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European Commission allocates Euro 3M for 'Sendong' relief efforts

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The European Commission of the European Union (EU) has allocated Euro 3 million for relief and emergency measures for thousands of victims of last weekend’s devastating tropical storm “Sendong” in parts of Mindanao and the Visayas, it was announced Wednesday by the Delegation of the EU in Manila.

The decision was made by the EC on Tuesday night (Manila time) following President Jose Manuel Barroso’s expression of condolences to the storm victims relayed to President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The funds will be used primarily for debris clean-up, food assistance, temporary shelters, medical assistance, water and sanitation protection. Over 100,000 people in need of urgent assistance will benefit from the funding, according to the Delegation.

"Sendong" (international name: Washi) hit the Philippine central and southern regions on December 17 and 18, and authorities are still looking for the missing after accounting for at least 900 dead.

The Delegation also said that the European Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) has activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in order to advise member-States on specific needs that may be requested by the Philippine government and to coordinate their offers of civil protection assistance.

"Throughout the year the Philippines have been lashed by successive tropical storms, typhoons and heavy rainfall," said Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. Her message was relayed through the EU in Manila.

"While storms are a regular occurrence, the magnitude of Washi and the ferocity with which it hit this part of the country were exceptional. Because tropical storms are less frequent in the southern part of the country people were therefore less prepared and that has magnified the size of this tragedy."

President Aquino himself has ordered an investigation of whether or not people were given adequate warning about “Sendong.”
Normally, when a typhoon is expected to hit Luzon, the Department of Science and Technology undersecretary who is in-charge of the weather forecasting bureau, himself appears on television.
The provinces that were hit hardest by "Sendong" are not in the regular paths of major typhoons in the country.

Experts from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) have visited the affected areas to assess where the Commission's funding can make the greatest difference. From there, individual EU member-States can decide what assistance it would extend.

"The funding will bolster the efforts of humanitarian organizations who are working hard to provide immediate assistance," Commissioner Georgieva added.

"In order to ensure coordinated and effective EU action, we have also activated the Civil Protection Mechanism to advise member-States and participating countries on what is needed."

Official statistics showed that more than 335,000 people were affected in the region while the death toll has climbed to 957. Some 42,730 people are staying in 62 evacuation centers established by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Significant damage also has been caused to infrastructure and agriculture.

"Sendong" made landfall on the night of December 17, when most people were inside their homes and were caught unaware of rising waters that went up to more than 20 feet in many places near a major river. It brought heavy rainfalls and strong winds which resulted in massive flooding and landslides.

The European Commission has already given Euro 4.6 million worth of humanitarian assistance, mainly after typhoons Nesat (local name: Pedring) and Nagae (Quiel).

The Commission has also been supporting community-based disaster preparedness projects in the Philippines, allocating more than Euro 5.6 million during the past six years.

The Commission is a long-term provider of humanitarian assistance in Southeast Asia, where it brings relief to the victims of displacement, conflict and natural disasters and where it advocates for and supports measures for disaster preparedness and risk reduction.

In 2010 and 2011, the Commission has provided humanitarian assistance worth more than Euro 65 million in Southeast Asia.

The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response among 31 European states (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

The participating countries pool their resources which can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world.

When activated, the Mechanism coordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union. The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).

Since its creation in 2001, the Mechanism has been activated for disasters in member-States (for instance forest fires in Portugal, floods in the Balkans and an explosion at a naval base in Cyprus) and also elsewhere in the world, including the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.

By Gloria Jane Baylon




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