The Honorary Consuls

Manila Bulletin, June 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Honorary Consuls


GENEVA It is customary for countries to name honorary consuls to represent them in significant areas not served by their regular embassies, consulates or missions.

In Europe, for example, the Philippines has the largest batch of honorary consuls or consuls general in about 70 cities spread across the continent.

Switzerland is not a large country, but it is a majorcenter of international relations. While we have a regular embassy in the capital Berne, devoted to bilateral matters and a mission in Geneva dealing with United Nations issues, we fall back on honorary consuls to represent us in outlying centers like Basel, Lausanne, Lucerne, and other cities.

Perhaps the one best known to Filipino government leaders is Dr. Stephen Zuellig, chairman of the company bearing this august name, who is our honorary consul for Monaco, the famous principality in the heart of Europe. Dr. Zuelligs grandfather founded the company in Manila in 1868, a few years after Jose Rizal was born in Calamba in 1861. Some historians say that Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Philippine Revolution, worked as a warehouseman for Zuellig at one time. The company is familiar to many Filipinos since it has given its name to one of the main streets in Makati City. I heard that in recent years Dr. Zuellig has taken up Filipino citizenship. Dr. Zuellig, whose family owns a farm near the city of Zurich has served the Filipino nation faithfully as honorary consul in Monaco for the past 27 years.

While some honorary consuls are fading into the sunset, a new crop has to be named. They are taken from selected rosters of outstanding businessmen or professionals in the local communities and are often recommended by the existing local chambers of commerce and industry. They work under the supervision of the Philippine ambassadors and consuls general usually located in the capital cities. I was privileged to meet these honorary consuls mainly from Europe but also including some from the Middle East and Africa, in a seminar workshop organized in Geneva by the Department of Foreign Affairs. …

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