AFP file photo
MANILA, Philippines – Amid a string of disasters in the Philippines during the Christmas season, the European Union condoled with Filipinos and said they are ready to come to the country's aid.
"The EU is a longstanding friend of the Philippine people and stands ready to assist during this difficult time," said EU Ambassador Franz Jessen in a statement posted on EU Philippines' Facebook page on Christmas Eve.
Jessen said EU's help can come in the form of "humanitarian assistance or by use of our development fund."
Jessen extended his "heartfelt condolenses" to victims of disasters that happened in the last few days, including the storms Vinta and Urduja that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands, the fire at the NCCC Mall in Davao City where 37 are believed to have died, and the sinking of a vessel off Quezon province that killed at least 6.
Below is his full message:
Mahal kong mambabasa,
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. 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.
On behalf of the EU Delegation I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families who have lost loved ones or have suffered in other ways during these calamities.
The EU is longstanding friend of the Philippine people and stands ready to assist during this difficult time: by humanitarian assistance or by use of our development funds, that can help to create an even more resilient country.
Back in May, the Philippines said it would no longer accept new EU grants, pegged at around 250 million euros or P13.85 billion.
Months later, in October, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the government would reject all international aid that would come with "conditions."
This came after President Rodrigo Duterte, angered by criticism by EU officials of his war against drugs, dared both the EU and United States to withdraw their aid from the Philippines, emphasizing that his country would not "beg" for the assistance. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com