YOUNG 'YOLANDA' SURVIVOR STILL GROPING FOR ANSWERS

WHY DID GOD SPARE ME? The search for the answer to one question keeps him going.When Melvin Castro lost 18 of his relatives in the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” four months ago, the first question he asked God was, “Why did you spare me?” “When I survived, I prayed and asked God for the reason why I was spared. Many would say it’s not yet my time. Others say maybe you still have a job to do here,” Castro told the Inquirer in an interview. “I am still hoping to find the answer,” he said, drawing in his shoulders as if he wanted to recede into himself. Days are still tough for Castro, a 28-year-old bachelor who would at times find himself crying when all space for thought had been consumed by pain from tremendous loss. Only six of the 24 people in the family home at the time of the storm—Castro, his father, one sibling, two of his siblings’ children and his cousin’s wife—survived Yolanda’s monster winds and storm surge that swept away entire towns across Eastern Visayas last Nov. 8. His mother, grandmother, five of his siblings, one sister-in-law, eight nieces and nephews, a cousin and his (cousin’s) wife were killed. The family home, a four-bedroom, two-story concrete house, was obliterated when towering waves plowed through his village in Barangay 88 in Tacloban City, Leyte province.

ALSO: PH thanks for ‘Yolanda’ aid lights up world billboards

The Philippines said “Thank you” on billboards around the world Saturday in gratitude for the massive outpouring of international help after a typhoon that killed about 8,000 people three months ago. Electronic billboards lit up with “Thank you” signs at New York’s Times Square, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing, London’s Piccadilly Circus and five other cities at 2040 GMT Friday, exactly three months after Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the central Philippines. “The number of lives lost and affected is unprecedented. But ever since then, the world has been one with the Philippines in helping rebuild the nation,” the tourism department behind the ad and social media campaign said on its website. “The Philippines wants to say a big thank you to everyone who are helping us rebuild after Typhoon Haiyan,” the department said on its official Twitter page, where it later posted the billboard pictures.

ALSO: Government pioneers online transparency hub for foreign aid

Following the outpouring of international aid for the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda, the Aquino administration today announced the launch of the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), a groundbreaking web-based initiative that will allow the public to monitor the status of foreign assistance to the country in response to disasters and calamities. FAiTH, which will be launched on November 18, is the first of its kind in the Philippine government, which previously did not have a system for tracking the use of disaster-relief funds donated by other countries and aid organizations. “There’s an urgent call now for us to monitor the movement of foreign aid funds for Yolanda so they will go exactly where they’re supposed to: to the survivors of the typhoon for whom recovery will be a long and arduous process, and to the communities that need to be rehabilitated as quickly and efficiently as possible. FAiTH is the Aquino administration’s pioneering response to this growing need for transparency and accountability in the management of humanitarian donations,” Undersecretary of Budget and Management and Chief Information Officer Richard Moya said. According to Moya, FAiTH will be an online portal of information on calamity aid and assistance—both in cash and in kind—received by the Philippines from other countries, multilateral organizations, and also those sent through Philippine embassies abroad.

ALSO: Statement: The Presidential Spokesperson on the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH)

After the launch of the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), appointed representatives from the agencies making up the FAiTH steering committee gathered to finalize the role that each agency will play in this pioneer project, as well as to lay out the succeeding steps for the development of FAiTH. Following the public’s favorable response to the launch of FAiTH, the steering committee coordinated with other government agencies that have also been accepting donations for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), chaired by Secretary Imelda M. Nicolas, is one of these; they are currently accepting donations through their Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LINKAPIL) program. The CFO reported in the coordination meeting that, as of November 19, they have received a total of PHP 526,384.00 and US$ 1,040.00 from our countrymen and other individuals in the Philippines and in countries like the USA, Germany, Austria, Japan, and Qatar. This recent news from the CFO only highlights the solidarity and support our country has received in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. The full details of donations already received by the CFO, including the names and countries of residence of the donors, amounts donated, and date received, will be published in FAiTH. As such, the steering committee has also decided to expand the scope of the information covered by the portal to include even donations made by individuals through the CFO.

EARLIER REPORT: Gov’t launches transparency website for foreign aid to Yolanda survivors

NOVEMBER 18 The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Monday launched the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), a website that allows the public to monitor the amount of foreign assistance pouring into the country following the onslaught of super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name Haiyan). Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, in a televised press conference, presented the new website, which is expected to bolster transparency and accountability efforts of the administration. The announcement came days after relief started pouring in for victims of Yolanda. With almost 4,000 people killed and tens of thousands left homeless, other nations and international bodies immediately sent relief goods and medical teams, in addition to pledging millions of dollars for the benefit of the survivors. “There’s an urgent call now for us to monitor the movement of foreign aid funds for Yolanda so they will go exactly where they’re supposed to: to the survivors of the typhoon for whom recovery will be a long and arduous process, and to the communities that need to be rehabilitated as quickly and efficiently as possible. FAiTH is the Aquino administration’s pioneering response to this growing need for transparency and accountability in the management of humanitarian donations,” said Budget Undersecretary Richard “Bon” Moya in a statement.


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Young Yolanda survivor still groping for answers


http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2014/03/YOLANDA-SURVIVOR-Melvin-Castro-home.jpg
‘YOLANDA’ SURVIVOR Melvin Castro sits in the rubble of his home in Tacloban City where 18 of his family members were killed. Four months later, he is still looking for answers. RAFFY LERMA

MANILA, MARCH 10, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Tarra Quismundo - The search for the answer to one question keeps him going.

When Melvin Castro lost 18 of his relatives in the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” four months ago, the first question he asked God was, “Why did you spare me?”

“When I survived, I prayed and asked God for the reason why I was spared. Many would say it’s not yet my time. Others say maybe you still have a job to do here,” Castro told the Inquirer in an interview.

“I am still hoping to find the answer,” he said, drawing in his shoulders as if he wanted to recede into himself.

Days are still tough for Castro, a 28-year-old bachelor who would at times find himself crying when all space for thought had been consumed by pain from tremendous loss.

Only six of the 24 people in the family home at the time of the storm—Castro, his father, one sibling, two of his siblings’ children and his cousin’s wife—survived Yolanda’s monster winds and storm surge that swept away entire towns across Eastern Visayas last Nov. 8.

His mother, grandmother, five of his siblings, one sister-in-law, eight nieces and nephews, a cousin and his (cousin’s) wife were killed.

The family home, a four-bedroom, two-story concrete house, was obliterated when towering waves plowed through his village in Barangay 88 in Tacloban City, Leyte province.

Family members who survived were reunited in what’s left of the house—the floor mostly, and remnants of what used to be the house’s sky-blue walls—hours after raging waters swept them kilometers apart.

Death and destruction

More than 6,000 other people died and at least a million houses were destroyed as Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), with winds of more than 350 kilometers per hour, tore through the Visayas. The most powerful storm to hit land in history also disrupted the lives of 14 million people, who are now living in tent cities and surviving on government and foreign aid.

“I still can’t get over it. Because every minute, every hour, I always think about being together one minute then the next, they were gone,” Castro said.

“It’s not easy. Sometimes you just suddenly cry,” he said.

Castro spoke to the Inquirer Wednesday as he contemplated going back to Tacloban after two months of trying to start anew in Quezon City, where relatives had taken him and his father in for the meantime.

He traveled by boat to Manila and arrived on Jan. 8, taking on construction jobs as an “extra” on days when the crew was short. His father, guilt-stricken for failing to save his family, followed just this week.

Despite the tragedy, Castro, a devout Christian, is hanging on.

‘Little miracles’

He said he believed he survived the storm for a reason. He had seen “little miracles” that he thought saved him that day: a tree trunk that came with the torrent for him to hang on, a pack of peanuts he fished out of the floodwater when he felt too weak to push on, even a refrigerator that got swept away, where he found a bottle of water still cold enough to quench his thirst and relieve his exhaustion.

Castro took a beating in the flood and came out of it with wounds in the head and body, which healed almost without medication.

“I am trying to be strong. We don’t give up that easily. We have to be strong in the face of hardships that life brings us, strong for the worst storm that’s yet to come,” he said.

Castro is now planning to return to his village in hopes of signing up for housing programs to somehow rebuild the family home.

“I will still search for the answer to my question. To this day, I ask why it was me [who survived]. Every day, I pray to Him to show me what to do. And for those I lost, I pray to God to always give them rest,” he said.

International help

Castro is just one of millions hoping to rebound from the tragedy brought by Yolanda, a massive humanitarian emergency that the United Nations and international aid organizations have been tirelessly grappling with all these months.

Speaking in Geneva on Friday following her visit to the disaster zone toward the end of February, the United Nations’ humanitarian chief again called on the international community to sustain support for the typhoon survivors in the Philippines.

“You can see the signs of early recovery everywhere,” UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said.

A transcript of Amos’ remarks reached Manila only Saturday morning.

“But I think that we have to recognize that behind those signs of early recovery, there are still some people who are extremely vulnerable. Progress has been made, but we need to sustain our response on the emergency side and also make sure that as we transition into early recovery and development that it is done in a way that does not leave gaps,” she said.

Long-term recovery

Amos stressed the need to support livelihood in afflicted villages, particularly agriculture and fishing communities, to help foster long-term recovery.

“The task now is to continue to ensure that the most vulnerable people are included in the recovery, because there are millions who continue to need support to rebuild their lives and livelihoods,” she said.

The United Nations has been on the ground since the first day of the humanitarian emergency and is currently implementing a $788-million plan to support yearlong projects in the disaster zone, including shelter, food security, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihood, education and health.

PH thanks for ‘Yolanda’ aid lights up world billboards Agence France-Presse 4:50 pm | Saturday, February 8th, 2014



TACLOBAN, Philippines – The Philippines said “Thank you” on billboards around the world Saturday in gratitude for the massive outpouring of international help after a typhoon that killed about 8,000 people three months ago.

Electronic billboards lit up with “Thank you” signs at New York’s Times Square, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing, London’s Piccadilly Circus and five other cities at 2040 GMT Friday, exactly three months after Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the central Philippines.

“The number of lives lost and affected is unprecedented. But ever since then, the world has been one with the Philippines in helping rebuild the nation,” the tourism department behind the ad and social media campaign said on its website.

“The Philippines wants to say a big thank you to everyone who are helping us rebuild after Typhoon Haiyan,” the department said on its official Twitter page, where it later posted the billboard pictures.

Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit land, smashed across 171 towns and cities in the central islands with a combined land area the size of Portugal, wrecking the homes of more than four million people.

The government is still collecting corpses and looking for nearly 2,000 missing people with 6,201 deaths already confirmed, many of them swept away by giant, tsunami-like waves unleashed by Haiyan on coastal communities.

In the hard-hit central city of Tacloban, many shops have reopened in a frenzy of rebuilding but tents and lean-to structures remain the norm in many ruined neighbourhoods, most of which are still without power.

“We’re traumatized but there’s nowhere else to go,” Helen May Gabornes, a 27-year-old mother of two, said as she cooked a meal of tinned sardines at a muddy school yard near downtown.

The fisherman’s wife and her extended family are among about 500 people living in blue tarpaulin tents and on relief goods there.

She told Agence France-Presse her family went to live with Manila relatives on November 12, but returned after Christmas because they could not find jobs and were becoming a burden at her sister’s home.

“We came back because we heard the government is giving free housing, but so far, nothing.”

Amid the continuing difficulties, the tourism ministry urged the world’s 100 million Filipinos on Saturday to join its “#PHthankyou” campaign on social media.

It suggested they download some of the ministry’s “The Philippines says thank you” notes from its website and adorned with pictures of the country’s top tourist draws, and post them on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social networking sites.

Russell Geekie, spokesman for the UN disaster agency in the Philippines, told AFP the government-led relief effort has addressed many of the survivors’ most acute emergency needs.

It was shifting to an “early recovery” phase with a focus on restoring livelihoods for millions of people, he added.
However, “shelter needs remain enormous”.

“Obviously we talk about resilient people, but the scope of the disaster and destruction is such that it’s very hard. There are remaining psycho-social needs that need to be met,” he said.

These include finding the hundreds missing to give their families “closure”.

The United Nations launched an international aid appeal in December for $788 million to finance the humanitarian effort for this year. Geekie said the appeal was about 45 percent funded.

President Benigno Aquino III has said the rebuilding effort would take at least four years and require more than $8 billion in funding.

FROM OFFICIAL GAZETTE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

Government pioneers online transparency hub for foreign aid Published: November 17, 2013. From the Department of Budget and Management


DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT CHIEF ABAD

Following the outpouring of international aid for the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda, the Aquino administration today announced the launch of the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), a groundbreaking web-based initiative that will allow the public to monitor the status of foreign assistance to the country in response to disasters and calamities.

FAiTH, which will be launched on November 18, is the first of its kind in the Philippine government, which previously did not have a system for tracking the use of disaster-relief funds donated by other countries and aid organizations.

“There’s an urgent call now for us to monitor the movement of foreign aid funds for Yolanda so they will go exactly where they’re supposed to: to the survivors of the typhoon for whom recovery will be a long and arduous process, and to the communities that need to be rehabilitated as quickly and efficiently as possible. FAiTH is the Aquino administration’s pioneering response to this growing need for transparency and accountability in the management of humanitarian donations,” Undersecretary of Budget and Management and Chief Information Officer Richard Moya said.

According to Moya, FAiTH will be an online portal of information on calamity aid and assistance—both in cash and in kind—received by the Philippines from other countries, multilateral organizations, and also those sent through Philippine embassies abroad.

The portal, which can be accessed via www.gov.ph/faith, will show comprehensive information on humanitarian aid donated to the Philippine government. If the donations are coursed through government agencies—specifically the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Office of Civil Defense of the Department of National Defense (DND)—the portal will likewise show users how the funds were spent.

According to Moya, the FAiTH monitoring team will represented by the Department of Foreign Affairs, DBM, Department of Finance (DOF), Commission on Audit (COA), DSWD, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) under the Office of the President.

Moya added that because the DFA is the main resource for information on foreign aid, the agency will be the primary data source for FAiTH.

“Counter to what most people think, foreign aid isn’t given to the Philippine government in hard cash. Instead, these arrive in the form of pledges, which are released to aid groups or their corresponding organizations in the Philippines, such as USAID and Red Cross. In cases like this, FAiTH doesn’t monitor these funds; instead, it tracks foreign aid that is coursed through Philippine government agencies,” Moya said.

Meanwhile, DBM Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said that Administration efforts to bolster foreign aid transparency should go hand-in-hand with civil society and donor initiatives to improve accountability in the management of disaster funding, in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

“We believe that other humanitarian organizations and civil society groups want the very same things that this Administration is working for: greater transparency and accountability in the use of funds, especially those that are meant to bring relief and urgent assistance to the victims of calamities. Working together, the Philippine government and the global community can accomplish much toward rebuilding the communities damaged by Yolanda and restoring normalcy to the lives of those who were affected by the typhoon,” Abad said.

“While the Philippines is certainly no stranger to calamity, Super Typhoon Yolanda exceeded expectations around the world in the most unfortunate way possible. The Aquino administration and the Filipino people are very grateful for the generosity of the international community in response to the devastation left by Yolanda, as well as for the continuing selflessness of all our relief and rescue workers, including those from government, citizens’ groups, and various aid organizations,” he added.

dbm.gov.ph

This entry was posted in Briefing Room, Department of Budget and Management and tagged Foreign Aid, YolandaPH, YolandaPH Funding and Foreign Aid. Bookmark the permalink.

Statement: The Presidential Spokesperson on the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) Published: November 20, 2013. Statement of Secretary Edwin Lacierda: On the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH)

[November 20, 2013]

After the launch of the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), appointed representatives from the agencies making up the FAiTH steering committee gathered to finalize the role that each agency will play in this pioneer project, as well as to lay out the succeeding steps for the development of FAiTH.

Following the public’s favorable response to the launch of FAiTH, the steering committee coordinated with other government agencies that have also been accepting donations for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), chaired by Secretary Imelda M. Nicolas, is one of these; they are currently accepting donations through their Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LINKAPIL) program.

The CFO reported in the coordination meeting that, as of November 19, they have received a total of PHP 526,384.00 and US$ 1,040.00 from our countrymen and other individuals in the Philippines and in countries like the USA, Germany, Austria, Japan, and Qatar. This recent news from the CFO only highlights the solidarity and support our country has received in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda.

The full details of donations already received by the CFO, including the names and countries of residence of the donors, amounts donated, and date received, will be published in FAiTH. As such, the steering committee has also decided to expand the scope of the information covered by the portal to include even donations made by individuals through the CFO.

This is also why the FAiTH steering committee is finalizing the legal requisites and other requirements necessary to create a single, multi-currency Treasury account. This will allow overseas Filipinos and other individuals, small groups, and organizations to easily deposit their donations to victims of calamities. As Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad explained in last Monday’s launch, with the creation of this account, OFWs and other interested groups can go to our embassies abroad, make their contribution to the single multi-currency Treasury account, and receive an acknowledgement receipt. They will then be able to access FAiTH, where their donations will be uploaded, and view updates on how their donations have been used, as part of calamity assistance.

In this way, the government will provide a transparent accounting to any and all who give assistance—from countries, multilateral organizations, and corporations, to individuals.

FAiTH can be accessed through: http://www.faith.gov.ph.

This entry was posted in Briefing Room, Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and tagged Foreign Aid, YolandaPH, YolandaPH Funding and Foreign Aid. Bookmark the permalink.

EARLIER REPORT FROM THE INQUIRER

Gov’t launches transparency website for foreign aid to Yolanda survivors By Kristine Angeli Sabillo INQUIRER.net 3:25 pm | Monday, November 18th, 2013


US Marines unload relief items from a cargo plane at the Tacloban airport on Thursday. President Aquino was under growing pressure to speed up the distribution of food, water and medicine to desperate survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Monday launched the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), a website that allows the public to monitor the amount of foreign assistance pouring into the country following the onslaught of super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name Haiyan).

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, in a televised press conference, presented the new website, which is expected to bolster transparency and accountability efforts of the administration.

The announcement came days after relief started pouring in for victims of Yolanda. With almost 4,000 people killed and tens of thousands left homeless, other nations and international bodies immediately sent relief goods and medical teams, in addition to pledging millions of dollars for the benefit of the survivors.

“There’s an urgent call now for us to monitor the movement of foreign aid funds for Yolanda so they will go exactly where they’re supposed to: to the survivors of the typhoon for whom recovery will be a long and arduous process, and to the communities that need to be rehabilitated as quickly and efficiently as possible. FAiTH is the Aquino administration’s pioneering response to this growing need for transparency and accountability in the management of humanitarian donations,” said Budget Undersecretary Richard “Bon” Moya in a statement.

Accessible through http://www.gov.ph/faith , the website lists down all the pledges of donor countries and parties. It also specified the conduit and government agency where the donations will be coursed through.

Moya said the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) are the primary sources of information for the website.

“We believe that other humanitarian organizations and civil society groups want the very same things that this Administration is working for: greater transparency and accountability in the use of funds, especially those that are meant to bring relief and urgent assistance to the victims of calamities,” Abad said.

In a separate statement, President Benigno Aquino III said, “Ultimately, FAiTH is more than a hub of information: it is an expression of appreciation for the kindness of those who stand in solidarity with our countrymen, and it is a continuation of our promise to the Filipino people: we are here only to serve you.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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