Press Release
May 27, 2008


The Philippines made a humble pledge to contribute US$100,000 in cash and another US$250,000 in kind, such as medicines, relief goods and the cost of sending a 30-member medical team to Yangon via a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane for the disaster victims in Myanmar. The C-130 landed in Yangon on 26 May.

This is what Senator Richard Gordon informed the media last night at the NAIA upon arriving from Yangon, Myanmar where he led the six-member Philippine Delegation that attended the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference (IPC) on 25 May 2008.

Fifty-one countries and 22 international organizations participated in the Conference, which generated about US$30 million in new pledges, according to initial estimates of the United Nations (UN). The amount is in addition to the pledges of about US$100 million in bilateral and multilateral contributions that the UN has raised before the IPC.

Gordon said, "With this recent turn of events, it is now up to the Myanmar government to open up its doors to the ASEAN, members of which have now made available various facilities and assistance, so that the same may ultimately reach the suffering."

The Conference was held to mobilize greater international assistance for Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis that devastated and flooded Southern Myanmar on 2-3 May 2008. About 130,000 died (including the 56,000 missing) and 19,000 were injured in this calamity. Total damages to agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, communication and industrial sectors have reached US$10.67 billion.

Myanmar also officially announced at the Conference that it would welcome any assistance and aid from any country or organization, provided that there would be no strings attached or politicization involved to it.

At the first meeting of the ASEAN Task Force for the Humanitarian Coalition for the Victims of Cyclone Nargis, Senator Gordon likewise proposed that the ASEAN Task Force tap the expertise, network and goodwill that the ASEAN Red Cross/Red Crescent societies have already established. He further recommended that the experts from the Philippine and Indonesian Red Cross/Red Crescent societies be used to immediately train the relief workers of Myanmar Red Cross so that they could be more effective in their work.

Aware of the enormity of the disaster, Senator Gordon emphasized the need to scale-up the relief operations and get valuable expertise from other ASEAN governments and ASEAN Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies which could serve as a conduit to other international Red Cross Societies' resources and expertise. He called on the ASEAN and the Myanmar Government to tap the vast experiences and network of these humanitarian and disaster relief organizations which can effectively respond to the needs on the ground.

Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo and ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan encouraged and supported the Philippine proposal that the Red Cross/Red Crescent societies be totally engaged in the humanitarian efforts in Myanmar as it would allow disaster relief experts to conduct enhanced, speedy and focused assistance for the disaster victims through the Myanmar Red Cross.

The Task Force, headed by ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, is mandated to coordinate closely with the UN and Myanmar's central coordinating body to facilitate the effective distribution and utilization of assistance from the international community. The Task Force agreed to meet once a month in Yangon.

The Philippines designated Major General Glenn J. Rabonza (Ret.), Executive Officer of the National Disaster Coordinating Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs' Director for ASEAN Affairs Zaldy B. Patron to serve as members of the ASEAN Task Force.

The ASEAN Task Force, in turn, decided to establish the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) that will operate in Yangon on a daily basis during the next seven months. The TCG will provide on-the-ground support and assist the ASEAN Task Force in implementing its activities. The TCG will have nine members, three each from the ASEAN, the Myanmar Government and the UN.

The ASEAN will also set up an ASEAN Field Office in Yangon, which will closely coordinate with the representatives of the Myanmar Government and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) under the TCG framework.

The other members of the Philippine Delegation were Ambassador Noel C. Cabrera of the Philippine Embassy in Yangon, Major General Rabonza, the Department of Foreign Affairs' Undersecretary for Policy Enrique A. Manalo, Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Romeo M. Manalo, and Director Patron.

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