MANILA, DECEMBER 24, 2012 (PHILSTAR) As more relief aid from Brunei, China and New Zealand came in, Cabinet secretaries prepared to distribute 173,000 noche buena packs in areas affected by typhoon “Pablo.”

Each pack, wrapped in native fabric called malong, contains one and a half kilos of bihon (rice noodles), two cans of corned beef, two packs of fudge bars, a can of fruit cocktail, a can of condensed milk, a box of cheese, sandwich spread and a pack of chocolate candies.

As of yesterday, a total of 452,798 family food packs amounting to P566 million had been distributed to the affected families, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD reported.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully announced that an additional NZ$1.5 million (about P50.8 million) would be made available for relief and recovery efforts, on top of $500,000 (P16.9 million) previously donated by Wellington to the International Federation of the Red Cross.

The contribution includes NZ$1 million to support the United Nations Children’s Fund in providing access to safe water and sanitation facilities.

“The New Zealand government extends its deep sympathies to the Filipino people for the loss of lives and extensive damage brought by typhoon Pablo. We hope that our contribution will aid in the rapid recovery and rehabilitation of FIlipino communities,” said New Zealand Ambassador Reuben Levermore.

The DSWD also received a P6.4-million donation from the government of Brunei Darussalam for the construction of additional core shelters for typhoon victims in Mindanao.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the funding will be used for the construction of core shelter units in Cagayan de Oro City, the area severely affected by tropical storm “Sendong” in 2011.

Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing yesterday handed over a check for $200,000 to the Department of Foreign Affairs as the Chinese government’s assistance to victims of typhoon Pablo. The Red Cross Society of China had earlier donated $30,000 to the Philippine Red Cross.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), on the other hand, has distributed P750,000 in financial assistance for displaced banana plantation workers.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz met with banana plantation workers in Tagum, Davao del Norte and assured them of continued assistance until they get their jobs back.

DOLE released livelihood grants of P250,000 each to three workers’ organizations whose members were affected by the typhoon.

Baldoz said that DOLE has allocated all its remaining resources for 2012 for the emergency employment and livelihood programs for typhoon-affected workers in Mindanao.

The three workers’ organizations – Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm-NAFLU-KMU; Freshmax Workers’ Union-FWU-NAFLU-KMU; and Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa San Jose-NAMASAN-NAFLU-KMU – have been accredited by the DOLE regional office as co-partners in the implementation of the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program towards Community Enterprise Development (DILP-CED).

In the meantime, about 3.6 million members of the Social Security System (SSS)’s “declared and may be declared” calamity areas can now avail themselves of the calamity package to help them and their families recover from the devastation caused by the typhoon.

The areas currently include Palawan, Siquijor, Cebu, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur.

SSS president and chief executive officer Emilio de Quiros Jr. said the three-part relief package offers renewal of salary loans, advance release of three months’ worth of pensions, and a two percent cut in interest rates on the SSS Direct House Repair and Improvement Loan.

US drone helps in search

As this developed, US military forces conducted aerial surveillance in typhoon-devastated provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley to speed up assessment for search and relief efforts.

The US military special units under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) surveyed 37,980 square kilometers and provided 600 images for the military advisers on the ground who would assess the damage and facilitate the delivery of relief aid and supplies where these are most needed.

In a statement, the US embassy said the US military utilized a P3-Orion spy plane in searching for survivors in coastal areas in Sarangani, where around 300 fishermen were reported missing in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo. The search covered 7,200 nautical square miles.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) vowed more relief aid for Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Negros Oriental.

The US government plans to provide emergency assistance to individuals affected by the typhoon and has allocated P291 million for the purpose.

The assistance includes support for emergency shelter, logistics, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as the provision of emergency relief commodities and food.

At least 22 flight missions carrying close to 350,000 kilos of relief goods have been flown by the US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules plane from Manila to Davao.

At least 2.1 million kilos of rice were donated by the US government to the UN World Food Program for emergency distribution to some 90,000 victims, amounting to P102.5 million.

Gifts for fallen soldier

Meanwhile, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito on Thursday extended goods and financial assistance to the family of a soldier from Negros Occidental who died in Compostela Valley during typhoon Pablo.

Sgt. Maximo Olivarez, 37, died on Dec. 4 when a landslide hit him and his fellow soldiers.

He was a member of the 66th Infantry Battalion Charlie Company that was dispatched to the far-flung areas of New Bataan town in Compostela Valley to conduct rescue operations.

Three other 66th IB soldiers were also killed, and three injured, while eight others are still missing, after their temporary command post was swept away by flashfloods, the military said. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Danny Dangcalan, Roel Pareño


Forensics team racing to finish identifying typhoon fatalities By Dennis Jay Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:26 pm | Saturday, December 22nd, 2012


NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—A forensics team from the National Bureau of Investigation is working double time to process hundreds of dead bodies left in the wake of Typhoon “Pablo” so these could be identified and buried before the year ends.

Nearly three weeks since the killer typhoon devastated this landlocked town, over 300 bodies remained unburied, according to Marlon Esperanza, municipal information officer.

Of the 351 unidentified bodies, 111 were already in coffins and 240 others still in body bags. The bodies were laid out inside the town’s damaged public cemetery, where the forensic examination was being conducted.

Esperanza said some of the survivors of the typhoon want the bodies buried even if these had not yet been identified, but the task of digging a common grave for the dead was being punctuated by delays due to days of rain.

The rains were also hampering the search and retrieval operations for more than 500 still missing who, by now, might be dead, Esperanza said.

“People are still searching for family members and friends,” Esperanza said.

Bernardith Pebusot, municipal sanitary inspector, said they were not certain when a mass burial could actually take place as NBI forensic experts continue to do the gargantuan task of processing the bodies.

“Maybe by January 2 next year, the forensics will finish their work,” Pebusot said.

Pebusot admitted that with dead bodies scattered about–many still underneath layers of earth and debris– the whole town can now be considered “health hazard.”

She also pointed out that the foul odor that hovers in the air indicated decaying flesh, either of humans or animals.

Pebusot said that as much as officials want to prevent villagers from going back to their neighborhoods to rebuild their damaged homes, the officials could not do anything at the moment. “We cannot force them to move out as they want to rebuild their homes,” she said.

‘Pablo’ death toll ‘likely to hit 1,500′ Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines—The death toll from Typhoon “Pablo” (international codename: Bopha) that devastated the Philippines earlier this month will likely hit 1,500, making it the second deadliest since the country began keeping records, the civil defense chief said Saturday.

Benito Ramos said that so far they had counted 1,067 dead with more than 800 still missing after the typhoon hit Mindanao on December 4.

“It (the death toll) will go higher. But let us not assume the missing are already dead,” he told Agence France-Presse, estimating fatalities at “about 1,500″ but adding that the search for the missing continued.

The toll from Typhoon “Pablo” is expected to easily exceed the 1,268 confirmed dead after Typhoon Sendong (Washi) struck the southern Philippines in December 2011, he said.

If the toll reaches 1,500 it would make it the second deadliest storm to hit the Philippines since 1947, when the Philippines began keeping records a year after independence.

Typhoon Thelma, which killed at least 5,101 in 1991, remains the deadliest on record, the government statistics bureau said. Typhoon Ike, which claimed 1,363 lives in 1984, is listed as second.

Thousands of people remain homeless after Typhoon “Pablo” brought flash floods that wiped out whole towns.

However Ramos expressed confidence there would be no rise in health problems as the government had brought enough food and medicine to care for those affected.

“It will be contained. the government presence is felt by the people already,” he said.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms or typhoons each year that occur mainly during the rainy season between June and October.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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