FROM LEFT: Charge d'affaires ad interim Jarosław Szczepankiewicz of the Embassy of Poland to the Philippines, 3rd District Palawan Rep. Edward Hagedorn, ad honorem consul Juan Andre Lacson, Nikko Mendoza, Palawan Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates, and Puerto Princesa City administrator Atty. Arnel Pedrosa, during the opening of the Republic of Poland's consulate office on March 14 on Solid Road in Brgy. San Manuel.

The Republic of Poland reached a significant milestone in its history in the Philippines on Tuesday by becoming the first to open an honorary consulate office in Puerto Princesa City and the province of Palawan.

Charge d’affaires ad interim Jarosław Szczepankiewicz of the Embassy of Poland to the Philippines said their purpose is to provide consular services to Polish tourists visiting Palawan, particularly Puerto Princesa and the towns of San Vicente and El Nido, as well as to contribute to the tourism sector by bringing more of its citizens to see the island’s natural beauty.

“It’s mainly for tourism reasons—most of our tourists are going to Palawan. Palawan became a kind of icon for foreign tourists; this is the first reason to provide consular services to them,” Szczepankiewicz said.

“Another reason is that having the honorary consulate is a kind of assurance to Polish tourists so they can be much more comfortable and secured, and this is contributing to the movement of tourists to Palawan,” he added.

Szczepankiewicz also emphasized that it is an integral aspect of Poland’s growing bilateral exchanges with the Philippines since the two countries established diplomatic relations years ago.

He added that the appointed honorary consul, Juan Andre Lacson, a respected businessman in the country, will aid in fostering economic and cultural cooperation via the consulate, which is located on Solid Road in Brgy. San Manuel. Lacson received a copy of his formal appointment as ad honorem consul also on March 14.

In his remarks, Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates welcomed Poland to Palawan and wished the country well in achieving its objectives in the province.

“More close to home, two of my favorite saints are Polish. I’m referring to St. Pope John Paul II, whom I saw twice on his visits to the Philippines. I saw him as a part of the crowd, but I treasure the memory of having seen St. Pope John Paul II,” said Socrates, adding that one of his children also went to Poland for his master’s degree.

“I remember he had to go to Kuala Lumpur to get his visa and whatever documents before going to Poland—these, I thought are very good reasons for wanting to be at this occasion. All the best,” he added.

According to Maribel Buñi, chief of the Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development Office (PTPDO), Poland sends a steady stream of tourists to the province.

Its largest arrival occurred prior to the pandemic in 2019, at 3,473, up from 3,209 in 2018. In 2020, there were only 886 tourists from Poland that visited Palawan due to COVID-19. Last year, 149 visited, based on the PTPDO record.

Since January this year, 281 Polish nationals had already visited Palawan.

“This is seen favorably by us. The presence of a consulate would provide comfort to Polish visitors that their needs would be met by the embassy,” Buñi said.

3rd District Palawan Rep. Edward Hagedorn also thanked Szczepankiewicz and the Embassy of Poland for choosing to establish its consulate in the city.

“We are here to help you every step of the way,” Hagedorn said as Poland strives to become a member of the Palawan community.

Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates and city administrator Atty. Arnel Pedrosa, who represented Mayor Lucilo Bayron, also welcomed the opening of Poland’s consulate office in Puerto Princesa, which they hope would strengthen ties between the residents and the Polish community.

“We are sincerely hoping that the city will provide a conducive and inspiring environment as bilateral relations between the Philippines and Poland continues,” Mayor Bayron said in a message delivered by Pedrosa.

“I just wish to welcome you to Puerto Princesa, and to thank you for choosing to open a consulate office here in our city. I was surprised that we have the most number of Polish nationals here in Puerto Princesa. It’s a good thing to know,” stated Vice Mayor Socrates.

Lacson, on the other hand, stated that the bilateral relationship between Poland and the Philippines has progressed “slowly but steadily,” but this year, they are continuing to nurture the bond that was established decades ago in the hopes of fostering growth and development, particularly in the fields of medicine, renewable energy, and tourism.

“The presence of the consulate here seeks not only to protect the Polish community, but more than that, it is a testament to that friendship, mutual commitment, and progress. We look forward to working closely with the local governments,” he said.

The event was also attended by Palawan Police Provincial director P/Col. Adonis Guzman, Atty. Arnel Pedrosa, who represented Mayor Lucilo Bayron, former councilor Matthew Mendoza, representatives from the Puerto Princesa City Police Office, and other local officials.