Subject: PNA: Philippines to help with reconstruction


The Estrada administration has assured East Timor of assistance in rehabilitating and developing its farming and fishery sector by offering an initial batch of agricultural experts to do the job.

Secretary Edgardo Angara of the Department of Agriculture relayed this assurance to East Timor independence leaders Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao and Jose Ramos-Horta during their recent visit to the DA office in Quezon City.

"We will be very happy to extend technical assistance to East Timor as much as we can," Angara told Gusmao and Ramos-Horta, both of whom are widely acknowledged to become president and vice president respectively when their country officially becomes an independent state.

Angara presented to the two East Timorese guests the ll experts who will be sent by the Philippine government to assist the former Indonesian territory in developing its agricultural.

The Philippine offer to send the experts was in response to the call of the United Nations Transition Authority for East Timor (UNTAET), the temporary governing body overseeing the affairs of East Timor until finally becomes independent.

The experts were identified by Angara as follows: Philippine Rice Research Institute rice expert Genaro San Valentin, aquaculture expert Arnold Velarde, fiber expert Gilberto Layese, animal production expert Samuel Castorillo, irrigation expert Bonifacio Labiano, rural developsment expert Jimmy Olivo, plant quarantine expert Diogenes Lopez, project management expert Estrella Tulay, coconut expert Bonifacio Pangahas, and agribusiness experts Ursulina Nonoy and Joselito Aquino.

During their visit, Ramos-Horta told Angara that the most pressing need for East Timor was for it to lessen, if not eliminate, humanitarian food aid by March 200l.

For his part, Gusmao underscored the need to establish a training program, in which experts and volunteers could provide various technical assistance to East Timor, funding of which may likely be provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB).

Gusmao noted that ADB and WB are managing a $40-million trust fund meant to rehabilitate East Timor's infrastructure needs and to give attention to agriculture, health and educational development.

He said that at least 70 percent of East Timor's more than 800,000 inhabitants depend on agriculture for their subsistence and 60 percent of this proportion are engaged in rice cultivation.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agrarian Reform also pledged to organize a team composed of representatives from DAR and various non-government organizations to help in the reconstruction of East Timor.

"Together, we can undertake rural reconstruction in East Timor," DAR Secretary Horacio Morales, Jr. said in response to the request for assistance from Gusmao and Ramos-Horta, who called on him and other NGO leaders at this office in Quezon City.

Gusmao informed Morales that his country, whose majority population lives in the rural areas, needs assistance in land distribution, improvement of farm productivity, and in land use development and planning.

In response, Morales told Gusmao that his department " is very much willing to do something immediately" for the East Timorese people.

The DAR chief likewise pledged to seek the help of partner NGOs or civil society groups in taking the lead in helping East Timor.

He said that the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, which he headed before he joined the Cabinet is under the International Rural Reconstruction Movement that is present in 13 countries.

During the meeting, a number of the NGO representatives also committed to help East Timor in training and organizing its citizens for sustainable rural development.

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