By Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes

Since I assumed my post as Consul General last year, I have always made it loud and clear that the government will never claim to know everything and will never suppose that it has all the answers to the concerns of our fellow Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. It cannot prescribe the cure-all to the worries of the fastest growing Filipino community in the world. And yet, the Consulate is expected to be the savior of all Pinoys in distress – the last ray of hope for Filipinos begging for reaching arms that could pull them out of the misery they find themselves stuck in.

To bridge this expectation-reality gap then, I emphasized that the government must tap into the skills and expertise of the private sector, finding ways to collaborate with the community in responding to everyone’s clamor for hope. Time and again, I stressed that I would be open to all who offer themselves in ensuring that this office is able to provide a better service to the Filipinos in this part of the world. I called on all to chip in.

One heeded our plea. The Canadian University of Dubai and a few private individuals, offered to facilitate a training program for Consulate personnel in providing psycho-social services for Filipinos in distress. As is public knowledge, our gates receive quite a number of our kabayans who run to the Consulate when they feel they have no one else to turn to. When they get here, they are distraught, some even hysterical and inconsolable. We are expected to calm them, assuage their fears of reprisal, and soothe their bruised spirits. This service requires a competence that could be learned with scientific precision through a university degree. Sadly, not many of our Consulate personnel are trained in such skill nor do they have in-depth training on psycho-social counselling. Considering our mandate to assist our nationals in the best way possible, the CUD offer, I thought, was timely, relevant, and definitely imperative.

The Psycho Social Counselling training stretched over four months covering four modules that lay down, at least even in the most elementary sense, what our personnel must do or say when we receive our desolate kababayans. What should we ask them? How do we make them feel that we are to be trusted? What is the underlying science in analyzing their state of mind? The 4-month program tried to answer these. Akin to a crash course in psychoanalysis and psychotherapeutic training, the training is not to be construed as an effort to replace a university degree or boost the credentials of personnel for promotion’s sake. It made the personnel understand more clearly the science behind psychotherapy and analysis, hopeful that such a program would make them better providers of government service.

Beyond the new skill learned, what I believe must be stressed is that the collaboration between the university and the Consulate inculcated the minds of our constituency the utility of a cooperation between us and the community. While government lacks resources to train their personnel for crucial skills-development programs, the private sector, particularly the academe, is more than willing fill in the slack and share elements that could enhance our capability to render real and effective service to our fellow Pinoys.

From my end, this is the crux of the matter – how the community can play a role that the government is expected to deliver. Many demand that government shell out all that is necessary for its citizens and in this particular case, providing a safe haven, both physically and psychologically, for Filipino nationals in distress. The term private-public partnership comes to mind, this time less in the business sense but rather a sense of trust between government and the community it serves – a symbiotic relationship that inspires cooperation and co-optation so that everyone could avail of the most efficient and effective public service.

Perhaps the days where government is the sole provider of everything society needs is slowly drifting away. New age governance and new age diplomacy allows our people to be more interactive in various endeavors, long thought to be within the exclusive parameter of government. The advances of information technology obviously changed the manner at which information is shared among different sectors and even how this is disseminated. Perspectives in shared governance, diametrically opposed to old-school theories of public administration, now dominate discussions on the field, allowing a more innovative and recalibrated brand of public service to surface. New ideas are explored, new ways are devised. And as Dubai aims primacy in the league of the world’s great capitals of aviation, tourism, education, finance, trade, investment, and management, the provision for even more relevant services to the thousands of  Filipinos continually lured to this city must likewise be new age, in line with the times.

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