|Photo from: storify.com/ZackStieber/|
First, some background. Coquitlam's relationship with Ormoc was not a "sister city" type one, but is better characterized as an "adopted little sister" type. Specifically, under a program funded by the FCM, Coquitlam shared some of its administrative expertise with Ormoc to assist it in modernizing city management. It's my understanding that some Coquitlam officials travelled to Ormoc several years ago to give first-hand instruction. And that's where the relationship ended.
Regardless of whether Ormoc is our "sister city" or merely an "adopted little sister," I still thought it was worthwhile exploring whether Coquitlam could do anything to help the city of 191,000 in its time of crisis. I learned that, under B.C.'s Community Charter, we are not allowed to provide any direct financial assistance, even a token amount.
However, I was pleased when Mayor Richard Stewart ended a council meeting late last year with a fine speech outlining our relationship with Ormoc and urging everyone to consider donating to a relief organization, such as the Red Cross.
Following all that, I contacted the FCM before the Christmas holidays to enquire about the possibility of it restarting the program that allowed Coquitlam to help Ormoc several years ago. I didn't hear back, so I sent another email this month, this time to a different address at the FCM, repeating my earlier question.
This week, I finally heard back. Here is the partial text of the response I received from Pascal Lavoie, Program Manager for Asia with FCM International:
First of all, I’d like to thank you for contacting us. The devastating event that occurred in the Philippines last October [sic] drew a lot of attention from our members. We appreciate your interest and support in seeking ways to provide assistance to the reconstruction effort that affected communities are facing.
At the moment, we don’t have programming in the Philippines anymore hence our capacity to get involved has been limited. We’ve expressed our support to national politicians and met with staff at DFATD (formerly CIDA) to offer our assistance and discuss opportunities to get involved in the reconstruction effort.
FCM is considering a program to help with the reconstruction phase. However it is unclear if will consider funding such an initiative. Our experience (with similar natural catastrophes in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Haiti) is that it takes some time to put such a program in place (12-18 months). At the moment, we are still at the stage of preliminary discussions.
And there you have it. It's certainly something to keep our eyes on throughout the year.