MANILAPresident Rodrigo Duterte on Monday conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu (Grand Cross), Gold Distinction, on former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano.
The Order of Sikatuna is the highest honor a Philippine president can bestow upon the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and a Filipino diplomat.
Cayetano, who served as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief for the last one and half years, was recognized for "actively pursuing" the country's independent foreign policy.
In the past year and a half, the DFA continued to build, bridge, and build relationships, further opening the Philippines' doors to the international stage. The next step is to ensure that the commitments the country obtained are translated into actual, tangible and fruitful benefits for the Philippines and our people, Cayetano said during the conferment ceremony.
Duterte also credited Cayetano for promoting the rights of overseas Filipino workers.
Under Cayetano, DFA's Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) and Legal Assistance program was improved and expanded to a proactive service mechanism for all overseas Filipinos in distress.
The agency's assistance to OFWs exponentially expanded from only 15,282 beneficiaries for the entire 2017 to 54,640 overseas Filipinos assisted and served so far as of end-September 2018.
The chief executive also commended Cayetano for his reforms in the DFA's passport system. From the previous average daily passport capacity of only 9,500 in 2016, DFA was able to double it to 19,000 as of July 2017, with DFA targeting to reach a total of 30,000 passports daily capacity by the end 2018.
The DFA has also managed to make the online passport appointment system more efficient, which now allows a passport applicant to book a passport appointment scheduled within the next 10 days to two weeks; and reduced the passport printing time from the previous 15 working days for regular processing and seven working days for express, respectively, to only 12 working days (regular) and six working days (express).
Created by Executive Order No. 571 dated Feb. 27, 1953, as amended, in commemoration of the first treaty (Pacto de Sangre or Blood Compact) between the Philippines and a foreign country, the Order of Sikatuna is an Order of diplomatic merit conferred upon personnel of the DFA who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services to the Republic of the Philippines. (PR)
Source: Philippine News Agency