private University of Fiji Umanand Prasad Medical School in Lautoka. At least another 13 doctors are still working in the Fiji government occupying various positions. Filipinos have worked as consultants for the Fiji Development Bank, Reserve Bank of Fiji, FNPF, Fiji School of Medicine. Two Filipinos are also currently teaching agriculture at the Fiji National University. Filipinos have also been hired as civil, mechanical and structural engineers, IT experts, production supervisors, mechanics, technicians, quality control officers, machinists, plastic industry workers and agriculturists.
Philippine Honorary Consul in Fiji, Dr. Virgilio de Asa, warmly welcomed Ambassador Benavidez and the mobile consular team and introduced them to the Filipino community. The Team also proudly administered the oath-taking of 12 former Filipinos who hold Fijian citizenship to complete the process of their dual citizenship applications.
Ambassador Benavidez and the mobile consular team also joined and interacted with several members the Filipino community in Suva, Fiji in a Fellowship Night on September 09. In her remarks, Ambassador Benavidez thanked Dr. de Asa and the Filipino community for the warm welcome they provided the Team. She commended Dr. de Asa for his excellent work with the Filipino community on behalf of the Government of the Philippines. She also presented Consul Dr. de Asa with a Certificate of Commendation for his tireless endeavours on behalf of the Filipino community in Fiji and for his undertakings as the Philippine Honorary Consul in Fiji. The commendation was awarded to Dr. de Asa “for his exemplary cooperation and dedicated service to Filipinos in the Republic of Fiji as the Honorary Consul of the Philippines since 14 July 2000 and in the practice of his medical profession”. The Commendation further stated that Dr. de Asa is “a valuable partner of the Embassy of the Philippines in New Zealand in promoting the interests and welfare of Filipinos in Fiji, enhancing closer bilateral relations and people-to-people ties between the Philippines and Fiji, supporting programs to highlight the rich and varied cultural, artistic and spiritual heritage of the Philippines and contributing, in his own way, to growth and progress in the Philippines.”
As with other mobile consulars and as part of the Philippine Embassy’s continuing awareness program to make the Filipino community under the Embassy’s jurisdiction more resilient, proactive and prepared in the event of natural disasters, Ambassador Benavidez presented the Embassy’s advisory on practical steps and useful tips on disaster preparedness to the Filipino community in Fiji on September 10. She also shared the Embassy’s template for the Filipino Community Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response. Given the utmost importance and urgency of disaster preparedness, the Filipino community members were enjoined by Ambassador Benavidez to accomplish the plan in coordination with the local Fijian authorities and return it to the Philippine Embassy as soon as possible.
Three Fijian Officials of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), namely Mr. Samuela Kanainaliwa, Mr. Ropate Tuikenawa and Mr. Jeremaia Biakula, made a presentation on Disaster Management to the Filipino community. They spoke on the range of natural disasters which could affect Fiji, particularly tropical cyclones, floods, landslides, earthquakes, and tsunamis. They informed the community that the responsibility for the issue of warnings to the population in cases of natural disasters, in general, rests with the NDMO. However, certain warnings will be issued directly by the Meteorological Department through the Fiji Broadcasting Commission, Post Fiji, Telecom Fiji Ltd. and the Police. The NDMO representatives also provided the Filipino community with emergency preparedness brochures and encouraged them to visit the NDMO website to learn more about disaster preparedness, Fiji warning systems, and locations of evacuation centers.
The Filipino community of Fiji, led by Consul Dr. de Asa and Filipino Association in Fiji President Primo Relos, Jr., coordinated the Fellowship Night as well as the presentation of Fijian officials from the NDMO. The Embassy reiterated its deep appreciation to Consul Dr. de Asa, Mr. Primo Relos, Jr., Ms. Beth Relos-Zhu, Ms. Nida Centeno, Ms. Luvie Adricula and other Filipinos who ably assisted the mobile consular team in ensuring a successful and productive outreach mission in Fiji. END