MANILA, Philippines–There’s bound to be less holiday cheer at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Tourism (DOT), as the two government offices have decided to tone down and scrap their yuletide parties, but the Christmas spirit apparently remains alive as employees of the two agencies donated part of their cash gift and celebration funds to victims displaced by Typhoon “Pablo” in Mindanao.
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said that the election body was pushing through with a more subdued Christmas party this year, with half of its budget for traditional merrymaking going instead to the families affected by the killer typhoon.
“We lowered our budget for the Christmas party for our employees and canceled the party for the press,” Brillantes told reporters in an interview Friday.
He added that the Comelec was also slashing P100 from the P1,000 cash gift allotted to each employee as added donation to the victims of the typhoon. “So that should be half a million (pesos),” Brillantes said.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that donations will be in cash and in kind.
In its Twitter account, the DOT announced that, like some government agencies, it was also canceling its Christmas party in the wake of the devastation wrought by the typhoon.
“In light of the recent events and in solidarity with the rest of the nation, the DOT has decided to cancel its Christmas party,” the agency tweeted. “As we celebrate the Season, let us remember the values of charity and generosity by sharing our prayers and blessings with the victims of Pablo,” the DOT added.
Malacañang had earlier announced that it was canceling its Christmas parties even as it appealed for “subdued celebrations” across the country. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have also canceled their traditional holiday celebrations.
In toning down its Christmas party this year, Brillantes said the decision was not meant to copy Malacañang’s move. “We are inspired by what we see. It’s a waste to celebrate when there are people suffering,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government yesterday said it was providing C$1.75 million (about P73 million) additional assistance to victims of typhoon Pablo.
The Canadian embassy in Manila said the amount was in addition to Ottawa’s initial contribution of P10 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to support the Philippine Red Cross in helping approximately 50,000 people affected by the typhoon.
“Canada is responding to the increasing needs of the people of the Philippines as they face the alarming devastation caused by the typhoon. We are helping families survive by providing critical humanitarian assistance,” the Canadian embassy in Manila quoted Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino as saying.
Canada’s assistance, through the Canadian International Development Agency, will support three organizations for urgently needed food, safe drinking water, emergency shelter, and other assistance to over 480,000 affected people in the worst-hit areas.
These organizations are the United Nations World Food Program, which will receive $700,000 to provide access to emergency food assistance; the United Nations Children Fund, which will be granted $350,000 for emergency water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, and the International Organization for Migration, which will be given $700,000 to provide emergency shelters and camp support, including coordination and management, for people displaced as a result of the typhoon.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Filipinos around the world have responded to the Manila government’s appeal for help to typhoon-affected victims.
The United Filipino Organization in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, raised $730.88 during a fund drive conducted in markets and shopping centers, the Philippine consulate said, adding that the amount was sent to the Philippine Red Cross.
In Guam, the Philippine consulate said the Cristeta Villacorta Alegria Foundation turned over a $2,000 donation to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Manila for its relief and rehabilitation drive.
The Philippine Community Council (PCC) in New South Wales meanwhile handed over to the Mt. Apo Lions Club of Davao a $5,000 (about P212,000) donation that PCC director Angie Jenkins and volunteers of the Lions Club said will be used for relief goods for around 700 families or 3,000 individuals in Compostela Valley.
In Pretoria, South Africa, drop-boxes have been set up for typhoon victims during a Christmas party hosted by the Philippine embassy for Filipino communities there and from neighboring Botswana and Lesotho.