Congressmen of five Central European countries visited the humanitarian and development projects provided to those affected by Typhoon Yolanda. During the three-day stay, the representatives were able to visit the Philippine Congress as well as the people living in the infamous “Smokey Mountain” in Tondo, Manila. Furthermore, an inspection of several Czech-run projects in and around Basey and Guian in Samar, through the assistance of both People in Need and Caritas Czech Republic, was made possible.
The journey of the congressmen of Czechia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia was organized by the biggest Central European non-governmental organization, the Czech “PIN -People in Need”, headed by its Manila-based Philippine Country Director Canny Geyer.
Before bidding farewell to Manila, the Slovak congressman Ľuboš Blaha says, “Hats down to People in Need organization and to all those who helped not only in the Philippines but around the world, in those countries most stricken by poverty. What I am happily bringing back in memory are the faces of Filipinos, capable of enjoying life despite living in underprivileged areas in the country. They are beautiful, optimistic people of good and vibrant spirit.”
The Czech organization, People in Need as well as Caritas Czech Republic have implemented projects in Samar Island, while the Czech branch of ADRA helped the people in Panay. PIN continued their long-term reconstruction and development programs in the sectors of livelihood & market development, agriculture, land issues and civil society development. On the other hand, Caritas Czech Republic followed their initial aid with the renewal of schools and support for agriculture, which includes cultivation of low cost rice and alternative crops and the use of natural fertilizers. ADRA Czech Republic transitioned their focus on shelter, livelihood and disaster risk reduction.
As Ambassador Olša believes, “I hope the parliamentarians, through this joint study trip, will be familiar with the needs of Asian countries stricken by natural disasters…”
The joint study trip was aimed to introduce the parliamentarians to the mechanisms of development cooperation’s implementation, monitoring, evaluation and how it should be, based on country and community needs. According to Jan Vytopil, Deputy Head of Mission at the Czech Embassy, “I hope this visit shows that help from smaller countries are as much meaningful as the aid coming from the traditional large players. Optimistically, the journey would open doors to deeper appreciation of the benefits of aid and development projects”.
The delegation was represented by Pavel Plzák, Member of the Committee on Petitions and Foreign Affairs of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Rainer Varka, Head of the Committee on Environment of the Parliament of the Republic of Estonia, L’uboš Blaha, Head of the Committee for European Affairs and Member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Parliament of the Slovak Republic, Virginijus Sinkevicius, Head of the Committee for Economic Affairs of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania and Deputy Chair of Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union and Rihards Kols, Deputy Head of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Member of the Committee for European Affairs of the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia.
Furthermore, in lieu with the visit, His Excellency Jaroslav Olša jr. of the Czech Republic hosted a reception to meet and talk about possible European projects for the country representatives. Noted attendees were various international development cooperation agencies which have long been based in Manila, namely Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional Para el Desarrollo (AECID), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to include a few.