U.N. RESPONDS IN 'UNPRECEDENTED' SCALE / MORE FOREIGN AID POURS IN
 


The streets of Tacloban wait for a monumental cleanup. EDD GUMBAN

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TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 13, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - The global response to relief operations for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda is “unprecedented,” a United Nations (UN) relief official said as its humanitarian chief and top emergency relief official headed for the Philippines.

The move of Valerie Amos, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and the emergency relief coordinator, to take more personal charge of the effort came three days after Yolanda left a path of destruction across 41 provinces in the Philippines and as the scope of its devastation was only starting to become clear.

The Philippines needs almost $301 million (P13.174 billion) in assistance for the relief operations and rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas in the Visayas, Amos said yesterday.

“We have just launched an action plan focusing on the areas of food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable with the government and I very much hope our donors will be generous,” Amos said in a press briefing. “That plan is for $301 million.”

The UN said on Monday that Amos was set to arrive in the Philippines to launch a flash appeal in Manila.

“All the focus is on a rapid mobilization of a very large response. This is quite unprecedented in scale,” said John Ging, the operations manager of UN emergency relief coordination.

Yolanda killed thousands and upended the lives of nearly 10 million people. International aid groups mobilized to rush food, water and sanitation supplies to the victims, a struggle in the face of impassable roads, obliterated seaports and severely damaged airstrips.

The storm was believed by some climatologists to be the most powerful ever to make landfall.

In the flattened city of Tacloban, where as many as 10,000 people may have died and corpses were on the streets, rainfall that began late Monday was adding new complications to the relief effort.

Earlier, it took supply convoys three hours just to traverse the seven-mile route into town from the airport, said Ging.

Asked if he thought the death toll could rise, he said, “We hope it doesn’t get any higher, but we have to be prepared for the worst.”

Amos released $25 million from a special fund to help pay for immediate assistance and was launching what aides called a flash fundraising drive. At least $35 million in additional aid was pledged by other governments on Monday.

The effort led by the UN came as the United States significantly increased its assistance to the Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday at least 33 countries and international organizations have pledged to provide different forms of assistance amounting to more than P2.3 billion to the typhoon-ravaged provinces.

Speaking during the launch of the action plan, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said “while the Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters, the magnitude of the destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda in the central Philippines is in a scale so massive, from both a humanitarian and financial standpoint.”

He thanked the international community consisting of bilateral partners, private sector and non-government organizations for their immediate response in terms of assistance both financially and logistically.

“The outpouring of support from states and international organizations has just been so overwhelming,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario said he received a call from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday night offering the UN’s solidarity with the Filipino people and stated that the UN will do all it can to assist the Philippines in the recovery efforts.

The secretary-general brought the situation in the country to the attention of the entire 193-member UN General Assembly.

“Baroness Amos’ presence here is a further testament to the organization’s support for which the Philippines is most grateful,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario also thanked Ban for coming through with his pledge for UN humanitarian agencies to respond rapidly to people in need.

The South Korean government, through its embassy in Manila, will be providing $5 million in humanitarian aid to the affected provinces.

The South Korean government will dispatch a disaster relief team on board a C-130 aircraft.

Korea expressed its condolences to the families and victims of the typhoon, and hoped that their resiliency and indomitable spirit will help them cope with and overcome this human tragedy.

Australia will be deploying a 36-member medical team to the Philippines composed of eight doctors, 15 nurses, four paramedics, an environmental health officer, pharmacist and radiographer and members of the Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service, to give medical support to the typhoon victims, Minister for Health Peter Dutton announced on Tuesday.

He said Australia’s chief medical officer, Chris Baggoley, chaired an emergency meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on Monday at which all state and territory health authorities agreed that 36 health professionals from Darwin, Queensland, South Australia and NSW will deploy to the Philippines as soon as possible.

The outpouring of support and sympathy was seen around the world, but was particularly strong in the US, stoked by social media publicity and the large size of the Filipino population, the second-largest Asian-American group in the country.

Some aid groups reported generous pledges from the New York area, reflecting what they called the sympathy effects caused by Hurricane Sandy a year ago.

Charities with long experience in the Philippines said they were not waiting for guidance.

More foreign aid pours in By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 13, 2013 - 12:00am 0 6 googleplus0 0


Elements of Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade board KC-130 for typhoon-ravaged Philippines. Philippine Embassy photo

MANILA, Philippines - More foreign assistance is pouring in for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is donating an additional P280 million to Yolanda relief efforts and will send a Navy warship and a Boeing C-17 freighter to help in the undertaking.

The British embassy in Manila said yesterday the amount brings to approximately P1 billion or over £14 million the total amount of the United Kingdom’s assistance to the Philippines.

The Royal Navy’s warship HMS Daring would provide humanitarian assistance, helicopter lift and engineering and first-aid expertise. The type 45 destroyer also carries equipment to make drinking water from seawater.

It would also deliver forklift trucks, cutting equipment, 4x4s and other equipment to help clear and reopen runways and roads; temporary shelters, blankets and water purification tablets, and household goods to allow the safe treatment and storage of water and prevent the spread of diseases.

“We stand by the Filipino people during this very difficult time,” British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said, adding that the supplies they would bring would help around 800,000 people.

As this developed, visiting European Union Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs announced an additional 10 million euros donation for the rehabilitation of areas affected by Yolanda.

EU earlier gave three million euros apart from planeloads of relief supplies and rescue teams.

“Beyond humanitarian assistance, the EU is already making resources for rehabilitation and reconstruction available to ensure that there is a smooth transition from the crisis management to rebuilding people’s lives. We would like to see no gap between the emergency relief and the longer-term actions, and we will work closely with the government and other development partners for this to happen,” Piebalgs said.

Piebalgs convened an emergency meeting of EU ambassadors on Monday to receive a briefing on the extent of the devastation and suggest the most effective forms of emergency assistance.

More foreign aid

Japan has donated $10 million to international aid organizations for emergency shelters, food and water.

Its 25-man medical team arrived Monday night, bringing with them an initial four tons of relief goods and medicine.

“Our government and the Japanese people cannot forget what the Filipinos, the Philippine government did for us in 2011… This time it is our turn to help,” said Iwakami Kenzo, deputy director of the training affairs and citizen participation department of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, who led the group.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there are 133 Japanese residing in Leyte and Samar Island but only 27 were confirmed safe.

Norway provided P140 million while South Korea approved the grant of $5 million. Korea said it would also dispatch a relief team on board C-130 aircraft.

Turkey’s donation of 90 tons of relief supplies consisting of tents, blankets, kitchen tools and food aid arrived Monday night. Turkey said it would also send search and rescue teams.

The Ontario government in Canada said it would contribute $1 million to the Red Cross to help in relief efforts.

Canada’s Minister of International Development Christian Paradis called on Canadians to help support the victims through a matching fund.

“Through this fund, for every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the crisis in the Philippines, the government will donate an additional dollar – effectively doubling their contribution,” he said.

Canada is also deploying the Interdepartmental Strategic Support Team to assess needs on the ground and identify potential response options.

Israel said it is sending over 200 doctors, nurses and paramedics.

Senior members of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Defense Forces will accompany the team of medical personnel. The group will set up a mobile hospital.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement said they would solicit at least 87 million Swiss francs or $94.6 million to help Yolanda victims.

Jagan Chapagain, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies director for Asia-Pacific, said the money would benefit about 10 million people.

Meanwhile, Telstra, Australia’s leading telecommunications company, announced free calls and text messages to the Philippines for those who wish to check on their relatives.

Telstra said it would also match staff payroll contributions made to Typhoon Haiyan Appeal activated by the Australian Red Cross.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has pledged emergency employment and other assistance for Yolanda victims.

Google donation

Google will donate $500,000, Google Philippines country manager Narciso Reyes said in an e-mail interview with The STAR.

He said the financial assistance would be divided between Red Cross and aid agency CARE.

Reyes said they have also provided links to these and other organizations for those who want to make a donation at their crisis landing page (http://google.org/crisismap/a/gmail.com/TyphoonYolanda).

Google also activated its Person Finder application to help the public “check and post on the status of relatives or friends affected by a disaster.”

Reyes said people “can post information about someone they know who has been affected by a disaster (or is OK) and people can search for information that others have posted.”

Reyes said the Person Finder, which was created in response to the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, was activated in the country during Typhoon Sendong in 2011 and Typhoon Pablo in December 2012.

Transparency

As foreign aid pours, Filipinos abroad called on the government to be transparent in its use.

“The bigger tragedy is if corrupt officials in government exploit this calamity to further plunder and steal funds meant for victims and survivors. All available resources should be made accessible to our people,” Migrante International said.

Migrante reported that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including workers affected by the crackdown on undocumented foreigners in Saudi Arabia, have mounted their own fund raising drive.

Migrante said their chapters in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, Australia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States are among these OFW groups.

“The support from our kababayans abroad is overwhelming. Even stranded OFWs in the tent city in Saudi and undocumented OFWs in South Korea and Europe are conducting their own relief efforts,” Migrante chair Garry Martinez said.

An online petition is also asking President Aquino to issue an executive order directing government agencies to set up websites containing information on the donations given to Yolanda victims.

“We are heartened by the donations from governments and private individuals and groups. But we are worried that not all of these donations will go to those who should receive them,” read the petition posted on change.org (http://bit.ly/1e09YHS).

“Making accessible to the public information on all donations received, both cash and in kind, is one way of reducing the possibility that donations will be misused or stolen,” it added.

According to the petition, the website should contain the amount and source of cash donations received, the description and source of goods received, and the identity of recipients of the donations.

Also yesterday, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine’ (CBCP) National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, urged the government to make an accounting of the donations for typhoon victims.

The CBCP also announced that the Vatican has sent its donation for the typhoon victims.

Pope Francis, through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, has decided to send an initial contribution of $150,000 for the victims.

One-stop shops for aid

Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rufino Biazon yesterday said they have set up one-stop shops to expedite the processing and release of foreign aid intended for Yolanda victims.

Biazon ordered district collectors in the ports of Tacloban, Cebu and Ninoy Aquino International Airport to organize the one-stop shops in their areas because time is crucial in providing relief to the victims of Yolanda. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Alexis Romero, Janvic Mateo, Rudy Santos, Joseph Lariosa, Evelyn Macairan, AP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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