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Dubai: The Philippine Consulate General will ensure delivery of more streamlined services, proactive engagement with the community especially in sports, and introduce more programmes on business and entrepreneurship this 2019.

Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes said he and his team were able to streamline procedures in 2018 in order to offer more efficient services to Filipinos but they aim to do more in 2019.

“We plan to have more effective and efficient consular services, including continuing the training programmes for consulate staff for client delivery. We will also continue the consulate’s economic and cultural programmes and activities,” Cortes told Gulf News.

2018 was the busiest year for the consulate compared to the last three years in assisting nationals in distress, particularly for the amnesty period. The consulate offered services ranging from assistance for civil cases, labour issues, passport retrieval, temporary shelter, repatriation and others through its Assistance-To-Nationals (ATN) section that has three officers and nine staff.

The consulate is also the biggest Philippine mission worldwide in terms of passport applications, overseas voting, and visa applications.

“2019 will be a continuation of all of these and hopefully incorporating more innovative changes to our strategies,” Cortes said.

Cortes said a special focus will be given to the youth and sports this year in order to engage the next generation overseas Filipinos.

“We plan to have a more proactive engagement with the community on sports and have a reinvigorated programme with the Filipino youth and Philippine schools,” Cortes said.

The consulate will also introduce programmes tailor-made for the business and entrepreneurship needs of the community.

Aside from a deeper engagement with the host government such as the police and immigration, the consulate also promises a greater reach for assistance to nationals in distress.

Cortes could not reveal total number of people the consulate had helped in 2018 but based on earlier figures released, the number is more than double the 7,000 Filipinos who received help in 2017.

Around 4,000 Filipinos in Dubai and the northern emirates were granted amnesty and received assistance from the ATN Section of the consulate during the amnesty period in the UAE from August 1 to December 31.

The consulate currently has four officers, 30 staff, and 14 local hires. This brings the staff to client ratio to one staff per 12,850 Filipinos in Dubai and the northern emirates.

Filipino residents approached by Gulf News lauded the consulate for a job well done in 2018. They urged consulate staff to continue and increase their outreach programmes in 2019.

Ray Anggulo, a volunteer social worker who regularly works with the consulate, said: “I have seen the sincerity in the hearts of the officials and the consulate staff. When it comes to community services, I salute them. I give them a rating of 9.5 out of 10. If there’s anything we would like to see this 2019, it would be the improvement of the customer service skills of some, and I stress some, of the front liners,” Anggulo told Gulf News.

For her part, Wafa Kasimieh, a community leader, said the consulate should continue its outreach programmes to other emirates and consider offering services on some Fridays of the year to accommodate those who can only go to the consulates on weekends.