Since the beginning of the year, there have been numerous requests for information about the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc. (Pafi) This may be attributed either to a hiatus in its relevance or to increasing visibility in its activities.
On record, Pafi is a duly registered foundation with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-stock and non-profit association of retired and active ambassadors. The by-laws of the Foundation enumerates three major purposes for which the foundation is formed; 1) to study, analyze and discuss international and domestic affairs that could contribute to the formulation and adoption of a sound and realistic foreign policy for the Philippines; 2) to promote awareness of issues of foreign policy through conferences, seminars, and other workshops between and among diplomats of the Philippines and those assigned to the Philippines to enhance international understanding, friendship and cooperation; 3) to encourage, solicit and facilitate the active participation of domestic and foreign organizations. In short, the avowed purpose of the Foundation is to promote national interest.
The activities of Pafi are conducted by its Board of Governors. At its organizational meeting held in February this year, the following officers were elected; Chairman – Lauro L Baja Jr.; President – Jose M. Zaldarriaga; First Vice President – Jose V. Romero Jr.; Second Vice President – Rosalinda V. Tirona; Secretary General – Jaime S. Bautista; Treasurer- Antonio M. Lagdameo; Auditor – Amado S. Tolentino; Legal Counsel – Willy Gaa; Spokesperson – Clemencio F. Montesa.
At the first meeting of the Board of Governors, the members identified several challenges to make the Foundation more relevant. The first challenge is to increase awareness of the Foundation through increased membership and enhanced participation of members in the activities of Pafi. This will be done through more frequent general meeting of all its members to inculcate a sense of belonging to the Foundation. The second challenge is to reach out to international institutions and organizations that share the same vision through the sharing of information and closer contact. The third challenge is to engage the government, business, the academe, and non-profit organizations to draw out ideas and recommendations that could help in the crafting of foreign policy options for the country.
To meet these challenges, the Foundation has so far conducted the following activities. First, a symposium on migration, peace and development which was primarily organized and convened through the efforts of the second vice president, Amb. Rosalinda Tirona in cooperation with the Undersecretary of Migrant workers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Second, the Chairman of the Foundation signed with the publisher of The Manila Times a MOU which provides among others, an opportunity for a column to be published every Saturday the views of the Foundation and /or its members on current issues facing the country. Third, the Foundation will revive the implementation of its memorandum of understanding with the Foreign Service Institute and establish a mechanism of cooperation with the Philippine Council on Foreign Relations.
For the term of office for the current officers, the Board plans to organize a quarterly event through roundtable discussion of current issues affecting the Philippines and through lectures by leading personalities on foreign relations. For this year the Foundation hopes to organize a roundtable discussion on the Asean economic community and the Philippine hosting of Apec in 2015. The Foundation will also be open to invitations to speak on issues of the day. To date the Chairman has accepted the invitations to Pafi from NowPlanet.tv.net with Amb. Romero, the forum organized by the Asian Center and the department of Political Science of UP, UNTV, GNN, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines or Focap and the Rotary Club of Manila.
The issues tackled among others, where the Sabah standoff, the West Philippine Sea, and Philippines, China and US relations and Asean.
Wherever possible PAFI will publish and encourage the publication of Foreign Policy papers and materials and establish a website which could act as a databank of information for the benefit of those who may be interested in learning the dynamics and interplay of global issues. The Foundation will also come up with an updated directory of its members to enhance greater participation in its activities. Our mission of enhancing friendly relations with other countries and contributing to promoting human rights and maintaining international peace and security will guide us in the next two years. Such mission and vision of Pafi may not be totally accomplished during the period but we hope that in the process we can achieve some things as significant as our objectives.
** Ambassador Baja is former Senior Undersecretary for Policy of DFA and Philippine Ambassador to the UN, Italy and Brazil. He is Chairman of Pafi