Philippine Consulate Allots Over $100k to Lahaina Wildfire Victims
For the second time in as many months, the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu deployed a consular and assistance-to-nationals team to Maui to attend to Filipinos affected by the wildfires that ravaged parts of the island last August 8. Close to four hundred Filipinos were rendered services at the Lahaina Civic Center from September 22 to 24, including the replacement of lost passports, dual citizenship applications, legalization of documents and registration of overseas voters.
The Department of Foreign Affairs-managed Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) Fund was tapped to defray the consular fees of Filipinos impacted by the disaster and provide financial assistance to casualties and the next-of-kin of those who perished. DFA officials in the Manila Home Office fast-tracked the approval of the request. Over $100,000 was allotted for this purpose, with the bulk disbursed during the September visit so zero fees were effectively paid by applicants who lost their passports in the fire. In addition, fees for affidavits that had to be executed were automatically waived.
Among those who availed of the Consulate’s services were Lahaina residents Victor and Constancia Ancheta who remarked, “Me and my wife are very appreciative and grateful to the wonderful humanitarian services of the Philippine Consulate General to the wildfire victims of Lahaina. We were treated professionally and efficiently. We are personally grateful to all the staff and Consul General, who were very accommodating to the victims’ concerns, and thankful for the financial assistance provided.”
Consulate personnel also visited burn victims, met with relatives of fatalities and checked on the well-being of the newly arrived Filipino teachers on Maui. Guidance was provided as well for the repatriation process for those seeking to send the remains of their loved ones back to the Philippines. To this end, the Consulate is liaising with the U.S. State Department and the Maui Police Department for the necessary paperwork. Financial assistance was likewise provided by the Philippine Government through the Consulate for the newly discharged burn victim, relatives of several fatalities and all the Filipino teachers that were met.
Representations were also made with Federal Bureau of Investigation officials for the collection of DNA samples from the Philippine-based relatives of fatalities. As a result of this effort, six remains were positively identified after the Consulate arranged the collection by FBI officials of DNA samples from Ilocos-based next of kin at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
“This outreach mission was unlike others I have been a part of in the past, as many of those we served were victims of the harrowing disaster. Several relayed accounts of their horrific ordeal and how they narrowly managed to escape the inferno. We at the Consulate do what we can, in our small way, to help alleviate their suffering and support efforts to rebuild their lives,” Consul General Emil Fernandez said.
The three-day activity was held at the Lahaina Civic Center, a stone’s throw from the center of the devastation wreaked by unprecedented fire. The Center also served as the venue for the one-day Hawak Kamay: Filipino Resource Fair held on September 23, where visitors availed of the services of U.S. federal agencies, relief organizations and Filipino community associations. Providing support to the Consulate’s special outreach mission were the Maui Immigrant Services Division and the Office of the Maui County Mayor.
Filipinos impacted by the Maui wildfires, who require assistance, may continue reaching out to the Consulate via email at email@example.com.
Emil T. Fernandez is the current Consul General of the Philippines stationed in Honolulu. He graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management Economics. Prior to his appointment to Hawai‘i, Fernandez served as Deputy Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany. His other foreign assignments included Washington, D.C. (2010–2016), Santiago, Chile (2005–2008) and Caracas, Venezuela (2002–2005). In Manila, Fernandez held several important positions, including Executive Director of the Office of Asian & Pacific Affairs (2016–2018), Director for Southern Europe of the Office of European Affairs (2009–2010), Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations (2008–2009) and Acting Director of the Office of ASEAN Affairs (1999–2001).