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December 18, 2013

Kerry Pledges More US Aid for Typhoon-Hit Philippines

by VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged $25 million in new humanitarian aid during a visit to the typhoon-struck central Philippines.

In Tacloban, the village that suffered the worst storm damage, Kerry said he was stunned at the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan, which killed over 6,000 people last month.

"We are keeping in our thoughts and prayers the nearly 1,800 people who still remain missing," he said. "The United States is committed to doing whatever we can as we go forward to try to help our friends in the Philippines to recover."

The new aid means the U.S. will have given over $86 million to help the Philippines recover from Haiyan, which was one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded.

President Benigno Aquino announced an $8.1 billion government plan Wednesday to rebuild storm-ravaged communities. He also issued a new appeal for international aid to help with the reconstruction.

Kerry is on the second day of his Philippines visit. On Tuesday, he met with President Aquino and announced $40 million in aid to help boost Manila's maritime defense capabilities and to support counterterrorism operations against a Muslim insurgency in the south.

Washington is believed to be in the final stages of a deal with Manila that would allow more American troops, aircraft and ships to pass through the country.

In Hanoi on Monday, Kerry unveiled a $32 million package, including $18 million for Vietnam, to help Southeast Asian countries protect their territorial waters.

Both Vietnam and the Philippines are involved in territorial disputes with China, but Kerry has said the aid is not aimed at countering Beijing's rising influence in the region.

Analysts say the humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan led by the U.S. military could serve as a preview of an expanded defense relationship between Manila and Washington.

The U.S. sent an aircraft carrier group and a thousand Marines, and spent millions of dollars to help its former colony recover from the typhoon.