09 March 2014
Meeting with the Government of The Philippines
Thank you all very much. I’d like to especially thank the local authorities and the Government of The Philippines for your presence on a Sunday night. And Ambassador Virgilio Reyes, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to FAO, thank you for accompanying me from Rome to assist us in this visit.
I’d also like to thank all our partners for all their support.
Let me start by reaffirming what FAO Representative in The Philippines, Rajendra Aryal said: our commitment does not to stop. The slogan “Planting the Seeds of Recovery” has been an excellent one and sums up what we’re doing here, but we will go further.
As already stated earlier this afternoon, this was a mega disaster and the team working here is also a mega team. Our actions have demonstrated the way to act in difficult situations such as these – helping each other, each actor doing exactly what it is expected to do, not trying to overpower the other. You really built a good team in a difficult situation and we can now all see the results, the recovery is on its way and we are indeed planting the seeds of recovery. However, this is the start, our work isn’t finished yet.
We are moving, as the coordinator of the Food Security Cluster Team just said, from the relief phase to the recovery phase. This really is just the beginning. And let me take a minute to say that, for FAO, this was our first experience with the new protocol of action that we have implemented with WFP and OCHA on emergencies. It really is amazing to see how it has worked. I am anxious to see the rice fields and the green areas tomorrow, because what I have seen coming from the airport is not exactly that.
Let me add that, from the very beginning, as soon as Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines, I was informed of the situation and we allocated USD 1.2 million from our own emergency fund to immediately initiate the relief response that was needed. FAO, WFP and OCHA were the first actors to arrive on the scene of the emergency. We have been able to start immediately the relief phase, and now move to the recovery phase.
The typhoon hit precisely between two harvest seasons. We worked to save what was possible from the harvest and intervened swiftly to provide rice seeds and fertilizers for the next harvest (last December 2013-January 2014) so farmers were able to go back to daily life. Had we not arrived in time, we would have had to continue the relief phase for one year or more. But we managed and now we are moving from relief to recovery.
That is the whole purpose of our work – help affected people to get back on their feet and back to their lives. We are now looking to increase the support not only to farmers, but also to affected people of other livelihoods, such as fishers and livestock owners.
All that we have done was possible thanks to the support we received from the local government here. The work that has been done in Tacloban and other affected areas has been facilitated throughout by the local and national authorities, who supported this project from its very beginning.
We also received support from the governments of Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and others, who donated money to the project. Funds are what are needed at the very beginning. We urgently needed these vital funds.
It has really been amazing to see how we could work together in a critical environment, in a very efficient manner to help the farmers. I would like to conclude by thanking you all for your work, but especially the farmers, who have given us their complete support. Without their active participation, recovery from this disaster would not be possible.
I would like to finish thanking you all for your work, but especially thanking the support we got from the farmers and their organizations, without them this successful response would not have been possible.