The new San Francisco Philippine Consul General assumed office without much fanfare amid struggles against COVID-19 and, more recently, hate crimes against Asian Americans.
A career diplomat with him 25 years of experience new ConGen Neil Frank Ferrer arrived with his family on January 20 and quietly took over from Henry Bensurto Jr. Ferrer took the helm San Francisco Consulate which has jurisdiction over 10 states in the US northwestern Pacific.
Ferrer served as Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila and was also Consul General of the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver, Canada from 2013 to 2018. Ferrer immediately virtually connected with Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez the next day.
Ferrer also served as minister and consul general and alternate permanent representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Ottawa, and first secretary and consul and alternate permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization from 2003 to 2009 in London. He served as third secretary and vice-consul at the Philippine Embassy in Beijing.
Married to Miriam Manaog-Ferrer and father to their four children, Ferrer finished his Master of Arts in International Boundaries, with Distinction, at Durham University in the United Kingdom in 1999. He completed the course work of the Master of Science in Economics at De La Salle University and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of the Philippines.
Ferrer is also a recipient of a distinguished award for Filipino diplomats, the Gawad Mabini, with the rank of Dakilang Kamanong (Grand Cross), conferred by the president of the Republic of the Philippines in 2010.
In an exclusive virtual video interview, Ferrer said he made a bid for the San Francisco post and expressed gratefulness grateful for the opportunity to serve the Filipino-American community here.
Ferrer also shared that his long-term and short-term goals are interrelated. That is to elevate the quality of consular services for the hardworking Filipino Americans.
“I guess this is not an eye-catching goal if you may but that is again, one of the main reasons for our being here. Providing consular services to our kababayans is basic and at the same time crucial, especially since we are in the middle of a pandemic and travel to the Philippines and many other countries around the globe is restricted by governments to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer would like to improve the Consulate’s website, including telephone/IT/database system and infrastructure, and to increase consular services.
Other plans include:
1) ensuring health and safety protocols against COVID-19 by maintaining a high level of cleanliness and undertake regular disinfection of the Consulate premises
2) bring more tourists, employment, trade and investments into the Philippines
3) ensure Filipinos right to travel, especially for emergency situations like attend to family needs in the Philippines, the chance to see a family member for the last time, and other personal matters
As soon as travel restrictions are lifted and conditions permit, Ferrer hopes to physically go to the 10 states under consular jurisdiction and listen to kababayans’ needs and concerns while fostering respect and appreciation of past and present Philippine history, culture and heritage.
Due to exigency, Ferrer also announced that the Consulate will continue to hold events online as the administration policy.
“We also hope to also bring Sentro Rizal to the forefront of our cultural diplomacy efforts. The Philippine government has institutionalized Sentro Rizal to promote our Philippine culture and heritage. It was established at our Philippine Consulate here in San Francisco in 2019,” said Ferrer.
Sentro Rizal is regarded as the main Filipino cultural institution abroad, the Philippine version of Germany’s Goethe-Institut or France’s Alliance Francaise, mandated to promote culture and heritage that would outlast any head of post, ambassador or consul general in all of foreign service posts.