The new head of the Philippine Consulate on Guam is Patrick John U. Hilado, a veteran Philippine foreign service officer who has had a number of overseas postings, the most recent of which was Osaka, Japan.
Hilado, who came in just in time for the commemoration of Philippine Independence Month on Guam last June, says that in the short time he has been here, he has already fallen in love with the island and its people.
“I love Guam! It’s my first time here and the one thing that has stood out since I arrived in May is that the people have been so warm, welcoming, and friendly. Moreover, Guam, in many ways, also reminds me a lot of home, given that back in the Philippines I also grew up on an island,” said Hilado who grew up in the Philippine island of Negros.
He added: “I am very proud of the Filipino community here on Guam. More than 50,000 strong, the Filipino community here has, over so many decades, contributed a lot to the social and economic development of Guam. Our community in Guam is one of the strongest pillars in our relationship and we take great pride in that.”
Now that he’s settled on Guam, Hilado says one of his top priorities is to ensure that the Consulate General is able to provide quality consular services to the community here on Guam as well as to the other stakeholders that the Philippine consulate serves, including the CNMI, FSM, Palau, and RMI.
His other priority is to continue working hand-in-hand with the Filipino community on the island as partners in promoting Filipino identity, culture, and values.
“At the same time, we also want to work closely with the Guam Government and our CHamoru and Guamanian friends to further strengthen our economic and socio-cultural ties with the island. Now that we are looking towards what is hopefully the beginning of the end of this global pandemic, we are excited to resume our engagements with Guam on a wide range of areas,” Hilado said.
According to the consul general, the wonderful thing about relations between Guam and the Philippines is that it is a strong and multifaceted relationship built on a solid foundation.
“We have a shared history and culture and our people-to-people ties are especially strong with our community actively participating in the social and economic development of the island. At the same time, we have a lot of economic ties including significant Philippine investments here on Guam as well as strong links for medical and wellness tourism,” he said.
Among the economic ties with Guam are the presence of global Filipino brands like Jollibee and Max’s. There are also several businesses here owned by Filipinos like the Micronesia Mall, SM, American Bakery, and the Agana Shopping Center.
“At the same time, we also have a good number of Filipino investors doing business on the island. We are hoping that as we begin to move on from this pandemic, we can resume strong economic engagements so that we can further enrich and strengthen these economic ties,” the consul general said.
On the other hand, Hilado said the Philippines also provides Guam with an important service — medical tourism.
“Medical tourism has always been an important program for the Philippines, particularly in relation to our neighbors in the Pacific. Prior to this pandemic, the Philippines was already a destination of choice for health and vacation for many in the region because of our world-class physicians, the availability of modern medical technology, and our uniquely Filipino brand of caring and compassion all at great value for money with only a fraction of the cost in developed countries. Of course, due to the pandemic, a lot of travel restrictions had to be imposed which naturally affected this. However, we are confident that as conditions continue to improve and vaccinations continue to rise, we may be able to ease these restrictions further,” the consul general.
With regard to the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines, Hilado said the Philippines continues to work towards addressing the pandemic’s severe and widespread impact on public health and well-being.
“We are happy to note that more vaccines have arrived in the country in recent weeks allowing nationwide vaccinations to ramp up significantly. While priority is being given to healthcare workers, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions, vaccinations have now also expanded to frontline personnel in essential sectors as well as the indigent population,” the consul general said.
Given that it will take some time before enough people are vaccinated to have an impact on the spread of the virus, Hilado said the Philippine government continues to remind the public to not let their guard down and to adhere to minimum public health standards and other safety protocols.
“There are also still restrictions in place for international travel to the Philippines as we continue to work to contain the spread of the virus. However, we are confident that the continuous vaccination rollout will eventually result in the gradual lifting of these restrictions,” Hilado said.
He added: “As for the latest rules for our kababayans in Guam who want to travel to the Philippines, overseas Filipino workers and returning overseas Filipinos including dual citizens are currently able to travel to the Philippines subject, of course, to rules on mandatory quarantine and Covid-19 RT-PCR tests.”