Canada reaches out to the Phl in a time of crisis

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Neil Reeder - The Philippine Star

Canadians were deeply saddened by the scale of the devastation and the level of human suffering seen in the Visayas in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, and Canada has been at the forefront of international efforts to assist the Philippines.

Our humanitarian response was rapid and significant, and we are committed to working with the Philippines through the recovery and reconstruction phase ahead.

In the immediate days after the disaster, working in consultation with Philippine government and civil society representatives, Canada provided $20 million in humanitarian assistance for food, shelter, safe water, educational assistance and counselling to disaster victims.

The Canadian government quickly set up a matching fund where the Government committed to match, dollar for dollar, the charitable contributions of Canadians to the relief effort. Thus far, Canadians have donated over $20 million to registered charities involved in the humanitarian effort. This tremendous outpouring of support including from the Filipino-Canadian community, which numbers nearly 800,000, reflects the generosity of Canadians and our desire to reach out to Filipinos at a time of deep national distress.

Canada funded the deployment of a Canadian Red Cross field hospital to Ormoc, which is assisting local hospitals that suffered damage during the typhoon by providing basic health and surgical care, as well as maternal and child care. A number of new babies were born in Leyte since Yolanda made landfall, thanks to Canadian doctors! At the same time, the not-for-profit Canadian Medical Assistance Team is on the ground in Ormoc, providing badly-needed out-patient medical services to those who have been affected by this disaster.

Canada quickly deployed humanitarian reserves from our Government’s emergency stockpile, sending 16,000 blankets, 3,000 tents, 1.3 million water purification tablets, and 5,000 temporary shelters to the Philippines. This will assist 5,000 families for a period of three months. Canada is also the fifth largest country donor to the Central Emergency Relief Fund of the UN, which allocated $25 million to relief efforts in the Philippines.

On the island of Panay, over 300 members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), comprised of members of the Canadian Forces and personnel from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, based in Roxas City, have cleared 113 kilometres of road, restored generators for hospitals and repaired municipal infrastructure damaged by Yolanda. Our Canadian Forces mobile medical teams are travelling by helicopter into isolated communities in Capiz, Iloilo, and Aklan provinces, and have treated more than 3,000 patients so far. Our DART water purification teams have distributed well over 20,000 litres of potable water, while DART helicopters have distributed almost 100 tonnes of food and relief supplies to remote island and mountain communities.

Canada has not only stepped up to contribute, but has attempted to do so in the most effective way possible – with many of the hard lessons we have learned from our involvement in similar relief efforts around the world greatly informing our efforts in the Philippines. United Nations Under-Secretary Valerie Amos called the Canadian presence in Panay Island “a model of civilian-military cooperation.”

 Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took part in an Interpol mission last week to assess needs of the Philippines authorities for disaster victim identification services. A Canadian government epidemiologist was deployed to Manila as part of the Global Outbreak Alert Response Network, in order to assist the World Health organization response team in the Philippines.

As the Philippines is also an important source country for immigrants to Canada, special measures have been put in place to prioritize the processing of permanent and temporary residence applications from regions affected by Yolanda.

This past week, our Minister of International Development, Christian Paradis, made an official visit to the Philippines to assess first hand the situation on the ground. He met with municipal officials, and visited Canadian Forces operations in Capiz and Iloilo provinces, and met with Canadian and international NGO partners working on the ground in Tacloban. He also toured the Canadian emergency medical facilities in Ormoc. At the conclusion of his visit, Minister Paradis reviewed the situation with Philippines Foreign Minister del Rosario, who spoke very highly of Canada’s contribution.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper told members of the Filipino-Canadian community in Toronto on November 18, “Canada’s thoughts and prayers continue to be with those in the Philippines who have been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). We are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Filipino-Canadian families who have loved ones that have been affected by this tragic natural disaster.” The Prime Minister said Canada’s Government “has taken decisive action to address the ravages of the typhoon by working closely with the Filipino-Canadian community, relief agencies and the Government of the Philippines to provide ongoing support to those who need it most.”

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(Neil Reeder is Canada’s new ambassador to the Philippines. He presented his credentials to President Aquino recently.)


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