Kjartan Sekkingstad left the Philippines

Norwegian national Mr. Kjartan Sekkingstad left the Philippines on Thursday, 23 September 2016. The Norwegian Ambassador Mr. Erik Førner informs that Mr. Sekkingstad has recovered well during the past few days. ‘Mr. Sekkingstad has undergone medical examinations and has been well taken care of both in Manila and Davao. He has also been properly debriefed by relevant authorities in order to provide information that can aid in the rescue of other captives’, said Ambassador Førner.

Mr. Sekkingstad was freed last weekend after being held hostage in Sulu for almost a year.

‘Mr. Sekkingstad has expressed his gratitude towards President Rodrigo Duterte, Secretary Jesus Dureza and all other actors who has contributed to his release’, said Mr. Førner. ‘He is also grateful for all support from family and friends in Davao, Norway and elsewhere’.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Foreign Minister Børge Brende have also expressed their gratitude to Philippine authorities for their steadfast commitment to secure the release of Mr. Sekkingstad. In a statement issued earlier this week Prime Minister Solberg said that cooperation between all the relevant authorities in Norway and the Philippines and with international partners has been close and effective. She added: ‘I would like to extend special thanks to President Rodrigo Duterte and the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Jesus Dureza, for their commitment to resolving the situation.’

Norway commits NOK 255 million (PHP 1.85 billion) in relief aid to typhoon victims

Over 14 million people were affected by the typhoon in the Philippines. “The Philippines is now in the middle of a critical process of reconstruction. Unfortunately only around 40 % of the amount sought by the UN appeal to support early recovery has been provided. It is crucial that the international community continues to support the recovery efforts, and Norway is therefore increasing its allocation by a further NOK 50 million, to NOK 255 million,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, speaking in Tacloban today.

This will make Norway the third largest contributor to to the UN appeal for emergency relief and reconstruction efforts following the typhoon Haiyan. Today, two months after the devastating typhoon hit the country, Mr Brende visited some of the most seriously affected areas, on the islands of Samar and Leyte.

“I am here to show that Norway and the international community have not forgotten the Philippines. Now that the acute emergency relief phase is over, it is important that priority is given to providing enough resources for reconstruction of the communities. The Philippines is affected more and more frequently by extreme weather events and natural disasters. By focusing on prevention, preparedness and risk reduction, societies can be spared a great deal of suffering and lost resources,” said Mr Brende.

Mr Brende had meetings with local authorities and members of local communities. He visited several projects and met representatives of Norwegian Church Aid, the Norwegian Red Cross, the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that are involved in the emergency relief and reconstruction efforts supported by Norway. According the UN, over 4 million people have been internally displaced as a result of the typhoon, and over 1 million homes have been completely or partly destroyed.

“It is quite clear that the typhoon has caused massive damage and devastation. The need for shelter and opportunities to earn income is particularly pressing. So it is encouraging to see that the Norwegian funds are being put to good use, the reconstruction work is under way and the local people are starting to return to their normal lives,” said Mr Brende.

Foreign Minister Børge Brende is on a three day official visit to the Philippines.

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Norway supports peace process, takes active role in the decommissioning process

Norway remains fully committed to support efforts and keep the path of peace in the Philippines on track. I commend the efforts of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to undertake the decommissioning process. The decommissioning is an important component of the whole normalization process as laid out in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,’ said Ambassador of Norway to the Philippines Erik Førner.

The Norwegian government takes active role to contribute to the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants through the following:

a) Deployment of Norway’s expert as vice-chair for the establishment of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) in the person of retired Brigadier General Jan Erik Wilhelmsen. He was previously involved in peacekeeping operations in Barbados, Central Sudan, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Nigeria, and Yugoslavia;

b) Deployment of additional experts in the IDB Headquarters; and

c) Deployment of additional experts in the IDB-verification and monitoring assistance teams (VMAT) that will take charge of the security of the assembly and processing areas and/or the arms storage area for the decommissioning process.

‘Lasting peace is fundamental in bringing development and stability in Mindanao, for the benefit of the entire population of the Philippines. The alternative to peace is continued conflict. Armed conflicts not only takes lives; it also creates and intensifies poverty. It is our wish that the Philippines overcomes the Mamasapano tragedy and unite to support the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in Mindanao,’ said Ambassador Førner.

Norway has for several years been a part of the International Monitoring Team supervising the ceasefire in Mindanao. It is also the third-party facilitator of peace talks between the Philippine Government and the communist movement.  

The Norwegian Training Center Manila sends vessel to Tacloban with relief goods

The Norwegian Training Center Manila (NTC-M) in close cooperation with the Philippines Norway Business Council (PNBC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Department of Energy chartered the vessel M/V Kapitan Felix Oca to deliver relief aid to Tacloban.

The response from NGOs and others wanting to ship relief goods on the Kapitan Felix Oca was almost overwhelming. The vessel left Manila bound for Tacloban on Wednesday, November 13 loaded with about 100 metric tonnes of emergency relief cargo and personnel:

  • WHO shipped a medical team of 16-20 persons and around 6 tons of medical equipment
  • The Department of Energy shipped around 4 tons of equipment and 5 staff
  • The Norwegian Training Center Manila (NTC-M) purchased 6,000 “family packs” consisting of food and water
  • 400 kgs of mining equipment and 23 rescuers were on board
  • SMART Telecom shipped communications equipment to restore telephone communications
  • The Norwegian Embassy in Manila contributed with PHP 100,000 worth of assorted foodstuffs, water and sanitary articles
  • In addition, the ship carried an unknown amount of relief goods provided by NGOs and other entities

160 cadets from NTC were on board to help repack and distribute the goods. The ship arrived in Tacloban around 8 AM on Friday, November 15. Jøran Nøstvik of NTC was also on board.

– I have been in Tacloban several times before, but I almost didn’t recognize it now. The city looked like it had been bombed. When the ship approached Tacloban, all the crew went silent. We’d seen the photos, but we were not prepared for what we saw with our own eyes, said Nøstvik.

He said cooperation with authorities went smoothly.

– The Coast Guard met us off the coast of Tacloban and followed us to port to avoid plundering. Once at berth we were met by representatives from four different government departments, as well as AFP (military) and PNP (police) personnel.

By Saturday, November 16 the ship was unloaded and the goods distributed by the Red Cross and local government agencies to hospitals and families in the area. The same afternoon, Kapitan Felix Oca left Tacloban for Manila to stock up on relief goods and continue distribution to other provinces hard to reach by land and air.