News / Asia

International Aid Flows Into Grateful Philippines

  • Typhoon survivors board a Philippine Air Force transport plane in Tacloban, Nov. 21, 2013.
  • A Philippine man carries aid from a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter in Palo, Philippines, Nov. 20, 2013.
  • U.S. sailors and Marines load supplies onto a helicopter to be delivered in Eastern Sumar Province, Philippines, Nov. 20, 2013. (U.S. Navy)
  • U.S. military personnel carry supplies to be distributed in Eastern Sumar Province, Philippines, Nov. 20, 2013. (U.S. Navy)
  • U.S. sailors work with Philippine armed forces members to transport relief supplies in Ormoc City, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013. (U.S. Navy)
  • A member of the U.S. Navy hugs a child during a visit to Philippine Army base Camp Downes in support of Operation Damayan, Nov. 18, 2013. (U.S. Navy)
  • A Seahawk helicopter transports international relief supplies in support of Operation Damayan, Ormoc City, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. (U.S. Navy)
  • U.S. sailors and Marines work with Philippine civilians to unload relief supplies in Guiuan, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. (U.S. Navy)
  • Villagers scramble for aid from a U.S. Navy helicopter in the coastal town of Tanawan, Philippines, Nov. 17. 2013.
  • A soldier carries a baby to board a U.S. military transport plane at the damaged Tacloban airport, Tacloban city, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013.
  • A U.S. hospital corpsman assists Philippine nurses in treating a patient's head wound at the Immaculate Conception School refugee camp, Guiuan, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. (U.S. Navy)
  • Philippine citizens board an U.S. HC-130 Hercules to be airlifted to safety in support of Operation Damayan, Guiuan, Nov. 17, 2013. (U.S. Navy)

Relief Operations in the Philippines

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Simone Orendain
— International humanitarian officials say there is a noticeable improvement in getting aid to central Philippine communities, even if some are being reached for the first time since the typhoon struck 12 days ago. The international aid has been flowing in, exposing some of the government’s vulnerabilities. More than 4,000 people were killed and millions displaced when Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines. Hundreds of thousands have yet to be reached with emergency aid. 

More than a week after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered the central provinces, President Benigno Aquino said the Philippines would be able to recover especially with the help of other countries.  That was Sunday and he was touring municipalities in the eastern-most provinces that took the heaviest of Haiyan’s pounding, saying he would stay on to oversee relief and recovery operations.  Two days later, he returned to Manila.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda says Aquino noticed a significant improvement in relief goods reaching people who had nothing to eat days after the storm. 

“He has expressed confidence in the work that the composite team on the ground has done.  Things have turned out better than he expected,” he said.

The Philippines set a goal of releasing 150,000 food kits daily, one week after the storm.  But the government was faced with logistical and infrastructure challenges, including loosening up bottlenecks at ports along waters off the hard hit provinces, clearing debris from hard to reach roads and restoring communication lines.

Officials say most issues have been resolved.

Massive aid

Dozens of governments have pledged nearly $200 million in cash and in-kind donations.  A number have sent military assets bearing basic necessities and medical aid. 

In addition to $30 million in financial help, Japan has sent members of its self-defense force on a medical mission to several provinces. 

The United States, whose aid comes to $37 million, docked an aircraft carrier in Samar province last Thursday.  Its teams worked with Philippine forces to put in place logistics that would help aid move more smoothly.  And its strike force is using MV-22B Ospreys - small craft that can land vertically in remote areas. 

  • From left to right: U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, commanding general, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade; Philippine navy Capt. Roy Vincent Trinidad, officer in charge, Tacloban airfield; and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander, Battl
  • From right to left: U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, commanding general, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade; U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet; and Philippine navy Capt. Roy Vincent Trinidad, officer in charge,
  • ircraft Structural Mechanic (Engine) 1st Class Robert Henderson, from Marlton, N.J., center, and other Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and Marines assigned to the 3d Marine Expeditionary
  • Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Deanna Coutts, from Chicago, center, loads a bag of supplies into an MH-60S Seahawk from the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 to be airlifted to nearby villages in support of Operation D
  • Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and Marines assigned to the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade load boxes of supplies into a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey from the Marine Medium Tiltrotor

When asked by reporters whether the government would try to convince the international community to stay on longer, Lacierda said they were here voluntarily.

“They see the need.  They assess.  We will leave it to them.  Far [be it for] us to demand from them,” he said.

Government reaction

Richard Heydarian, a political analyst at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, says the Philippine government does not want to appear too dependent on outside help, which he says has been life-saving.

“They also wanted to be quite politically correct, by not singling out some countries, thanking them, ‘Oh thank you United States and Japan.’  They didn’t want to do that.  They wanted to give a generic statement in order to underplay any possible geopolitical dimensions,” he said.

Heydarian points out China’s considerably smaller portion of aid equaling $1.7 million compared to a number other countries’ and companies’ contributions.  On Wednesday a China foreign ministry spokesman said it would send a medical disaster team, a Chinese Red Cross contingent and lend its 14,000 ton floating hospital the “Peace Ark” to the typhoon-ravaged area.

The Philippines and China are in the midst of a territorial squabble in the South China Sea that prompted Manila to file an arbitration case with a United Nations tribunal earlier this year.

International humanitarian agencies have been full of praise for the government’s willingness to work with other governments and outside entities, given the magnitude of the disaster.

WATCH: Related video from VOA
People Still Leaving Philippines Typhoon Areai
X
November 21, 2013
People are still trying to escape the destruction in the Philippines nearly two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck.

World Food Program Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said this week after a visit to the worst-hit parts, the Philippines has been consistently receptive.

“They have always said ‘Yes, do that.’  And that, to us, is a government that recognizes that their primary responsibility is meeting the needs of their people.  And it’s our goal to continue to work with them,” said Cousin.

The United Nations says close to 13 million people have been affected by the typhoon.  Its labor office says about five million people will need employment

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