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EU offers help as disasters batter Philippines before Christmas

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said the bloc as a longstanding ally of the country is ready to assist either by humanitarian assistance or by use of their development funds. Philstar.com, File
MANILA, Philippines — The European Union said it is ready to help the Philippines as the country was battered by tragedies and natural calamities a couple of weeks leading up to Christmas.
 
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen, in a Facebook post on the EU Philippines page, said the bloc as a longstanding ally of the country is ready to assist either by humanitarian assistance or by use of their development funds.
 
"It was with great sadness that I, during the past week, saw the devastation and loss of lives caused by Vinta, Urduja, the fire at the NCCC in Davao and the sinking of the Quezon ferry," Jessen said.
 
"The sadness is felt even more deeply as the tragedies all took place at a time where families were preparing to join each other to celebrate Christmas - a time of traditional peace and joy," he added.
 
Tropical Depression Urduja and Typhoon Vinta had hit the country leaving hundreds dead and displacing thousands of families. The sinking of an inter-island vessel off the coast of Quezon followed this week as well as a blaze that trapped 37 workers inside a Davao City mall.
 
The offer came amid earlier statements by the Duterte administration that it would no longer accept grants from the EU after criticisms against the Philippine government's crackdown on illegal drugs.
 
 
Concerns over the Philippine human rights situation aired by the EU have been a cause of friction between President Rodrigo Duterte and the bloc. 
 
Last October, Duterte threatened EU envoys to leave the Philippines after mistaking a group of foreign parliamentarians, who called for an end to extrajudicial killings, was from the bloc.
 

 
This year has been difficult for the 72-year-old Philippine president who also faced his most serious crisis yet when hundreds of pro-ISIS extremists besieged Marawi City. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao to deal with the crisis that dragged on for nearly five months and severely damaged the lakeside Islamic city. — Mikas Matsuzawa
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