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Palace defends aid from international community for Taal relief, rehab efforts

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By Genalyn Kabiling

There is nothing wrong with asking for help from the international community to augment relief and rehabilitation efforts for communities affected by Taal Volcano, Malacañang said Thursday.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, certain protocols are in place to facilitate any humanitarian assistance from foreign countries.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo
(OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Panelo made the remarks after President Duterte placed Region IV-A or Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) under a state of calamity over the unrest of Taal Volcano.

Read more: Calabarzon placed under state of calamity due to Taal volcano’s unrest

Under Proclamation No. 906, the calamity declaration is expected to speed up the “rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts of the government and the private sector, including any international humanitarian assistance.”

“Wala namang masama din na humingi ng tulong para mas lalong mahusay iyong ating pagtulong sa mga nangangailangan (There is nothing wrong with asking for help to more effectively assist those in need),” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

“Mayroong established protocols na roon (there are established protocols) so they will just follow the protocols already established sa lahat ng mga declared calamities (in all declared calamities),” he added.

Asked about the President’s request for supplemental budget for the Taal relief efforts, Panelo said he has no update on the matter yet. He said there was no need for the Palace to appeal to Congress since lawmakers “know their job.”

“The presumption is they do their job. Until such time that they are not doing their job, then we will appeal to them,” he said.

Last month, the Palace said it was prepared to accept foreign donations but would not actively seek assistance abroad to deal with the Taal calamity. Panelo said the government was still capable of responding to needs of the communities affected by Taal’s volcanic activity.

Meanwhile, Panelo has defended the timing of the calamity declaration in Southern Tagalog over Taal Volcano’s ash explosion, saying it was not too late to issue such proclamation.

“There can never be ‘too late’ in any declaration with respect to calamities. ‘Pag may calamity siyempre ang tagal niyan (When there’s a calamity it takes a long time), you cannot be late,” he said.

Under the proclamation, government agencies have been directed to implement rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation work in accordance with pertinent operational plans and directives in Taal-affected areas.

The calamity declaration will also effectively control the prices of basic goods and commodities for the affected places as well as give agencies “ample latitude” to use funds for the relief efforts.

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