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26 March 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippine Embassy today welcomed the donation by the City of Virginia Beach in Virginia of four rescue boats to the City of Olongapo in the Philippines, saying this will help its sister city further develop its disaster response capabilities.

In a statement, the Philippine Embassy expressed its appreciation to Virginia Beach officials for their decision to donate the rescue boats in response to the floods and landslides that hit Olongapo in September.

“We wish to thank the City of Virginia Beach for donating four rescue boats to support its sister city, Olongapo, in its disaster risk reduction and management efforts,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said. “This will benefit not only the people of Olongapo but also those from neighboring communities.”

Ambassador Cuisia thanked Virginia State Delegate Ron Villanueva; Virginia Beach Mayor William Sessoms and Councilor Jim Woods; and Ruth Frazier, President of the Sister Cities International, for the donation which consisted of a Boston whaler, two rigid-hull inflatable boats and a skiff with an estimated value of P2.5 million.

The boats, which were inspected by Minister and Consul Elmer Cato, Defense and Armed Forces Attache Capt. Elson Aguilar and Olongapo Councilor Jong Cortes on Monday, were previously used by the Virginia Beach police but are fully equipped and in very good condition.

The donation is part of the sister city agreement between Virginia Beach and Olongapo that was facilitated by Ambassador Cuisia, according to Bing Branigin, a leader of the Filipino Community who helped coordinate the sister city arrangements.

It was the Embassy that partnered Virginia Beach with Olongapo as both are port cities that have ties with the United States Navy. Virginia Beach also has a sizeable population of Filipino-Americans, most of them navy retirees, including a number from Olongapo itself.

Since the sister city agreement was finalized last year, officials of both cities have already exchanged visits. Eight public school students from Olongapo are also now in Virginia Beach as part of an exchange program.

“I would like to thank our friends in Virginia Beach for warmly accommodating our exchange students from Olongapo and we look forward to the visit there of students from Tallwood High School in October,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “There is no doubt that these cultural and educational exchanges would further reinforce the strong people-to-people ties between the Filipino and American peoples.”

“The active exchanges through the sister city agreement between Olongapo and Virginia Beach, which the Embassy facilitated, is something we hope to replicate in other cities in the Philippines and here in the United States,” he added.

Ambassador Cuisia said he is also looking forward to the visit to Olongapo soon of a trade delegation from the Commonwealth of Virginia led by the Secretary of Trade and Commerce Maurice Jones and the city of Virginia Beach led by Mayor Sessoms and Economic Development Director Warren Harris.

“I expect Virginia to take advantage of the US reengagement with the Philippines and develop long-term business partnerships with the Philippines. The opening of a trade representative office is a step towards the right direction,” he said. ###

26 March 2014

The City of Virginia Beach in Virginia is donating four rescue boats worth P2.5 million to Olongapo, its sister city in the Philippines. (Philippine Embassy Photo)

26 March 2014

Virginia Beach Council Member Jim Woods shows Councilor Jong Cortes and Capt. Elson Aguilar one of the rigid hull inflatable boats that the city is turning over to Olongapo, its sister city in the Philippines (Philippine Embassy Photo by Elmer G. Cato)

26 March 2014

Virginia Beach Council Member Jim Woods shows Councilor Jong Cortes, Capt. Elson Aguilar and Minister and Consul Elmer Cato the four rescue boats that the city is donating to Olongapo, its sister city in the Philippines. (Philippine Embassy Photo)