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November 25, 2013

Philippines Typhoon Aid Begins Transition to Long-Term Recovery

by Steve Herman

Thirteen million people affected. Four million of them displaced, with one million homes destroyed. Two-and-a-half million individuals in need of food aid. And about 7,000 people confirmed dead or missing. That is the toll from the typhoon that hit the central Philippines November 8. The government and international agencies are activating the recovery and reconstruction process.

This time-lapse sequence of Tacloban’s airport shows aid arriving and departing from the destroyed city, which is a major hub for delivering food, water and other supplies to more isolated communities.

It took days to get aid moving at this pace. Philippine and international agencies predict the emergency tempo will need to continue for 18 months.

Many people may have had the impression “the government was not doing anything” for the first few days, acknowledged presidential spokesman Edward Lacierda. “We are an archipelago. We had to make sure that everything was done in the proper way, not to mention the fact that really this storm surge the effect on Tacloban was quite huge and devastating.”
VOA reporter Steve Herman is in the Philippines covering rescue and recovery efforts.
There are concerns that the Philippines' notorious corruption could skim off resources and hamper the long-term recovery. But President Beningo Aquino has made fighting graft a focus of his administration and hopes to reassure donors with top-level oversight.

Just three government agencies will handle all of the donated funds, and high-ranking officials will track spending and publish accounting reports online.

The government's recovery plan, supported by the World Bank, is to be submitted Wednesday to Aquino. The bank already has announced it has raised nearly $1 billion to support relief and reconstruction.

The 67-member-nation Asian Development Bank, headquartered in Manila, is kicking in an additional $500-million emergency loan for reconstruction, according to bank vice president Stephen Groff.

As the Philippines prepares to rebuild, Groff and other specialists are raising concerns about rebuilding along some shorelines that are vulnerable to destructive storms and the effects of climate change - a quandary other countries in the region faced after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“We’ll have to do the assessments," said Groff. "But the answer to that question may very well be, ‘no,’ that some communities may need to be moved. And if you look at what happened in Aceh and some areas around the East Asian tsunami, indeed, some of those communities were relocated. And that is part of a longer term solution at risk mitigation.”
 
It is not a question of if, but when, the Philippines will get hit with another devastating natural disaster. And the consensus here is that the only good that can come out of this latest national calamity is learning lessons that will help mitigate the destruction from the next one.

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