PHL, Chile agree to help each other in mitigating disasters

MANILA, Nov. 16 (PNA) — The Philippines and Chile on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on disaster risk reduction and management.

Following their expanded bilateral meeting in Malacañang Palace, President Benigno S. Aquino III and his Chilean counterpart, Michelle Bachelet, witnessed the signing of the MOU, led by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who also chairs the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz.

Geographically situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines and Chile often deal with earthquakes that range from mild to disastrous.

The MOU aims to strengthen the two countries’ cooperation in the area of disaster risk reduction and management, with special emphasis on the process of prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation.

“In that way, we will diminish and prevent the impact caused by natural disasters in our territories and strengthen at the same time, the bilateral coordination of humanitarian response,” President Bachelet told reporters during a joint press conference with President Aquino at the Palace’s Reception Hall.

For his part, President Aquino noted that disaster relief is one area where the Philippines and Chile have always stood united.

He said the agreement would institutionalize cooperation between both governments in preparation for and during the onset of natural disasters.

He thanked Chile and its people for their assistance and sympathy in the aftermath of super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (Haiyan) in 2013, as President Bachelet extended the same for the Philippines’ expression of solidarity during Chile’s most recent brush with disaster.

A magnitude 8.3 quake hit Chile’s Illapel town last September, which was followed by several aftershocks. The Chilean government reported 13 casualties from the incident with six people missing.

Both countries suffered devastating quakes these past five years. In 2010, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake rocked Chile’s offshore Maule region, where more than 500 people died and 25 were reported missing.

Three years later, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake shattered several towns in Central Visayas, particularly the provinces of Bohol and Cebu, resulting in more than 200 casualties with nearly 1,000 people injured.

President Bachelet is on a state visit to the Philippines, coinciding with her participation in the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Manila on Wednesday and Thursday (November 18 and 19). (PNA)