Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto G. Romulo presided over the inauguration ceremony of the new Philippine Embassy building located at 6-8 Suffolk Street in central London on 20th January 2008.
The event was attended by leaders of the Filipino community, as well as a number of British businessmen and some personalities from the British community.
In his remarks, Secretary Romulo encapsulated the significance of the acquisition of a new home to house the Philippine Embassy in London: “The Department of Foreign Affairs, through Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu, acquired a new 125-year lease for the new premises with more space to accommodate the growing Filipino community and increasing interaction of Philippine-UK relations.”
“May this edifice be the castle of our nation’s ideals, the vanguard of our values, and the home of our aspiration.”
For more than fifty years, the Philippine Mission to the United Kingdom was housed at 9a Palace Green in Kensington. Owing to the growing number of Filipinos in the UK and rapidly increasing number of transactions conducted by the mission, the Department of Foreign Affairs, upon the recommendations of Ambassador Espiritu, decided that the time has come to look for a bigger place when the lease in Palace Green expired.
The new chancery is housed in a block of buildings, in which the space offers better facilities and sufficient room to include the offices of the Department of Labour, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Defence, the Social Security System (SSS) and eventually the Department of Tourism and the Department of Trade and Investment which are currently located outside the Embassy premises.
The buildings that now house the Philippine Embassy were constructed in 1663 by the 3rd Earl of Suffolk. The buildings were remodelled in 1820-1824 by the famous British architect John Nash as part of his Regent Street scheme. At present, 6-8 Suffolk St. are part of the present Hobhouse Court, named after Sir John Cam Hobhouse (1756-1869), created Baron Broughton and former Member of Parliament for Westminster from 1820 to 1833.
“The new Embassy looks towards the future by providing better services to an ever-increasing number of Filipinos in the UK by modernising its facilities not just in terms of rendering more efficient and speedy delivery of passport and other OFW-related services but also in terms of offering facilities for meetings and other related activities to the Filipino Community in the UK.
“It is definitely more accessible to the public as it is in the heart of Westminster and is just a few steps away from Trafalgar Square, the West End, Piccadilly Circus and all the amenities, transport facilities and some popular tourist sites in the city,” said Ambassador Espiritu.
“We have left Palace Green with a heavy heart as it has been our home for more than five decades. It has seen us through the good times and the bad as we faced a multitude of challenges in building and strengthening our diplomatic relations with the UK, while discharging our duties to our countrymen.
“On the other hand, we look forward to a new life in Suffolk St. – a new building to house our embassy that the Philippine Government and the Filipino community can be proud of,” added Ambassador Espiritu.
At the inauguration ceremony, Secretary Romulo also announced the naming of the main function room in Building No.6 where the Consular Section is housed, as the Rizal Room in honour of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who lived in Camden, London, while he was still a student in Europe. A bust of Rizal, courtesy of the Knights of Rizal, London Chapter, was unveiled at the ceremony.