By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
About 35 Filipino workers were left disappointed outside of the closed office at the AIA Tower yesterday as the Philippine Consulate General in Macau has postponed the meeting with them without giving prior notice.
The Filipino nationals, who came from nine different Filipino associations in Macau, were told about three weeks ago that they would meet with Consul General Renato Villapando in his office at 2pm yesterday where they could express their demand for a lower e-passport application fee.
Members from Migrante Macau, Legion of Mary, JIL, El Shaddai, PDAM, Cordillerans’, CFC-FFL, Abranian’s as well as Sto.nino gathered outside of the office which was closed on Sundays waiting for the consul general to come.
However, a woman representative was sent from the consulate instead to apologise to the Filipinos, informing them that the meeting has been postponed since the consul general had been “very busy” over the past few days dealing with the Philippine delegations and visitors to the Macau International Trade and Investment Fair.
Chairperson of Migrante Macau, Catalina N. Yamat, said that it was a “very big insult for the Filipino community”, slamming the consulate for failing to inform them about the delay in advance.
Although the workers have generally accepted the apology, some of them complained that they felt very disappointed as they sacrificed part of their day off hoping to hear what the consul general would tell them in the meeting.
The representative, who said that she only came “to speak on behalf of the consulate”, tried to pacify the workers and promised that the meeting must be able to put through “after this week”.
The consul general will depart for Manila to attend an inter-agency meeting throughout the entire week, she added.
According to Catalina N. Yamat, if an overseas Filipino national applies for the new biometric passport through the consulate in Macau, a 3,000 peso fee is applied which is equivalent to around MOP 528.
She pointed out that the Filipino community in the SAR demands that the fee can be reduced to the same amount being charged for applications filed domestically in the Philippines, which costs just around 950 pesos or less than MOP 170.
The associations call the fee in Macau an “extortion”, adding the Philippine Government has increased the financial burden of its nationals abroad and at the same time cut the expenditure necessary for their welfare.
The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines has in this year started issuing biometric passports that come with various security features including a hidden encoded image and a tamper-proof electronic microchip.
In contrast, the cost of an e-passport for Indonesians working abroad is HKD58, Yamat said.
On the other hand, the associations are urging the consulate to terminate the Affidavit of Support (AOS) fee which will cost an oversea Filipino national MOP 220 for each of his/her family members or relatives who would like to visit Macau as a tourist.
The AOS document, however, is “powerless” in helping their families or relatives to visit the territory, some of Migrante Macau’s members claimed.