New envoy wants closer ties with Pinoys in Switzerland

Ambassador Falcon outlined these priorities in a recent interview with the newsletter of the Filipino Community in Kanton Berne. She said although Filipinos in Switzerland already have a community of organizations, the embassy can help them confederate on common concerns. “We can start getting them together so they can coordinate. There should be a lot of interaction and dialogue,” she said.

Some possible projects will be fund-raising for noteworthy projects in the Philippines, including promotion of the Gawad Kalinga, a movement started in 1995 by the Couples for Christ to build “a slum-free, squatter-free” Philippines through the strategy of “land for the landless, homes for the homeless, food for the hungry and … dignity and peace for every Filipino.”

The embassy will also continue to tap resources for victims of natural calamities in the Philippines, with the Swiss government, NGOs, private individuals and Filipinos living in Switzerland as potential sources of assistance to the victims.

Falcon said aside from promoting the programs of the Department of Foreign Affairs, a key embassy concern will be the protection of overseas Filipino workers' (OFWs) rights, especially in campaigning for the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers. Even if there are fewer cases of injustice or abuse against Filipino workers in Switzerland, she said, “we should help give them a fair share in their employment, contracts and pay.”

Addressing the Filipino community, Falcon said: “I am here for you. We are ready to assist you any time and we want you to feel at home here.”

Commenting on her relatively new staff, Falcon said this will only give the embassy a fresh way of looking at things. “There’s a yin and a yang to it. Although institutional memory is an advantage, it’s also good to have fresh ideas and to look at things from a fresh perspective,” she said. She assumed her post last March, succeeding Ambassador Aurora Navarro-Tolentino who is now back with the DFA in Manila.

A native of Lal-lo, Cagayan, Falcon earned her bachelor's degree and a law degree from the University of the Philippines between 1966 and 1970. In 1986, she received a masters degree in international relations at Boston University in Paris. Falcon started her career in the DFA in 1972, and has served in various posts in various places, Sydney and Melbourne among them.

She was chief of the DFA’s Office of ASEAN Affairs in 1982 and has also served in the personnel and administrative services, the legal affairs office and the office of the secretary. She was formerly Minister Counsellor and Consul General in Paris, Madrid, Honolulu, Hamburg and in Vancouver, Canada in the last four years before being posted to Berne. Falcon has also served as Philippine Ambassador in Ankara, Turkey (1994-1996) and in Berlin, Germany (2003-2005). She is a member of the Couples for Christ.

Falcon’s new staff is composed of First Secretary and Consul Edsel Pomperada Barba, a native of Digos, Davao del Sur who joined the Philippine Foreign Service in 1994 and was posted for six years in Brasilia, Brazil. A licensed civil engineer, Edsel is self-trained in computer technology and is a self-starter, having established the Philippine Embassy in Dili, East Timor in 2004 under difficult conditions.

Another former Davao resident working at the embassy here is Ava Elsa B. Arcilla, the attaché / cultural assistant and secretary to the ambassador. The holder of a masteral degree in international relations from a Massachusetts university, Ava arrived in Bern with 18 years of experience in foreign service. Her longest posting was at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 1995-2002.

Ms. Ma. Cecilia D. Gomez is attaché and finance officer. An accounting graduate, Cecile has served at the DFA’s office of fiscal management and at the DFA regional consular office in Iloilo City.

The new attaché and records communications officer is Batangas-born Antonio M. Gonzales. Trained in electronics, Tony has been in foreign service for 18 years and served at the Philippine Embassy in Vientiane, Laos from 1997-2004.