Department of Foreign Affairs
| Department of Foreign Affairs|
Kagawaran ng Ugnayang Panlabas
|Established||June 23, 1898|
|Secretary||Albert F. Del Rosario|
|Budget||P10.9 billion (2012)|
The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) (Filipino: Kagawaran ng Ugnayang Panlabas) is the executive department of the Philippine government tasked to contribute to the enhancement of national security and the protection of the territorial integrity and national sovereignty, to participate in the national endeavor of sustaining development and enhancing the Philippines' competitive edge, to protect the rights and promote the welfare of Filipinos overseas and to mobilize them as partners in national development, to project a positive image of the Philippines, and to increase international understanding of Philippine culture for mutually beneficial relations with other countries.
The Department of Foreign Affairs was created on 23 June 1898 through a decree by Emilio Aguinaldo, who appointed Apolinario Mabini as the Philippines’s first Secretary of Foreign Affairs. In effect, the DFA became the first government department to be established following the proclamation of the First Philippine Republic in Malolos City in Bulacan.
Realizing the need for international recognition to support the legitimacy of his government, Aguinaldo assigned Mabini the difficult task of establishing diplomatic relations with friendly countries. Members of the Hong Kong Junta, a group of Filipino exiles in Hong Kong, served as the country’s envoys for this purpose.
During the period when the Philippines was a colony of the United States, the government did not take an active role in the crafting and execution of its foreign policy. This was also the case during Japan's occupation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1944. The country regained full control of foreign affairs and diplomatic matters on 04 July 1946, when Commonwealth Act No. 732 was passed, creating the Department of Foreign Affairs. On 16 September, President Manuel Roxas issued Executive Order No. 18, which provided for the organization and operation of the DFA and the Foreign Service. The main tasks of the DFA then were to assist in postwar rehabilitation, formulate policies for the promotion of investment, and re-establish diplomatic relations with neighboring countries.
The DFA also proposed amendments to the Bell Trade Act, the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, and the Laurel-Langley Agreement with the United States, which helped strengthened trade and military relations with the US, and at the same time initiated the Philippines into the arena of independent foreign policy.
The DFA had its heyday during the post-war years, with its increased participation in the international arena. At that time, the international environment was beginning to change, requiring that new thrusts and priorities in Philippine foreign policy be determined. During the Cold War, against the backdrop of the Korean War in 1950 and the rising communism in China, the Philippines projected an increasing internationalist foreign policy. The Philippines helped forge the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or GATT in 1949. The country also became a founding member of the United Nations and one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was among the early proponents of disarmament and non-interference in the internal affairs of free peoples. The Philippines' greater participation in global matters culminated in Carlos P. Romulo’s election as the first Asian President of the UN General Assembly in 1952.
Realizing the importance of foreign relations, President Elpidio Quirino pushed for the passage of the Foreign Service Law in June 1952, as embodied in Republic Act (RA) No. 708. During the post-war period, the Department of Foreign Affairs focused on institution-building, while simultaneously increasing Philippine global exposure. In 1953, Secretary Raul S. Manglapus instituted the Foreign Service Officers examination to professionalize the Foreign Service and improve the recruitment and selection of new FSOs.
The Marcos Years
President Ferdinand Marcos redefined foreign policy as "the protection of Philippine independence, territorial integrity and national dignity", and emphasized increased regional cooperation and collaboration. He placed great stress on being Asian and pursued a policy of constructive unity and co-existence with other Asian states, regardless of ideological differences.
In 1967, the Philippines launched a new initiative to form a regional association with other Southeast Asian countries called the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. It was also during this period that the Philippines established its economic and diplomatic ties with socialist countries such as China and the USSR, which Marcos visited in 1975 and 1976, respectively. The Philippines also opened embassies in the eastern bloc countries, and a separate mission to the European Common Market in Brussels.
Throughout the 1970s, the DFA pursued the promotion of trade and investment, played an active role in hosting international meetings, and participated in the meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement. Meanwhile, the Foreign Service Institute was created in 1976 to provide in-house training to Foreign Service personnel.
The 1986 EDSA Revolution saw the re-establishment of a democratic government under President Corazon Aquino. During this period, the DFA once again pursued development policy, in the active pursuit abroad for opportunities in the vital areas of trade, investment, finance, technology and aid. The DFA also revived its efforts to boost the Philippines' role in the Asia-Pacific region.
During this period, the Philippines became one of the founding members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC in November 1989. The country also became an active player in regional efforts to establish the ASEAN Free Trade Area. In 1990, the DFA proposed the establishment of more diplomatic missions to the Middle East to improve its existing ties with Arab states and to respond to the growing needs of Overseas Filipino Workers in the region.
In 1991, the senate, heeding the growing nationalist sentiments among the public, voted against the extension of the Military Bases Agreement. This symbolized the severance of the political and ideological ties which had long linked the country to the United States. Also in 1991, President Aquino signed into law R.A. 7157, otherwise known as the New Foreign Service Law, which reorganized and strengthened the Foreign Service. It instituted a Career Minister Eligibility Examination as a requirement for promotion of FSOs to the rank of Minister Counselor, thereby ensuring the professional selection of those who would eventually rise to the level of career ambassadors.
Under Fidel V. Ramos
The Ramos administration from July 1992 to June 1998 defined four core areas of Philippine foreign policy: the enhancement of national security, promotion of economic diplomacy, protection of Overseas Filipino Workers and Filipino nationals abroad, and the projection of a good international image of the country.
The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 provided the framework for stronger protection of Filipino workers abroad, with the creation of the Legal Assistance Fund and the Assistance to Nationals Fund, as well as the designation in the DFA of a Legal Assistant for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, with the rank of Undersecretary.
Among the other significant events in foreign affairs during the Ramos years was the Philippine-initiated 1992 ASEAN adoption of the Declaration on the South China Sea, aimed at confidence-building and avoidance of conflict among claimant states. There was also the establishment of the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (BIMP)-East Asia Growth area in 1994; the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1994 as the only multilateral security dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region conducted at the government level; and the signing of the Mindanao Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF on 02 September 1996.
The Estrada Administration
The Estrada administration upheld the foreign policy thrusts of the previous administration, focusing on national security, economic diplomacy, assistance to nationals, and image-building. The Philippines continued to be at the forefront of the regional and multilateral arena. It successfully hosted the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 1998 and undertook confidence-building measures with China over the South China Sea issue through a meeting held in March 1999. President Estrada strengthened bilateral ties with neighboring countries, with visits to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.
The DFA also played a major role in the forging of a Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, which was ratified in the Senate. The country also sent a delegation of 108 observers to the Indonesian parliamentary elections and engaged in cooperative activities in the areas of security, defense, economy, culture, combating transnational crimes, and protecting OFWs and Filipinos abroad.
Under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
At the beginning of her term in 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, pursued foreign policy based on nine facts:
First, the dynamics of relations between China, Japan and the United States determine the security situation and economic evolution of East Asia.
Second, Philippine foreign policy decisions are increasingly being made in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Third, Europe will continue to play a significant role in promoting international prosperity and stability.
Fourth, the international Islamic community remains crucial to the country's search for lasting and permanent peace in Mindanao.
Fifth, inter-regional organizations will become increasingly influential in the global context.
Sixth, the protection of the environment, natural resources and maritime territory.
Seventh, the drive for foreign markets and foreign direct investments will form a focal concern of economic diplomacy efforts.
Eighth, international tourism will be a major driver of national growth.
Ninth, overseas Filipinos play a critical role in the country's economic and social stability.
Functions and Responsibilities
The objectives of the Department of Foreign Affairs are as follows:
- To aid in the enhancement of national security and the protection of the territorial integrity and national sovereignty
- To participate in sustaining development and enhancing the Philippines' competitive edge in a global milieu
- To protect the rights and promote the welfare of Filipinos overseas and to mobilize them as partners in national development
- To present a good image of the Philippines;
- To further enhance the international understanding of Philippine culture for mutually-beneficial relations with other countries
- To increase and maximize human, financial, technological and other resources in order to optimize the performance of the Department
Philippine Foreign Policy
List of Secretaries/Ministers of Foreign Affairs
(*) Acting Capacity
List of Philippine embassies
Countries highlighted in bold mean that the said mission is located within their territory.
- Offices of the Department. dfa.gov.ph. (Accessed on 18 October 2012)
- Philippine Foreign Policy. dfa.gov.ph. (Accessed on 18 October 2012)
- Mission and Vision. dfa.gov.ph. (Accessed on 18 October 2012)
- PHL Embassies and Consulates General. dfa.gov.ph. (Accessed on 18 October 2012)