Asean to support Yolanda-hit areas rehab

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ASSOCIATION of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Secretary General Le Luong Minh on Thursday urged member-countries to commit and assist in the full recovery of Yolanda-affected areas as the Philippine government enters into the rehabilitation phase.

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Minh is in the country to attend the Asean high-level conference on Assistance for the Recovery of Yolanda-Affected Areas (ARYA), a joint initiative of the Asean charter and the Philippine government to bring together dialogue partners and stakeholders to help typhoon victims.

“Asean is here to support the recovery of the Philippines. We will continue working with the government and United Nations agencies and private sector in mobilizing more support and assistance,” Minh said in a press conference at the Philippine Army officers club in Fort Bonifacio.

During meeting, Minh reported the statements of commitment from Asean nations and the private sector.

“We look forward to seeing these commitments realized. Efforts must continue. Any form of assistance and commitment is important. Money is important,” he said.

Minh called on Asean partners and stakeholders to join in the initiative and support including financial, equipment and technical aspects.

Panfilo Lacson, the former senator who is now Yolanda rehabilitation czar, stressed the need for P171 billion to completely rehabilitate Yolanda-affected areas.

He said P126 billion has been raised so far and only P11 billion were grants while the rest were loans.

Lacson said it will be difficult to quantify the extent of Asean’s assistance to Yolanda rehabilitation efforts.

“The Asean community has extended overwhelming assistance to our country from the onset of Yolanda. As we undergo transition to the phase of massive implementation of our rehabilitation and recovery efforts, we once again appeal for their relentless support towards the resilient recovery of affected communities,” he added.

Lacson said the donation comes in various forms but the more important is the technical assistance.

He cited the United States grant of $10 million which the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery used to hire technical consultants.

These technical consultants were eventually deployed to local government units “to help them articulate their needs and prepare an LGU rehabilitation plan”.

This is why a comprehensive rehabilitation plan was finalized immediately, Lacson said, because there was assistance from central government to LGUs.

Lacson said it is “high time” for the Asean community to invoke its social contract embodied in the Asean Charter.

Section 8, Article 1 states that Asean member-nations are “to respond effectively, in accordance with the principle of comprehensive security, to all forms of threats . . .”

“If we are indeed ‘united by a common desire and collective will to live in a region of lasting peace, security and stability,’ we must be willing and able to take on this [disaster]going about its merry way, bullying, destroying or threatening towns and villages,” Lacson said.

“With greater reason should we, Asean neighbors, stay together and be united in all resources, because, if we are to confront this menace of a superpower individually and on our own, we will each be easily overwhelmed,” he added.

Lacson maintained that “multilateral assistance is key” to helping Yolanda-affected areas recover. He also highlighted the importance of Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response as it enters under the auspices of the Asean Charter.

Lacson thanked the Asean for its support, adding that he witnessed successful outcomes of a bilateral approach towards disaster relief that is a direct action by and between Asean members.

“Let us stay together, be united and be stronger, so that we can take on big and powerful calamities such as Haiyan [international code name for Yolanda]or any other similar superpower, predictable or otherwise, that comes our way, no longer cowering in fear whenever impending powerful storm surges strike. Let us always be prepared and act with resilience,” he said.

Yolanda made six landfalls across six or seven regions of the Philippines on November 8, 2013. It had the strongest storm surge “ever recorded in human history” that left 6,300 people dead and affected more than 1.4 million families.

Tacloban City in Leyte was the hardest hit by the storm considered as one of the world’s strongest.

Joining Minh and Lacson in the meeting were Deputy Secretary General for Asean Socio-Cultural Community Alicia dela Rosa-Bala, Myanmar Ambassador Ye Myint Aung, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Oxfam campaign manager Claire Seaward.

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