Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday backed the proposal of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to increase the allowance of its active personnel and the pension of its retired diplomats, saying “living with dignity” enables them to represent the Filipinos well in the global arena and be of better service to Filipinos working abroad.
In a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises which he chairs, the senator said the government ought to honor the contribution of the country’s diplomats who “sacrifice” a lot in representing the country abroad.
Cayetano, who served as Foreign Affairs Secretary from 2017 to 2018, said the diplomats also play a big role in attracting foreign investors into the country.
“Hindi hinihingi ng mga nag-sacrifice para sa ating bansa na kaawaan sila, whether mga na-disable sa war-torn areas. Ang hinihingi nila ay konting social justice d’un sa mga inambag nila sa lipunan,” he said.
The hearing, which was conducted jointly by the Committees on Foreign Relations, Ways and Means, and Finance, tackled six Senate bills filed by different senators which seek to adjust the pension and disability benefits of DFA retirees.
Among the salient provisions of the bills is the granting of additional pension to retired DFA employees who have served at least 15 years in the department regardless of their rank.
DFA Undersecretary Antonio Morales said many of his colleagues who retired 20 years ago – including ambassadors who reached the highest rank – only receive P20,000 as monthly pension.
“They are now very senior citizens and that’s barely enough to cover their maintenance medicine,” he said.
In addition, Morales pushed for the increase in the allowance of the DFA’s active personnel abroad whom he said “face dangers as part of their job” and “barely make do with their allowances”.
“Napakamahal na po ng mga bilihin. Ang ating mga diplomat ay kailangan naman pong mamuhay nang may dignidad para mai-represent ang ating bansa,” Morales said.
Cayetano agreed, saying the current allowance diplomats receive is not enough to cover the increasing cost of living in other countries.
“DFA has never asked for special treatment naman vis-a-vis when we deal with the pay scale of the whole government. But as far as allowances, we do know that if you’re assigned somewhere na napakataas ng cost of living, bale wala na y’ung sweldo,” he said.
“In a sense para rin silang OFWs. Kung hindi maayos y’ung housing, education, pension, problema talaga ‘yan,” he added.
He said the DFA can “attract the best and the brightest” into the agency” if they know their needs will be met during and after their service.
“The better benefits for our diplomats, the better services din for our Filipinos abroad, the better chances din of finding more countries na maganda ang turing sa Pilipino at mataas ang sweldo,” he emphasized.
“When we send diplomats out of the country, they have to be the best version of the Filipino and the Filipina. That’s why it’s so important na tama y’ung allowances, tama y’ung remuneration,” he said.###