US, Sen. Pangilinan extend help to ‘Juan’ victims

October 19, 2010

Kimberly Jane Tan
GMANews.TV
October 19, 2010

In response to a formal request from the Philippines, the United States is providing help to the Philippines in the wake of typhoon “Juan” (Megi).

The US Embassy on Tuesday said US troops here for joint exercises under the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement are helping assess areas affected by “Juan,” which ravaged provinces in northern Luzon on Monday.

“At the request of the Government of the Philippines, some US troops and equipment currently in the Philippines for the annual CARAT and PHIBLEX exercises, along with aircraft and personnel from the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, both here under the Visiting Forces Agreement, have been diverted for use by Philippine counterparts to conduct assessments of the areas impacted by Typhoon Juan. Additional assistance will be determined based on the results of these initial assessments,” the Embassy said in a statement on its website.

On the other hand, the US government will make available $100,000 to help Filipinos affected by “Juan.”

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas, Jr. said he has instructed the US Embassy to authorize disaster relief assistance.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all Filipinos during this difficult time. I’m heartened and impressed by the effective measures taken by the people and the Government of the Philippines to meet the threat posed by the storm,” he said in the press statement.

He added the Embassy team is in constant contact with Philippine authorities and representatives from non-government organizations (NGOs) to “determine how we can be of further assistance.” The assistance will be given through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“USAID plans to make available $100,000 to help those affected by the typhoon,” it said.

Kiko wants to help, too

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said he has released P10 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – or pork barrel – for the relief and rehabilitation of provinces hit hardest by typhoon Juan.

In a statement, Pangilinan said among the provinces which stand to benefit from the fund release are Benguet, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya.

The senator, who heads the Senate committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development, also urged other government officials to extend the same assistance to typhoon-affected areas.

“Ang mahalaga ay ang makatugon tayo nang mabilis para matugunan ang mga pangangailangan ng mga kababayan nating naghihirap sa kabila ng pinakamalakas na bagyo sa mundo ngayon (What’s important is we are able to immediately respond to the needs of our countrymen who are suffering because of the strong typhoon),” he said.

He noted, however, that the PDAF release is just a temporary solution to the problem and that “long-term solutions” are needed to ensure food security and livelihood for the people.

“We urgently need to work together to develop our road map for agriculture and ensure that the proper long-term solutions are developed to bring our agricultural practices and the welfare of our farmers closer to first-world standards,” Pangilinan said.

Among the long-term solutions which he proposed are the modernization of agriculture facilities, strengthening of crop insurance and protection measures, and more effective risk mitigation measures against climate change.

The PDAF is a lump-sum appropriation in the annual General Appropriations Act to fund the priority development programs and projects of the government.

The programs and projects implemented under this fund include scholarship programs, medical assistance to indigent patients, livelihood support programs, the purchase of IT equipment, rural electrification, water supply, peace and order, financial assistance to local government units for their priority projects and programs, and infrastructure projects.

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