FOREIGN Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Tuesday the Department of Foreign Affairs was considering junking the $50 (P2,600) oathtaking fee for Filipinos who want to reacquire their Filipino citizenship.
The DFA was addressing a proposal by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who authored a 2003 law on citizenship reacquisition.
“We are considering the comment and proposal of former Senate president Drilon to remove the fee for the oathtaking,” Cayetano said during the DFA’s budget hearing at the Senate.
He referred to an “experiment” by Philippine Ambassador to Spain Philippe Jones Lhuillier, who, for a month, shouldered the oathtaking fees of overseas Filipinos. He paid for the fee, and the applicants doubled or tripled in number,” Cayetano said.
Meanwhile, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros challenged Cayetano to bare the details of the so-called 50-100 diplomatic actions his department made against China.
During Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate committee on finance, Hontiveros brought up Cayetano’s earlier claim the Philippines had filed about 50 to 100 diplomatic protests against China.
The opposition senator pressed from Cayetano transparency and integrity in the government’s foreign policy framework and implementation.
It was reported that Cayetano claimed in a congressional hearing that the Philippines had filed 50 to 100 protests and/or diplomatic actions against China over the past two years. However, Cayetano failed to provide details regarding the “diplomatic actions” against China.
“Can the DFA tell us what is the nature of the 50-100 diplomatic actions? How many were in the form of notes verbal? How many were diplomatic démarches?” Hontiveros asked Cayetano.
“Can the DFA give us the exact date and time when these diplomatic actions against China were made? What channels and platforms were used? How many times did the Chinese government responded? What were the nature of China’s diplomatic responses?” Hontiveros added.
Cayetano refused to answer Hontiveros’ questions, saying his office was willing to divulge the details of the “diplomatic actions” only in a closed session.
“Honestly we haven’t counted, but we’re giving you the assurance that each and every incident, we take the appropriate diplomatic actions,” stressed Cayerano.
His answer though did not sit well with Hontiveros, who expressed disbelief that the government did not count its diplomatic protests.
“They asked me to estimate but I explained to them when the President talks to President Xi, that’s a protest,” Cayetano said, referring to China’s President Xi Jinping.
“When I talk to my counterpart, and tell them… that is a protest. When we file a note verbale and depende [it depends] if you put three items there, you’re protesting items,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano insisted he did not want to publicly disclose the foreign affairs strategy of the government. He stressed the government was taking up actions to address the issue despite the lack of details disclosed to the public.
Hontiveros explained the public was aware of only one instance when the DFA issued a note verbale to protest China’s installation of missile systems on three man-made islands in the Spratly Islands and the harassment by the Chinese Navy of Philippine Navy boats resupplying troops on Ayungin Shoal on May 11.
Hontiveros said: “Transparency makes for good foreign policy. On the contrary, total silence raises suspicion and discourages public confidence.
“Considering that the Philippine Senate has been granted by the Constitution the power to ratify treaties and in line with its check and balance powers, it has material interest in ensuring that the foreign policy adopted by the Executive is in the best interest of Filipino citizens.”