EU announces PhP470 million for Mindanao evacuees

The European Commission has approved a PhP470 million aid package for Mindanao evacuees, said Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, Head of Delegation of the European Commission (click here for the press release).
About PhP270 million — has been earmarked for immediate humanitarian relief while PhP200 million is meant for “displaced persons and host communities affected by conflict over recent years.” What follows is a rough transcript of the press conference.

Note: Words in parentheses are questions. Again, these are for background only.

Head, Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines
Q and A:

(How do you assess the government’s response to the Mindanao crisis)
I think the govt is doing a lot. Both the national and local govts are doing a lot to help the civilian victims of conflict but its clear that their resources are very overstretched. I saw in one of your papers there was a comment that the stock of food are all gone, the scale of the number of people affected by conflict are so large that its impt for the intl community to help.

(you’ve been spending on these people sionce 1989 so you think your efforts have been in vain)
ok, thats a very sensible question i was just looking yesterday the overall statistics of overall cooperation in Mindanao if you look back 20 years our total devt assistance amounts to 520 million euros. Out of that about 115 m euros has gone to projects in Mindanao so thats about 20 percent. But if you do the same calculation for humanitarian assistance and investments lending from the European investment bank (EIB) the picture’s quite different. Our devt assistance to Mindanao is 20 percent of the total assistance for the Philippines, the humanitarian assistance is 40 percent and EIB lending for projects to Mindanao is ten percent. You can see the pattern there. The devt assistance is average compared to the overall assistance to the Philippines but humanitarian assistance is heavily secured towards Mindanao and we are not lending very much for lending projects in Mindanao. Now if u ask if efforts are in vain, certainly not. We have to recognize that one project is only a drop in the bucket compared to the overall development of Mindanao. Thats clear that peace is necessary for Mindanao to be able to develop and achieve its full potential.

(comment on stalled MOA-AD)
I think the main thing that we can say to peace process is precisely what we said in the eu statement. We urge govt of rp and milf to agree to early return to negotiating table tin order to seek to lasting solution to the conflict.

(you said only 10 percent go to lending…eu one of major contributors of Mindanao trust fund..are there any projects affected by conflict)
The comment i made earlier was based on our budget structure. We have one budget for devt project and another budget separate for humanitarian assistance and outside the European commission we have the European investment bank to lend and support intl investment projects. the EIB for past 10 to 15 years has lent substantial amount of money for projects to the RP worth 400 million euros. Out of that 48 million are projects to Mindanao one of thise was the rehabilitation of airport in davao and for a cement plant also near davao.
As far as the impact of the fighting on our projects is concerned, we are monitoring this very carefully. Because some the projects that we are funding are located in areas of fighting like midsayap, aleosan…we are hopeful that our projects will not be seriously affected by the conflict. For the Mindanao trust fund, i was in sarranggani a couple of weeks ago, there are two kinds of activities being undertaken there, we are in contact with the bangsamoro development agency to ensure that the achievements of the project will be safeguarded.
But our immediate concern is the civilians who have been displaced and in the longer term, the efforts that we have put in to small scale community-based devt in conflict affected areas in Mindanao it has been appreciated by the communities and im confident that these successes will not be endangered in the long term.

(you have people there)
We have a staff working on health project in Mindanao and they have been very prudent not to travel. They are very careful as well as the BDA staff and NGOs working with them

(Are you pulling them out)
We don’t see any need to take emergency measures at this stage. What is necessary is exercise common sense and prudence

(these are Europeans)
They are based in davao. They don’t have to go to conflict areas.

(Cost of damage)
My impression from press reports is that the real sufferers are the civilians. Houses have been destroyed and properties have been destroyed and it has been photographed by newspapers which are quite telling.

(can you say that your projects are suspended)
None of our projects have been suspended

(what is the psychological effect of this)
Imagine you have been forced to runaway from your village and take shelter in a school and it happens five, seven, ten years. I would feel pretty damaged and frightened and i think the agencies that deal with IDPs and refugees have a long experience of identifying the psycho-social experience from that repeated stress and repeated exposure to conflict. Its impt to address them

(comment to declare milf commanders terrorists. Will you heed that call)
As far as i’m aware there has not been any consideration given on the eu side to expand our list of terrorists and institutions of terrorism.

(what about the military action, are you supporting it)
Again, i would go back to our sept15 statement that we are deeply concerned by the violence in Mindanao…we underline that the conflict can be resolved through dialogue and both parties should go back to nego table and exercise restraint…

(can u comment on the DDR)
Again, i would go back to our statement. The eu urges milf and grp for an early return to nego table.

(any assistance from the eu on the peace process)
There isn’t any suggestion from the govt and the milf to allow outside party such as eu to give assistance to the peace talks.

(EU needs assessment mission…can you give us figure on damage in mindanao and how many years for Mindanao to recover from this crisis)
I can answer your 2nd question, but i do have a lot of optimism that this would transform the devt prospects of Mindanao and help the national, regional local govts address the issues, the poverty.
On the NAM last sept, the total affected population was like 400,000 more recently the figure was up to 500,000. But the other main finding of that mission—despite the support of the natl govt and the LGUs and international community, it has already reached a point wherein the resources are already very very thinly stretched and that was the main thing that we have taken into account in deciding on this assistance now.

(would you describe the situation in Mindanao as a humanitarian crisis)
I don’t think, i wouldn’t say its a humanitarian crisis in Mindanao. I would say that its a very serious humanitarian problem in Mindanao. Theres a very large number of people who have been affected by the conflict. But you know i don’t want to use the word crisis but because there is a serious problem in Mindanao, because we were requested by the government to look into the possibility of providing assistance to Mindanao, we have looked and we have provided assistance in that context i mentioned on the efforts of local and national government are reaching their limits because their resources are completely overstretched.

(how long will this aid last)
This will be implemented between 6 and 9 months. this is immediate and not a longterm assistance


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