Backgrounder on the Philippine Embassy in Norway
The Resident Philippine Embassy in Oslo
The Philippines established its resident embassy in Oslo, Norway on 30 April 2007. It is the Philippine government's official contact point with the authorities in the entire Nordic region covering the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Republic of Finland, the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Sweden.
The main tasks of the Embassy are to work for the enhancement of Philippine political, economic and cultural relations with these countries, to protect and promote Philippine interests throughout the Nordic region and to provide consular services to the approximately 50,000 Filipinos who reside in the area.
The Embassy also oversees the operation of six Philippine Honorary Consular posts in the region: The Philippine Honorary Consulates in Reykjavik, Iceland in Växjö, Sweden and in Stavanger, Norway and the Philippine Honorary Consulates General in Copenhagen, Denmark, in Helsinki, Finland and in Stockholm, Sweden.
History of the Embassy
The Philippines established diplomatic relations with Norway on 2 March 1948. Minister Nikolai Aal was the first official to represent Norway in the Philippines (based in what was then Nanking, China). From 1952 to 1956, Norway was represented by a Consulate, later, by a Consulate General in Manila. The Norwegian Embassy in Manila was opened in 1967.
In the past, the Philippine Embassy in the United Kingdom was responsible for Philippine relations with Norway. In June 1986, this responsibility was transferred to the Philippine Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.
On 30 April 2007, Second Secretary and Consul Porfirio M. Mayo, Jr. opened the resident embassy in Oslo and was the Embassy's Chargé d'Affaires, ad interim (CDA) until Ambassador Victoria S. Bataclan arrived in Norway in May 2007. In January 2009, Ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso took over the Post as Ambassador to Norway, Denmark and Iceland. In September 2011, Ambassador Bayani S. Mercado succeeded Ambassador Buensuceso.
With the closure of the Philippine resident embassies in Helsinki and Stockholm in 2012, the jurisdiction of the resident embassy in Oslo was expanded to cover both Sweden and Finland.
Philippine bilateral relations with Nordic countries
The Philippines currently enjoys robust and cordial political, economic and people-to-people relations with all the five Nordic states.
On the political level, there are close bilateral contacts between the Philippines and each of the five Nordic countries, built largely on a shared belief in democracy and the promotion of universal human rights. Our countries have convergent interests in many global and regional matters and have worked together in the United Nations and other international fora on issues ranging from non-proliferation of nuclear weapons to gender equality and the protection of the environment.
The Philippines also has mechanisms for regular high-level political bilateral consultations with Norway, Sweden and Finland.
As members of the European Union (EU), Denmark, Sweden and Finland also maintain engagements with the Philippines through the EU-ASEAN dialogue mechanism and the ASEM process.
Norway, on the other hand, has been involved in the efforts to bring about lasting peace in the Philippines playing a significant role as a third-party facilitator in the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA-NDF). It was also part of the international monitoring team in efforts leading to the landmark 2012 Framework Agreement signed with the Bangsamoro group.
On the economic front, the Philippines had a total merchandise trade volume of US$ 585.4 million with the five Nordic countries in 2013. Total Philippine exports to the region amounted to more than a quarter billion dollars at around US$ 285.3 million. Sweden, the largest trading partner of the Philippines in the Nordic region accounted for 44% of total trade volume with Finland following at 28%.
In the area of investments, Denmark and Norway have proven to be eager investors in the Philippines, particularly in the area of sustainable energy, other eco-friendly solutions technology, IT, pharmaceuticals, and the services sector for Denmark, natural gas and renewable energy projects for Norway. Sweden which sent a business and investment delegation to the Philippines last year has also begun making significant investments in the Philippines in the area of manufacturing.
Norway and the Philippines also have a long tradition of cooperation in the maritime field, where they have complementary competences and resources. Norwegian shipowners employ more than 25,000 Filipino seafarers in shipyards or on board Norwegian owned or controlled vessels, a testimonial to the trust and confidence Norwegian shipowners have placed over the years for Filipino seafarers. Filipino maritime students benefit as well from the education and training provided by sophisticated Norwegian maritime training schools including the Norwegian Training Center in Manila which was established by the Norwegian Shipowners Association (Norges Rederiforbund) back in 1990. Norwegian ship owners have also been building and repairing vessels in Philippine shipyards and many companies engaged in the maritime sector have put up offices in the Philippines.
The Philippines also enjoys strong maritime relations with Denmark as major companies like A.P. Moller-Mærsk continue to hire and train Filipino seafarers for their many ships as well as establish hub offices for many other maritime-related services in the country.
The Philippines and Iceland also cooperate in the area of geothermal energy.
In the area of tourism, there has also been a marked increase in the number of tourists from the Nordic region visiting the Philippines in recent years with Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway all registering continuous growth every year for the past four years. In 2013, the total number of Nordic tourists visiting the Philippines reached 63,106 up by 50% from the 2010 figure of 42,000.
Right now, only Norway has an embassy in Manila. Early this year, the Danish Government announced it would reopen its embassy in Manila on 1 August 2014.
The Embassy’s consular section
Another major task of the Philippine Embassy in Oslo is providing consular services to Filipinos and the general public in the Nordic countries. Services include the processing of passport and dual citizenship applications and providing notarial and civil registry services for Filipino nationals, the issuance of visas to Nordic nationals and other foreigners intending to travel to the Philippines and the authentication of legal documents. Some of these services such as visa and authentication are also provided by the Philippine Honorary consular offices in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland under the supervision of the Embassy.
The Embassy also regularly brings its passport and other consular services to selected cities and regions with large concentrations of Filipino nationals. Over the past year, the Embassy has conducted mobile consular outreach services in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Reykjavik, Helsinki, Stavanger, Åarhus, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
The Filipino communities in the Nordic region
Equally important to Philippine interests is the protection and promotion of the welfare of the growing Filipino community in the Nordic region.
There are an estimated 50,000 Filipinos residing in the Nordic region - a little over a third of these are in Norway, another one third are in Sweden, a fifth reside in Denmark while the rest live in Finland and Iceland.
Working conditions are generally good in the Nordic countries. The labor sectors in these countries are governed by comprehensive laws/rules/regulations which ensure that mechanisms are in place to address workers’ concerns and basic human rights.
Labor unions are also strong in these countries ensuring that the rights of workers are usually promoted and protected. National labor laws in Nordic countries generally provide sufficient protection for all workers regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
While fiercely proud of their heritage, Filipinos in the Nordic region have also shown a remarkable capacity to integrate into their adopted culture while at the same time contributing elements of their own heritage into Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish or Icelandic society.
The positive contributions of the Filipino community in the Nordic states have helped to further strengthen the friendly relations between the Philippines and these countries.
To date, there are about 100 Filipino community associations in the Nordic region that are registered with the Philippine Embassy.
The Embassy regular reaches out to many of these organizations to partner with them in extending assistance to Filipinos in distress.