By Darlene Casten
Philippine Consul General for Alberta and Saskatchewan, Julius Torres, has been told to return to Manila for re-assignment and is leaving April 20.
A petition with more than a thousand signatures to keep Torres in Calgary will be sent to the government in the Philippines.
A group of Calgary Filipinos want Torres to remain at his post until he retires in the next couple of years.
“Well, we think that our ConGen Julius Torres has really done great work in the community,” says Philippine Festival Council of Alberta co-chair Cesar Cala. “He has reached out to as many Filipinos as possible within the province and within the region. He has done a tremendous job connecting people within the community the broader community… We feel that he should be given the chance to continue and complete his term as the ConGen for Alberta and the Prairie Region.”
A recognition dinner was held for Torres April 5, the day incoming deputy consul general Zaldy Patron arrived.
Patron won’t replace Torres, but will likely fill in until his replacement arrives.
Torres opened Calgary’s first Philippine consulate two years ago after Migrante Alberta petitioned the Philippine government to have an official consulate office in the province.
Prior to the Philippine Consulate office opening in Calgary, Filipinos in Alberta and Saskatchewan had to travel to Vancouver to have their passports renewed or wait for the Vancouver consular general to visit their area.
Torres praised the Filipino community in Calgary and across the Province for their hard work in getting the consulate office opened and their continued support.
Many people volunteered for the consulate office, Torres says, allowing them to serve the highest number of Filipino Canadians in Canada last year.
“Despite our budget and personnel limitations, I think we succeeded,” he says. “Without your help, without your support we wouldn’t have been able to do as much.”
When the consulate opened it had five staff members to serve a population the same size of the Vancouver consulate, he says. There are now nine staff members. There are days the Calgary Philippine consulate serves 100 people, Torres says.
“I think my staff did well, in spite of our limitations,” he says.
Re-assignments are a regular part of the job, Torres told the crowd, and he expects that he will be leaving later this month, despite their petition.
“This is my eighth or ninth post,” Torres says. “I hoped to retire here, but I will definitely be coming back to visit after my retirement.”
He’s heard his replacement may be coming from the London Philippine consulate at the beginning of May.
He encouraged the crowd to work with the new consul general and to come together as a unified community.
“You Filipino-Canadians are a different lot,” Torres says. “You have your own opinions, your own vision, your own ideas. I hope you will unite your vision to accomplish more things.”
Patron, says he has heard the staffing and budget limitations and says he has reason to believe it will improve.
“We have taken note of that constraint,” says Patron. “The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila is trying to work out some arrangements where we can add some more personnel to the consulate. So we hope to be able to realize that within this year. Of course, our goal is to continue to improve the service of the consulate and serve as many as possible.”
Meeting with various Canadian institutions to build bi-lateral relations between Philippines and Canada, building their network with Filipino Canadians and promoting cohesiveness in the community are also on the agenda, says Patron.