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Benigno Aquino III: Philippines will not forget your typhoon aid

By Jean Magdaraog Cordero
Back to school: Filipino students attend classes inside a tent in the town of Tanauan in Leyte province on Jan. 6, the day schools reopened in the central Philippines towns devastated by Typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda] in early November. [AFP]

Back to school: Filipino students attend classes inside a tent in the town of Tanauan in Leyte province on Jan. 6, the day schools reopened in the central Philippines towns devastated by Typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda] in early November. [AFP]

President Benigno Aquino III is expressing gratitude to the international community for the help they gave the Philippines during last year’s calamities.

In his speech at the traditional Vin D’ Honneur for the diplomatic corps at the presidential palace, Aquino promised that the Filipino people will remember who their friends are and will look for ways to repay those who stood by them in the most difficult times.

“In this first gathering of friends and partners for the New Year, it is also just and fitting that your role in our collective achievement be recognized,” Aquino said.

The president said many of these nations have been the Philippines’ partners not just in overcoming Typhoon Haiyan [known as Yolanda in the Philippines], but also in addressing the challenges from many others, including the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in the Visayas in October.

“By doing so, you opened a new chapter in our relations. The generosity you have shown serves as our firm foundation as we work to expand ever-widening horizons of our relationships,” Aquino told the diplomatic corps.

“To our old allies, your commitment to helping our nation underscores the deep friendship and cooperation built over generations,” he said.

“To everyone gathered here, it is with a sincere sense of gratitude that I tell you: The Filipino people remember who their friends are. Filipinos never forget an instance of kindness, and will constantly look for ways to repay those who stood by them in the most difficult times. In our language, we call this utang na loob,” Aquino said.

Many countries and organizations helped

Many countries across the globe responded to the call for help of typhoon victims. Governments and private companies, including private individuals, poured funds to aid the disaster-stricken areas. Foreign militaries also lent a hand to the emergency and relief efforts.

More than 60 countries and foreign organizations have pledged and donated assistance to the Philippines in the aftermath of the typhoon. The United States and Japan led the way in offering support to the Philippines. The United Kingdom, the European Commission, Indonesia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are among the nations and organizations offering support.

The total cash received by the government has amounted to P592.58 million [$12.33 million USD], according to the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub [FAiTH], the website created to ensure transparency in foreign assistance.

Meanwhile, the total foreign aid pledged has reached up to P23.79 billion PHP [$538.97 million USD] in mid-January. The cash pledges totaled P2.8 billion PHP [$63.4 million USD] while non-cash amounted to P20.99 billion PHP [$475.56 million USD].

The death toll from the typhoon exceeds 6,200, while more than 27,600 have been injured and nearly 1,800 are missing, according to the government. At least 14 million people have been affected and 4 million were displaced, according to government estimates.

About 102,000 people are staying in evacuation centers and more than 1 million houses have been damaged, half of these completely destroyed.

‘Transformation needed in facing calamities’

Aquino, in his speech, said his administration has been working since 2010 to fulfill a mission to “empower every Filipino to become a proactive agent of change in nation-building, no longer plunged into cynicism or apathy as a reaction to an ever-changing world.”

In 2013, he said the world saw how this transformation is becoming permanent, with many Filipinos coming to the aid of their countrymen ravaged by Typhoon Pablo – which struck in December 2012 – and the widespread flooding caused by the monsoon rains.

“This transformation was manifest in the very attitude of the survivors, our affected brothers and sisters, who actively clamored and worked with us to rebuild their lives, livelihoods and communities; and in the Overseas Filipino Workers and Filipino communities abroad who did not think twice about giving what they could for their countrymen in need,” he said.

Aquino added this transformation is also seen in the government workers, scientists, social workers, and other Filipinos who worked hand-in-hand, “as we faced both natural calamities and man-made challenges.”

Filipinos particularly showed resilience in the wake of Haiyan, he said, adding that while their faith was challenged, it remained constant and only deepened.

“Our unbreakable spirit and ability to recover find root in our firm belief in a benevolent God who has the perfect plan for all of us. These tragedies tell us that, despite all our efforts, we are indeed powerless without God,” he said.

The government has launched the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda [RAY] to guide the recovery and reconstruction of the economy and to assist the survivors with a timetable for short, medium and long-term priorities that may extend through 2017.

The recovery and reconstruction will require P361 billion PHP [$8.1 billion USD] in investments, according to the government agency National Economic Development Authority.

International community vows to continue help in reconstruction

Meanwhile, the Diplomatic Corps of the Philippines has committed to help the Philippines rebuild from the ruins left by calamities.

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, the dean of the Diplomatic Corps, in his response to the president’s speech, said the while world wishes to console and to help Filipinos recover from the tragedies.

“When faced with this tragedy, the Filipino people reacted with the strength of their character and their faith,” Pinto said. “Victims and rescuers became members of the same family. The whole world wished to help, to console, to rebuild. And just as in previous calamities, you Mr. President paved the way for local and international solidarity.”

How can the international community help the Philippines recover from Typhoon Haiyan? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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