Global cooperation amid crises

I myself share the same passion as our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, which is to serve and love our country and our fellow Filipinos.

National development cannot operate in a vacuum. The importance of stronger global cooperation to assist in domestic growth has become even more pertinent in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the aggravation of some of the most intractable challenges that the world is facing. Against this backdrop, it is imperative that we strengthen our ties with other countries to identify areas in which we could work together toward the fulfillment of our respective national goals.

Thus, I am grateful that we have recently concluded a successful three-day parliamentary visit in France from 24 to 26 of October. I was part of the official Philippine Senate delegation that was invited to visit the said European country for inter-parliamentary exchanges on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Philippine-French diplomatic relations.

The Philippine delegation was led by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Joseph Victor Ejercito, together with fellow senators Manuel Lapid, Maria Lourdes Binay and Grace Poe.

During the visit, we met with the French Senate led by their Senate President Gérard Larcher, as well as with Guillaume Kasbarian, a member of the French National Assembly and chair of its Economic Affairs Committee, members of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Nuclear Safety Authority of France, and representatives of the French private sector, particularly those from the energy and transportation industries. We were also hosted by the France-South East Asian Friendship Group led by Senator Mathieu Darnaud.

I am optimistic that the visit would pave the way for a more profound relationship between the Philippines and France, especially as it opened up new opportunities for collaboration between the two nations in areas such as sustainable energy, climate change, economic growth, and food security.

Following our parliamentary visit in France, I then proceeded to Madrid, Spain. On 28 October, I was tasked to represent the Philippine Senate in the unveiling of the ceremonial plaque commemorating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Spain at the Jose Rizal Monument, Avenida de las Islas Filipinas. This was upon the invitation of the Philippine Embassy in Spain led by our Ambassador Philippe Lhuillier, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

It was a fitting tribute to the rich history shared by both countries as well as to our Filipino hero Dr. Jose Rizal whose beliefs and advocacies continue to inspire a nation even after more than 100 years since he died. I myself share the same passion as our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, which is to serve and love our country and our fellow Filipinos.

During these foreign visits, I am also grateful to be given an opportunity to meet our kababayans residing there. I know it is hard to be away from their loved ones here so it was a pleasure to share stories with them as they extended their warm welcome and also showed their support for our shared advocacies towards providing a safer and more comfortable life for our children.

As head of our Senate Committee on Health, I am also thankful for the opportunity to personally express our gratitude to the French and Spanish governments for their respective Covid-19 vaccine donations to the Philippines at the height of the pandemic. The donations went a long way toward ensuring the success of our vaccination program and the safety of our citizens against the threat of the virus.

Amid these responsibilities as a senator, we still continue to assist communities in crises here in our country. For instance, our office assisted 160 families who were affected by a fire incident in Pasay City. I also checked in on the situation of the victims myself through a video conference call.

My office also continued a series of relief operations last week for victims of disasters and other struggling Filipinos across the country. More fire victims were assisted, including 63 families in Parañaque City; 22 residents in Mati City, Davao Oriental; five individuals in Alabel, Sarangani; and four more in Lala, Lanao del Norte.

Beneficiaries also include 1,146 students from San Simon, Pampanga; 4,703 indigent residents from various towns in Lanao del Norte; 1,000 from Abucay, Bataan; 1,000 from Ibajay, Aklan; 866 from Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; 600 from San Jose del Monte City and 278 from Malolos City, Bulacan; 230 from Dingalan, Aurora; 130 from Sta. Cruz, Laguna; and 1,000 from San Antonio, Nueva Ecija.

We also helped 500 struggling residents in Naval, Biliran following the groundbreaking of the Super Health Center in the town.

Meanwhile, to boost the local economy, we also continue to assist small business owners. We supported 592 micro, small and medium enterprises in Tubao, Pugo, Agoo, Bagulin, Burgos, Rosario, Sto. Tomas, Aringay, Santol, Caba and Balaoan in La Union; and 250 in Infanta, Quezon.

Stronger cooperation in addressing climate change will be particularly helpful for a country like ours, which is touted as one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. In fact, many areas in our country are presently inundated due to the severe tropical storm “Paeng,” claiming the lives of our people, displacing even more, and causing damage to properties and infrastructures. Worse, this came on the heels of a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that hit Abra province last 25 October.

The extent of devastation caused by typhoon “Paeng” and recent calamities makes our call to establish the Department of Disaster Resilience and to build mandatory evacuation centers in every town, city and province more relevant than ever.

I also wish to express my sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones due to the calamity. Rest assured that we will do our part, to the best of our abilities, to provide support and help affected communities recover. I am continuously coordinating with our national agencies on the ground and concerned local government units to assist them in every way we can. Our teams are on their way to Maguindanao, Zamboanga, Cotabato, Cavite, Panay Island and other affected areas to help in the relief operations.

As we commiserate with those who have lost loved ones, let us do our best to ensure we can save more lives now and protect more lives in the future.

Cooperation, whether on a domestic or international level, has long been proven to be crucial in the achievement of every collective goal. Let us continue to forge closer ties and boost each other up so that even in the face of local and even global challenges, we can all emerge stronger and better than ever.

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