A Philippine consulate office will be opening soon in Alberta, following several years of lobbying by the Filipino community in Western Canada.
One of the benefits is that it will save many the cost of having to travel mostly to Vancouver, but also Toronto or Ottawa, to renew their Philippine passports, which must be done in person.
It will also see the end of thousands of people trying, often unsuccessfully, to book an appointment online for an outreach program that saw the Vancouver Philippine consulate coming occasionally to cities, including Red Deer, to offer outreach passport service two or three days at a time.
Those outreach sessions were always fully booked and unable to meet the demand.
Quay Evano, a Calgary-based freelance journalist for the Filipino Channel, interviewed the new Calgary consul Julius Torres who was in Calgary in December meeting with the community and confirming the new office.
Evano, who personally knows Torres, said on Wednesday that the location of the new office has not been finalized, but it will be in downtown Calgary. Torres will arrive in Calgary in two weeks. The consulate is expected to start operating in March.
A petition calling for a consulate in Alberta started circulating about three years ago, said Evano. “It snowballed,” as Filipinos in Alberta and Saskatchewan began to sign it.
“It’s a big thing. In Alberta we have 120,000 Filipino Canadians and Filipino temporary workers,” said Evano. There are about 3,000 Filipinos living in Red Deer and about 40,000 in Calgary.
The problem with the Vancouver consulate is that it already serves thousands of Filipinos in B.C. And it was just so hard for people to go online and book appointments for the outreach program, he said.
“It was a gong show.”
Three days of appointments would be snapped up in one hour, and those people who worked during the day never had a chance at getting an appointment, thus forcing them to travel to Vancouver to renew their passports.
“Everybody is happy about this,” Evano said.
Red Deer resident Jenny Semana, one of the people who signed the petition for a consulate office, was very happy to hear there will be an office opening.
Semana, her husband Roland Mantuano, and their son Matt were planning to travel to Vancouver before summer to renew their Philippine passports. If they are able to renew them in Calgary, they will save about $1,000 for airfare to Vancouver, as well as other costs. They intended to stay with friends while there, but the couple would need longer time off from work to travel. Mantuano does not get paid when he is away from work.
Semana had taken time off before to try and book an outreach appointment but the website crashed, she said.