Aquino to diplomats: The PH remembers who our friends are

Apostolic Nuncio and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto says they will help in rebuilding something even better than what was destroyed

GRATITUDE. President Benigno Aquino III thanks ambassadors for the aid extended by their nations to the Philippines in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda. Screenshot from RTVM

MANILA, Philippines – At one of the biggest gatherings of the heads of the diplomatic missions in the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III had one simple message: gratitude.

On Friday, January 10, Aquino hosted the 27th Vin d’Honneur – an annual tradition to mark the New Year – and thanked the nations that helped the Philippines in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), telling ambassadors, “the Filipino people remember who their friends are.”

“In this first gathering of friends and partners for the New Year, it is also just and fitting that your role in our collective achievement be recognized,” he said.

“Many of the nations you represent have been our partners not just in overcoming one calamity, but in addressing the challenges that arose in the wake of many others. For some other nations represented here today, you came to our assistance after Yolanda. By doing so, you opened a new chapter in our relations.”

Aquino said the act of kindness shown to the Filipino people will never be forgotten, and has impacted international relations. (READ: Foreign aid: Process from donor to beneficiaries)

“The generosity you have shown serves as our firm foundation as we work to expand ever-widening horizons of our relationships. To our old allies, your commitment to helping our nation underscores the deep friendship and cooperation built over generations,” he said.

The President also said he was inspired by the overflow of compassion he saw in the wake of Yolanda, and will enter 2014 “filled with happiness and hope.” (READ: DFA: Most int’l aid won’t be passing through gov’t)

Proactive

Total foreign aid both in cash and non-cash has reached P23.8 billion, with the total cash received by the government pegged at P592 million, according to government website FAiTH. FAiTH was set up by the administration to monitor the movement of the money and to promote transparency and accountability.

Aid poured in from over 60 countries in the wake of Yolanda known as the world’s strongest typhoon to hit land, which ravaged Eastern Visayas in November and left almost 8,000 dead or missing, and over 4 million homeless.

In his speech, Aquino also praised the “transformation” of the Filipino people to becoming “a proactive agent of change in nation-building.” He said they are “no longer plunked into cynicism or apathy,” an attitude he saw when he first became President in 2010.

He hailed the efforts of the Filipino community to help fellow countrymen not just after Yolanda, but after monsoon rains, the conflict in Zamboanga City, and the earthquake in Bohol.

Aquino also highlighted the faith of Filipinos, which he said was the source of the nation’s resiliency.

“Our unbreakable spirit and ability to recover find root in our firm belief in a benevolent God who has the perfect plan for all of us. These tragedies tell us that, despite all our efforts, we are indeed powerless without God,” he said.

Solidarity

As is tradition, in behalf of the Diplomatic Corps, Apostolic Nuncio and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto also offered a toast to the President, echoing his admiration for the Filipino people.

“At times, the strong are called to be even stronger. When faced with this tragedy, the Filipino people reacted with the strength of their character and their faith. Victims and rescuers became members of the same family,” he said.

He also hailed Aquino’s leadership and vowed the Diplomatic Corps would “help in rebuilding something that is even better than what was destroyed.”

“The whole world wished to help, to console, to rebuild. And just as in previous calamities, you, Mr President, paved the way for local and international solidarity. Inspiring episodes of heroism and fraternal love in Samar, Leyte and to the neighboring islands are being written in the pages of history,” he said.

Aside from ambassadors, among those present at the event were Sarangani Congressman Manny Pacquiao, senators such as Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes, Cabinet Secretaries and prominent businessmen.

While the New Year’s Day reception dates back to the colonial period, it was under the administration of President Corazon Aquino that it was revived and known as it is today.

Presently, Aquino follows the practice of his mother by receiving guests in the Music Room, before joining assembled guests at the Rizal Hall. There he delivers his New Year’s remarks, concluding with a toast to the prosperity and well being of the Filipino people.

The New Year’s Day Vin d’Honneur is the first of two Vin d’Honneur receptions held yearly with the second one held on Independence Day. Rappler.com