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Duterte to foreign service awardees: ‘You’ve done PH proud’

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday conferred seven foreign service personnel with two of the highest Presidential awards–the Order of Sikatuna and Gawad Mabini–in recognition of their exemplary service to the people and nation.

Duterte acknowledged their “unwavering sense of duty and unrelenting efforts” in upholding the country’s independent foreign policy and ensuring the welfare of Filipinos at home and abroad.

“Today I am honored and humbled to recognize distinguished members of the Philippine foreign service who have braved in facing severe difficulties, including mortal challenges, principled in advancing our foreign policy and creative in solving seemingly vexing problems,” he said in his speech in Malacañan Palace.

He also expressed hope that they would continue serving the people and nation to the best of their abilities.

“With the weight of Apolinario Mabini’s legacy on your shoulder and the interest of our nation in your minds and deeds, you have done our nation proud. It is my fervent hope that you and your colleagues in the Philippine foreign service will continue to serve the Philippines with the best interest of your ability and without reservation. The Filipino people deserve nothing less,” he added.

The Order of Sikatuna is an order of diplomatic merit conferred upon individuals who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services to the Republic of the Philippines.

Gawad Mabini is conferred on Filipinos who have rendered distinguished foreign service, or helped promote the interests and prestige of the Philippines abroad.

It is named after Apolinario Mabini, the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs in the First Republic of the Philippines.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez was conferred with the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Datu, Gold Distinction, for strengthening of the long-standing comprehensive ties between the Philippines and the United States (US) of America.

While serving as Philippine envoy, he further deepened the Philippines’ US alliance through the enhanced defense and security cooperation, particularly in maritime security and the upgrading of Philippine defense capabilities and promoted trade and investment, resulting in the recent entry into the Philippines of US base SBA Communications, thereby advancing the development of the country’s telecommunications technology backbone.

He also played a lead role in the procurement of 20 million doses of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine significantly contributing to the government’s pandemic response efforts.

Romualdez joined the conferment ceremony via video conference from Washington, D.C., US. His award was accepted by Washington D.C. Minister and Consul Gunther Sales on his behalf.

The other awardees were the following:

Antonio Villar, Administrative Officer, Office of the Undersecretary for Multi-lateral Affairs and International Economic Relations, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Kasugo, for his “outstanding contribution in the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Rome; for his vital role in the successful repatriation of Filipino seafarers who were stranded at the West Port in Albania for five months under difficult circumstances; and for his key role in negotiating and securing the release of five overseas Filipino workers from their abusive employer in Patos, Albania.”

Bernardo Bagalay, Assistant, Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Kasugo, for his “vital contribution in the promotions and protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, for his crucial role as a member of several rapid response teams providing much-needed assistance to distressed overseas Filipinos during times of conflict; for his valuable assistance in the repatriation of more than 5,000 overseas Filipinos in Kuwait and UAE in 2018; and for facilitating the arrival of the first batch of 30 overseas Filipinos from Wuhan in 2020 prompting the start of what will be an organized and systematic assistance for returning overseas Filipinos.”

Katrina Isabelle Borja-Martin, First Secretary and Consul, Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., Gawad Mabini, with the Rank of Dakilang Kasugo (Commander), for her “distinct accomplishments as First Secretary and Consul of the Philippine Embassy of Washington D.C.; for her exemplary dedication in serving the interest of Filipinos within her jurisdiction; for her laudable efforts in negotiating vaccine supply for the Philippines, reaching out to various pharmaceutical developers to give the Filipino people diversified vaccine options; for facilitating SBA Communications’ application to register as an independent power company, bringing investment to, and generating employment in the Philippines; and for advancing the national interest and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between the Philippines and the United States of America.”

Noel Novicio, Special Assistant, Office of the Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations in Asean Affairs, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Dakilang Kasugo (Commander), for his “outstanding achievements in advancing Philippine interests in the Asean community; for his demonstrated competence and expertise as Philippine lead negotiator on Ministerial Level outcome documents in Asean; for his efficient shepherding of Asean negotiations at the working group level during the Philippines’ chairmanship of Asean in 2017 resulting in the completion and adoption of numerous high-level outcome documents; and for his significant contributions in enhancing the Philippines’ profile in Asean and Asean-lead mechanisms.”

Robert Borje, Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs, Office of the President, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Dakilang Kamanong (Grand Cross), for his “meritorious contributions to advancing the country’s independent foreign policy objectives as Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs; for his demonstrated commitment in promoting the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, leading special repatriation missions, and strongly advocating and promoting regional and global support for migrant workers rights’ regardless of status, particularly in the Middle East as the President’s Special Envoy; for steadfastly seeking opportunities to open and widen pathways of mercy leading to the pardoning, release, and repatriation of Filipinos from the Middle East; and for helping move forward and clearly articulating the President and the Philippine government’s campaign against the Kafala system further strengthening cooperation with partners in the Middle East.”

Enrico Fos, Assistant Secretary, Office of the Undersecretary Migrant Workers Affairs, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Dakilang Kamanong (Grand Cross) for his “significant contributions to the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, for spearheading the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Covid-19 response operation particularly the mass repatriation of overseas Filipino workers affected by the pandemic; for his key role in the establishment of the One-Stop Shop operations of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport that facilitated the entry of inbound passengers and implementation of mandatory health protocols during the pandemic; and for advancing the national interest in the area of migration in various capacities especially as the Philippine lead negotiator for the formulation of the anti-Kafala provision in the global compact for migration.” (PNA)

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