08 June 2015 - Philippine Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. led Filipino-American (Fil-Am) community members from Rhode Island and Consul Felipe Carino, to call on US Representative David Cicilline (RI-D) at his district office at 1070 Main St. Pawtucket, Rhode Island last May 28. Later, Consul General and the Filipino community met with Mayor Jorge Elorza of Providence, RI at the City Capitol.
The Filipino community members who participated in the events were Mr. Chet Gotauco, President of Fil-Am Newport, and his wife Gina, Captain Armando Heredia, Ms. Zen Desjardins, and entrepreneurs Ms. Reina Quintero and Ms. Evelyn Bertrand.
Consul General De Leon acknowledged Representative Cicilline’s public service track record beginning when he was part of the Assembly and Senate of Rhode Island, and then Mayor of Providence from 2003 until 2011. After he was elected Congressman in 2012, he championed a strong local economy, Medicare support for seniors, civil rights and small business. Representative Cicilline is currently a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Judiciary.
The Consul General had the opportunity to speak with Representative Cicilline about issues relating to the West Philippines Sea, the status of the arbitration case between China and the Philippines, and China’s recent reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.
He also presented H.R. 535 or the Philippine Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Award and explained that the Congressional bill seeks to recognize Filipino veterans who fought with the US during WWII. He pointed out that this does not require Congressional budgetary appropriations. Representative Cicilline agreed to support and co-sponsor the bill.
Consul General De Leon personally extended an invitation to Representative Cicilline to join the Philippine-US Friendship Caucus, which the US congressman accepted.
Afterwards, the Consul General met Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza at his office and provided him with a snapshot of the Philippines and its rising economy, which has lately been referred to as “Southeast Asia’s strong man.”
Consul General De Leon mentioned to the Mayor the strengths of the Philippine economy, particularly in business process outsourcing, which has been enhanced by programs to develop more knowledge based outsourcing activities like medical and legal transcription, accounting, and financial services. He clarified that Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) in the Philippines are considered an extension of workforce operations, outside of a company’s regular working hours in the US. He also pointed out that around 80% of BPOs operating in the Philippines are American companies.
Mayor Elorza welcomed the delegation and underscored that Providence is aggressively pursuing and promoting cultural and economic ties with international communities. He cited that only 33% of Americans have valid passports, and even fewer who actually travel, and hoped that Providence has the right ingredients for international exposure. He pointed out that it is at the city level that foreign states and peoples can forge deeper ties. Providence has sister city arrangements with China, Florence and Tuscany in Italy, among others, and is pursuing similar arrangements with London and Turkey in the field of biotechnology, he added.
Providence has a strong community of academic institutions which makes it attractive for high technology companies and startups, Mayor Elorza also mentioned. It hosts several Fortune 500 companies such as CVS and Techtronix. The Mayor invited the delegation to explore his city and to find synergies between Filipinos and business establishments.
The Consul General expressed interest in a possible sister city arrangement between Providence and a Philippine city where top universities and high technology businesses are both located.
Mayor Elorza, a second-generation Latino, assumed office this January. END