TONS OF AID IN PHILIPPINES, BUT NOT WHERE NEEDED / AQUINO SAYS DEATH TOLL CLOSE TO 2,500 NOT 10,000

ALSO: BUSINESS GROUP: TACLOBAN IN COMPLETE CHAOS

ALSO: DFA: MOST FOREIGN AID NOT THROUGH GOV'T

ALSO: INQUIRER EDITORIAL: GET ORGANIZED, PUT SOMEONE CLEARLY IN CHARGE
 


Typhoon survivors rush to get a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane in Tacloban city, Leyte province, Central Philippines, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport in the city of Tacloban in the Central Philippines seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with countless bodies. (AP Photo/Built Marquez)

TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 14, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Todd Pitman and Jim Gomez (Associated Press)  - The day after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippine coast, a team of 15 doctors and logistics experts was ready to fly here to the worst-hit city to help. On yesterday, five days into what could be the country's deadliest disaster, they were still waiting to leave.

Aid is coming to Tacloban: medical supplies, pallets of water and food piled on trucks, planes and ferries, sent by the Philippine government and countries around the world. But the scale of the disaster and challenges of delivering the assistance means few in this city, strewn with debris and corpses, have received any help.

A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, complete with medical supplies, arrived in Cebu island on Saturday looking for a flight to Tacloban, but hadn't left by yesterday. A spokesman for the group said it was "difficult to tell" when it would be able to leave.

"We are in contact with the authorities, but the (Tacloban) airport is only for the Philippines military use," Lee Pik Kwan said in a telephone interview.

At the medics' intended destination, thousands of typhoon victims were trying to get out. They camped at the airport and ran onto the tarmac when planes came in, surging past a broken iron fence and a few soldiers and police trying to control them. Most didn't make it aboard.

"We need help. Nothing is happening," said Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old who didn't get on a flight out of the city. "We haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon." Her clothes were soaked from the rain, and tears streamed down her face.

An Associated Press reporter drove through the town for around 7 kilometers (4 miles) yesterday and saw more than 40 bodies. He saw no evidence of any organized delivery of food, water or medical supplies, though piles of aid have begun to arrive at the airport. Some people were lining up to get water from a hose, presumably from the city supply.

"There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities," UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila. "Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more."

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said relief goods were getting into the city, and the supply should increase in coming days now that the airport and a bridge to the island were open.

"We are not going to leave one person behind — one living person behind," he said. "We will help, no matter how difficult, no matter how inaccessible."

Doctors in Tacloban said they were desperate for medicine. Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows, army and air force medics said they had treated around 1,000 people for cuts, bruises, lacerations and deep wounds.

"It's overwhelming," said Air Force Capt. Antonio Tamayo. "We need more medicine. We cannot give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none."

The longer survivors go without access to clean water, food, shelter and medical help, the greater chance of disease breaking out and people dying as a result of wounds sustained in the storm.

The official death toll from the disaster rose to 1,774 on yesterday, though authorities have said they expect that to rise markedly. They fear estimates of 10,000 dead are accurate and might be low. More than 9 million people have been affected across a large swath of the country, many of them made homeless.

Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 people on Leyte island, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.

The loss of life appears to be concentrated in Tacloban and surrounding areas, including a portion of Samar island that is separated from Leyte island by a strait. It is possible that other devastated areas are so isolated they have not yet been reached.

In Cebu, to the southwest, the Philippine air force has been sending three C-130s back and forth to Tacloban from dawn to dusk, and had delivered 400,000 pounds of relief supplies by yesterday, Lt. Col. Marciano Jesus Guevara said. A lack of electricity in Tacloban means planes can't land there at night.

Guevara said the C-130s have transported nearly 3,000 civilians out of the disaster zone, and that the biggest problem in Tacloban is a lack of clean drinking water.

"Water is life," he said. "If you have water with no food, you'll survive."

There is also growing concern about recovering corpses that are still rotting throughout the disaster zone. "It really breaks your heart when you see them," said Maj. Gen. Romeo Poquiz, commander of the 2nd Air Division.

"We're limited with manpower, the expertise, as well as the trucks that have to transport them to different areas for identification," Poquiz said. "Do we do a mass burial, because we can't identify them anymore? If we do a mass burial, where do you place them?"

Most Tacloban residents spent the night under pouring rain wherever they could — in the ruins of destroyed houses, in the open along roadsides and shredded trees. Some slept under tents brought in by the government or relief groups.

"There is no help coming in. They know this is a tragedy. They know our needs are urgent. Where is the shelter?" said Aristone Balute's granddaughter, Mylene, who was also at the airport. "We are confused. We don't know who is in charge."

Damaged roads and other infrastructure are complicating the relief efforts. Government officials and police and army officers are in many cases among the victims themselves, hampering coordination. The typhoon destroyed military buildings that housed 1,000 soldiers in Leyte province.

There were other distractions, including a jailbreak in Tacloban. Army Brig. Gen. Virgilio Espineli, the deputy regional military commander, said yesterday he wasn't sure how many of the 600 inmates fled.

At Matnog, the port for ferries leaving to Samar island, dozens of trucks piled high with aid were waiting to cross. In the capital, Manila, soldiers tossed pallets of water, medical supplies and foods into C-130 planes bound for the disaster area.

The United Nations said it had released $25 million in emergency funds to pay for emergency shelter materials and household items, and for assistance with the provision of emergency health services, safe water supplies and sanitation facilities. It's launching an appeal for more aid.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington is headed toward the region with massive amounts of water and food, but the Pentagon said it won't arrive until Thursday. The US also said it is providing $20 million in immediate aid.

Aid totaling tens of millions of dollars has been pledged by many other countries, including Japan, Australia and Britain, which is sending a Royal Navy vessel with aid.

For now, relief has come to a lucky few, including Joselito Caimoy, a 42-year-old truck driver. He was able to get his wife, son and 3-year-old daughter on a flight out of Tacloban. They embraced in a tearful goodbye, but Caimoy stayed behind to guard what's left of his home and property.

"People are just scavenging in the streets. People are asking food from relatives, friends. The devastation is too much ... the malls, the grocery stories have all been looted, "he said. "They're empty. People are hungry. And they (the authorities) cannot control the people."

The dead, decomposing and stinking, litter the streets or remain trapped in the debris.

The storm also killed eight people in southern China and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to farming and fishing industries, Chinese state media reported yesterday.

The Philippines, an archipelago nation of more than 7,000 islands, is annually buffeted by tropical storms and typhoons, but Haiyan was an especially large catastrophe. Its winds were among the strongest ever recorded, and it may have killed more people than the previous deadliest Philippine storm, Thelma, in which about 5,100 people died in the central Philippines in 1991.

The country's deadliest disaster on record was the 1976 magnitude-7.9 earthquake that triggered a tsunami in the Moro Gulf in the southern Philippines, killing 5,791 people.

Tacloban is near Red Beach on Leyte Island, where US Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore in 1944 during World War II and fulfilled his famous pledge: "I shall return." The scene is re-created in a monument on the shore. After the typhoon, one of the seven statues — but not the one of MacArthur himself — was toppled over.

Aquino says ‘Yolanda’ death toll closer to 2,500, not 10,000 By Christian V. Esguerra Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:52 pm | Wednesday, November 13th, 2013



President Benigno Aquino III rejected on Wednesday the projection that as many as 10,000 people might have perished in “supertyphoon Yolanda”

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III rejected on Wednesday the projection that as many as 10,000 people might have perished in “supertyphoon Yolanda” (international name Haiyan), saying the death toll was closer to 2,500.

“Ten thousand, I think, is too much,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, saying “there was emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate quoting both a police official and a local government official.”

“They were too close to the incident. They didn’t have basis for it.”

“So far, 2,000 to about 2,500 is the figure we are working on as far as deaths are concerned,” he added, as the death toll hit 2,275 on Wednesday, based on the record of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Malacañang could not give a time frame on how soon the government could collect bodies left decomposing by the road in a number of Leyte towns.

“The bodies are being worked on,” Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said. “There was a report that the reason why the bodies [were] not being handled [was] because there was a lack of cadaver bags.”

Almendras said around 4,000 such bags had been brought to the disaster site, just to make sure that “there is an oversupply.” “I am not saying that the casualties are 4,000, okay?” he clarified.

The National Bureau of Investigation would be in charge of identifying the bodies, because the Philippine National Police has been “so busy in retrieval and clearing operations,” he said.

Forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun tweeted that authorities should “start with [the] systemic recovery of the dead.” “Do basic exam then temporary burials. No sense aiming for positive ID now,” she said.

As international aid continued to pour in, the President called for a “sense of responsibility” among nations to address the problem of climate change.

“Especially to [the] most-developed countries that are contributing immensely to the global warming, there has to be a sense of moral responsibility that what they wreak is playing havoc on the lives of so many others who are less capable of defending for themselves,” he told CNN.

Mr. Aquino was responding to chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who took note of the Philippine delegate’s “heartfelt plea for international help,” which also “lambasted the failure of the world to deal with climate change” during the United Nation’s climate talks in Poland last Monday.

“We all live in one planet. Either we come up with a solution that everybody adheres to and cooperates with or let us be prepared to meet disasters, ever increasing disasters on a global level,” said President Aquino, whose administration had been criticized for supposedly not putting climate change issues high in its agenda.

Mr. Aquino said his administration has been “trying to plan our communities whereby they are more resilient to all of those ravages of nature.”

“Right now, I think the challenge for us after the relief efforts will be to rebuild the houses of tens of thousands of families affected, quite a major outlay, and then the construction has to be better to withstand the ravages of this climate change,” he added.

FROM PHILSTAR

Business group: Tacloban in 'complete chaos' By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated November 13, 2013 - 2:23pm 11 246 googleplus0 0


Typhoon survivors jostle to get a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Tacloban City. Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport on Tuesday seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with countless bodies. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines - An official of a prominent businessmen's organization in the country on Wednesday confirmed that there are still looting by organized group of gunmen who have been going around typhoon -ravaged Tacloban City looting several commercial establishments. Sergio Luiz Ortiz, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the "complete chaos" in the area has driven most of the business people out of the city and trooped to Cebu.

"This is just a report from the Chamber officers and Vice President from Cebu...they are afraid because there are organized armed group going around the city...They'd rather be there (Cebu) and suffer some losses than endanger the lives of their families," Ortiz told a media forum in Greenhills, San Juan City.

He added that virtually all business establishments in the city have been closed or abandoned by their owners who have relocated to Cebu.

"There’s hardly any business now...walang customers dun," Ortiz said.

Ortiz, however, called on the businessmen and other affluent people to return to Tacloban City as soon as situation on the ground normalizes.

He appealed to the "people of means" to bring back businesses in Tacloban as long as the government can assure their safety and security to do business again in the area.

Quoting a foreign news report, Ortiz said the extent of damage of the super typhoon Yolanda to Tacloban and other affected areas would be a staggering $15 billion.

He advised other businessmen who have investments in the sugar mills in these typhoon-hit areas to look into venturing into other products.

Despite the devastation brought by Yolanda, Ortiz said he remains hopeful that there is still something good in the situation.

"There are still bright effects as it happened in earthquakes in Bohol. They thought the tourism industry would die but they have developed the ruins and developed it as a process of recovering," he said.

Most foreign aid not through gov't - DFA By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated November 14, 2013 - 7:16pm 27 209 googleplus0 4


Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) attempted to ease donors' anxiety on Wednesday, saying the significant foreign aid for Yolanda victims pouring in will not pass through the hands of officials.

"Let me clarify that most of the international assistance, either in monetary form or in-kind donations, does not go through the Philippine government," DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

He said the agency is merely told of interested national donors offering assistance, but most of the countries have their own organizations to distribute the aid.

"So far, except for Indonesia, all international donors that have pledged monetary donations are coursing the money through their aid agencies, or through NGOs, charitable institutions and foundations of their choice," Hernandez said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the department computed a total of P3,848,564,500 value of aid for those affected by the deadly typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

The Vatican, for one, is sending relief goods and financial aid to local churches, which will then reach the victims on the ground.

Related story: Foreign aid balloons to P2.36-B; COA to audit donations

"Some donors are distributing relief goods directly to the affected communities while others turned the items over to NDRRMC and DSWD repacking stations," Hernandez said.

The agency also asked the public to understand the processes involved in receiving international assistance, as this would ensure accountability.

"A pledge of financial support is subject to the rules and processes of the donating government or agency. Therefore, it takes time for the actual funds to be released to the recipients," the official said.

"As for reports that adequate aid is yet to reach those in need, the DFA wishes to assure the public that it is doing everything it can to properly and promptly coordinate offers of international assistance with the agencies engaged in aid delivery," he said.

DAILY INQUIRER EDITORIAL

Editorial: Get organized Philippine Daily Inquirer 10:39 pm | Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
18 101 78

We must do better.

The devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” has given way to another, altogether manmade calamity: bureaucratic ineffectiveness. But because the lives of literally thousands of survivors lie in the balance, we must all do better.

Like many others, we understand the constraints. Some local government units in the affected areas lost their very capacity to govern, with only a fraction of their staff in a position to report for work.

In Leyte and Samar, all power transmission lines are down; other provinces visited by Yolanda also suffer from downed lines. (This means that even though power plants are back up, the electricity they generate cannot be used.)

Communication links in many areas have been destroyed, and restored mobile phone service has been patchy. Perhaps worst of all, considering the time that has passed since the storm, many roads remain uncleared.

All this helps explain why relief aid is mounting at the Tacloban airport, why other hard-hit areas are clamoring for help, why in some places desperation is turning into anarchy.

But there is one more factor: Government response to the appalling humanitarian crisis has not leveled up. We use the phrase in exactly the way it is used in Philippine popular culture, as shorthand not only for raising one’s performance but also one’s standards.

We are not saying that the government has done nothing; indeed, as Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras made clear in a briefing yesterday, it has followed standard procedure. What we are saying is: It must recognize the unprecedented scale of the crisis, and do more.

As others have done, we would like to make a few suggestions—not because we know the answers, but because we believe every little bit helps.

Put someone clearly in charge. This is the most common complaint, not only from the international journalists who have parachuted into the country but also from aid donors and the survivors themselves. No one seems to be in charge. The need of the moment is to save the lives of the thousands of survivors; given the scale of the crisis, and the reduced governing capacity of many affected LGUs, the national government must step into the void. If the right person to coordinate rescue and relief operations, even if only for the next week or so, is a United Nations official or a US general, so be it. This won’t be a diminution of sovereignty, but an act of necessity in the nation’s highest interest.

Get that aid out, with the help of private-sector helicopters. Malacañang reported yesterday that five more military helicopters have been sent to “augment” the six already doing rescue and relief work in and around Tacloban. But given the lateness of the hour, and the scale of the devastation, 11 helicopters cannot be enough. The biggest companies in the Philippines, however, have their own helicopter fleets manned by some of the country’s most experienced pilots. Why not integrate them into the relief operations, even if only for a few days?

Some of these companies have already donated much, either in cash or in relief goods. But, six days after Yolanda shook the Visayas, their donations and those of others have not reached the people who need them the most. President Aquino can personally request the CEOs of these companies to lend their corporate aircraft, even if only for the next few days, to make short-run supply drops, to ferry stranded residents needing urgent medical assistance, to help establish communications facilities.

Channel volunteers’ energy. As time passes, the sense of uncertainty will increase. Even those who would like to help, or have already given some form of assistance, will waver in their commitment. The government must do a better job of communicating, not only what ordinary citizens can do to help, but what remains to be done. But aside from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s call for volunteers to help sort and pack donations in its Manila and Cebu hubs, nothing much has been heard from the government about how ordinary citizens can pitch in.

There is an enormous pool of goodwill ready to be tapped; sadly, unfortunately, it is being drained away, as the President quibbles over the estimated number of dead, and the barely living survivors wait yet another day for help, any kind of help, to arrive.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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