Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon, Jr. (seated, 2nd from right), Consul Bong Carino (standing, far left) and members of the Filipino community in Vermont, led by Filcom leader Jean Ryan (seated, 3rd from right) and Father Julian Asucan (standing, far right) of Holy Cross Church, pose for a photo opportunity during a Christmas get-together.

Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon, Jr. was feted by the Filipino community of Vermont for a pre-Christmas get together and a meeting to discuss collaboration between the Consulate General and the community for the coming year in a Japanese restaurant in South Burlington, Vermont.

De Leon shared his meetings earlier that day with the office of Rep. Peter Welch and the officials of Northern Reliability and VEIC, renewable energy companies based in VT, to promote the PH political and economic initiatives.

He expressed hope for stronger ties between Vermont companies and the Filipino community.

During the meeting, Filcom members raised important questions relating to consular matters and discussed plans for a possible consular services outreach in Burlington or Rutland, VT in cooperation with the Filcom in New Hampshire.

(NH is about two hours away.)

Finally, de Leon discussed the proposed visit of Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, Jr. to Vermont in 2016, including Filcom involvement in the preparations and arranging calls on local and elected officials.

(As per latest U.S. Census, there are 1,035 Filipinos in Vermont.)

Later on, de Leon invited Filcom leaders from Vermont Jean Ryan, Elsie Aguila and Father Julian Asucan, and Josie Santiago of New Hampshire, to attend the Geographic Warden General Assembly at the Kalayaan Center on Jan. 16, 2016.

(The annual GA held at Post is a gathering of Filcom volunteers commonly referred to as “wardens” where they undergo training on natural and man-made disaster preparedness, and share best practices.)

Earlier that same day, a meeting between de Leon and George Twigg, State Director, Office of Rep. Peter Welch, was held at Welch’s office in Lakeside Avenue, Vermont, to discuss and seek support for PH initiatives, including the bill seeking the award of the Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino Veterans of World War II.

De Leon said that HB 2737 (with Senate version 1555) is pending review in a Congressional committee where it was referred to on June 11, 2015.

The bill seeks to recognize the Filipino veterans who fought alongside American servicemen in WWII and honor their service by the award of the Congressional Gold Medal.

De Leon also took the opportunity to provide a briefing on the South China Sea issue underscoring the PH position based on international law principles and conventions and developments relating to Arbitration in ITLOS.

Twigg replied that Welch is a member of Oversight and Government Reform which has review functions on U.S. Government appropriations in Southeast Asia.

He said that he appreciates the report and is hopeful that discussions in Congress will become more systematic to reflect the U.S. pivot to Asia.

He promised to take up this matter with Welch.

De Leon also extended an invitation for Welch to join the US-PH Friendship Caucus.

Twigg replied that he is confident Welch will consider the matter.

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