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‘Yolanda’ disaster touches Swedish monarch

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King Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, pays a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III in the Music Room of Malacanang Palace.FILE PHOTO

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – The devastation wrought by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in the central Philippines moved King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden to donate $100,000 on behalf of the World Scout Foundation for training in community disaster preparedness.

Gustaf, who also leads the World Scout Foundation, was scheduled to fly to Tacloban City in Leyte on Sunday to visit the disaster area.

“One of the first things the king will do tomorrow (Sunday) is to show  his respect for the people who lost their lives and the people who lost  their livelihood because he’’s been very touched by the disaster here in the  Philippines,” said John Geoghegan, the foundation’s chief executive.

Last Nov. 8, Yolanda, one of the strongest ever recorded, barrelled through the Visayas region, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving widespread destruction.

Geoghegan said the amount was not a form of “relief” for the typhoon survivors but was intended to strengthen disaster preparedness and response.

It was the first time the Swedish monarch visited the Philippines. He arrived in Manila on Friday for a three-day visit and met with President Benigno Aquino III.

On Saturday, Gustaf attended the 3rd regional jamborette of about 6,000 young scouts from Southern Luzon and the National Capital Region held at the foot of Mt. Makiling here.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is the president of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, conferred on Gustaf the Mt. Makiling Award, a rare recognition given to dignitaries in a “court of honor”.

Binay was here to open the court of honor of the 3rd One Regional Scout Jamborette.

Geoghegan said the king was impressed with the BSP’s community programs and how its members in the storm-hit areas helped their communities.

He noted that the BSP, with 16,000 members, was one of the biggest and most effective among the 161 countries in the international scout movement.

“I have to say I’ve travelled with the Swedish king for 14 years now to  many different countries (and) he does not normally make a speech,” Geoghegan said.

After receiving the recognition, Gustaf delivered a short message and promised to continue working for the scout movement, before he toured the camp to greet young scouts and pose for pictures with them.

“It means he’s happy, he’s relaxed, and also means he is very impressed with the scouts he’s meeting today,” Geoghegan said.

BSP-NCR sub-camp director Arwyn Fabellon said Gustaf’s presence was an inspiration for them.

“For a king to walk about five kilometers (to tour the camp), that’s historic,” he said.

Geoghegan said aside from the disaster fund, the World Scout Foundation is also giving another $100,000 to the BSP for a program intended for the  streetchildren of Manila.

A part of that amount came from Saudi Arabian King Abdullah for the foundation’s community service projects, he said.

“So in all there are two kings helping, one (Philippine) president, one vice president, and a lot of smiling scouts,” Geoghegan said. “The name of the Philippines has to be changed into the ”Land of Smiles,”” he added.

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