News / Asia

Philippines Struggles to Account for Millions in Foreign Typhoon Aid

A typhoon survivor stands on rubbish in Tacloban, central Philippines, Dec. 8, 2013.
A typhoon survivor stands on rubbish in Tacloban, central Philippines, Dec. 8, 2013.
Simone Orendain
After super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines last November, foreign governments and aid groups pledged some $600 million in cash and assistance for the relief and recovery effort. Now, the Philippine government says it can only account for some $14.3 million of the donations. The government is working to create an improved tracking system to find out where the money went.
Right now the “Foreign Aid Transparency Hub” website shows pledges to three Philippine government agencies, but there are holes in the data.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda admits that the website does not reflect where exactly the money is going.  But he says the government will remedy that situation this month with an updated version that will provide more transparency.
“We are not going to only track donations to government, but also [what] those pledges and assistance have been converted to and to what channels- what we call channels- or organizations that they’re going to be furnished to," said Lacierda.
Foreign governments accounting 

For the new version, the Philippines will require foreign governments to submit detailed information of where their pledges have gone.  Authorities say this will help them account for much more of the donated funds.  As for tracking what the Philippine government has received directly, Lacierda says those agencies are still putting together reports of where the money was spent.
Cleo Calimbahin, the executive director of Transparency International-Philippines, commends the government for creating the website, but she says it is “not very informative.”  And even with additional information in the new version, the huge gap between pledges versus cash accepted might not necessarily close.
“A lot of private organizations and agencies channeled some of [that] aid directly to their counterparts… and that would be very difficult to track.  Also difficult to track would be aid that was given directly to local governments… because sometimes these local governments have strong relationships with other countries directly,” she said.
Ramon Casiple, who heads the Philippine Institute for Political and Electoral Reform,  says improved transparency about the government’s projects for aid and recovery would be better than an improved aid tracking website.

“The public can look into these plans, the way that they are implemented and actually give access to the victims themselves, if you want to verify the facts or the information.  The whole problem, so far in the rehabilitation, is that the victims are not part of the story,” he said.

Casiple says some of the bigger aid agencies worry about corruption and so they hesitate to donate directly to governments.   Also, down on the ground at the local government level, politics can influence whether survivors will get help or not. 

Relief operations in the Philippines, Nov. 21, 2013
  • 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)
Agencies have own tracking systems

Casiple points to Oxfam International, which has so far collected $55 million toward typhoon aid, as a model for efficiency in helping the neediest survivors.  He says agencies like Oxfam work closely with their local counterparts on the ground.  

An Oxfam spokeswoman says all donations collected go toward Haiyan relief and rehabilitation.   The money is administered through a management system that follows projects at each step of the process.  
Another major humanitarian agency, the Tzu Chi Foundation, works directly with the survivors.  Philippine Country Chief Alfred Li says Tzu Chi has so far poured more than $27 million into areas that were hit hardest by Haiyan.  He says the money is tracked from start to finish and Tzu Chi personnel and volunteers are on the ground carrying out the work.
“Whatever we spend is handled by us.  We never give it to the government and then let the government do the distribution.  All our relief activities are always done by ourselves,” he said.
The funds have gone toward cash and livelihood relief and now building schools and other recovery work.  Li says Tzu Chi submits reports directly to the Departments of Social Welfare, Education and other related agencies.  

After five months of  recovery and reconstruction efforts in Tacloban and other hard-hit areas, there is still a great need for more assistance. Just this week, Australia pledged another $27 million for reconstruction in typhoon-hit areas, on top of the $36 million Canberra pledged in November.

Images from the Philippines, Nov. 21, 2013
  • Typhoon Haiyan survivors wait for their evacuation flights at the airport in Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 21, 2013.
  • A typhoon survivor sits beside the body bag containing his child in Tacloban, central Philippines, Nov. 20, 2013.
  • A Philippine Air Force crew looks out from his helicopter as Typhoon Haiyan-ravaged city of Tacloban is seen in the background, during a flight to deliver relief goods, Nov. 19, 2013.
  • The brakelight of a delivery truck lights up a boy's face as survivors struggle to be the first in line during the distribution of relief goods in typhoon-hit Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013.
  • Firemen unload Typhoon Haiyan victims in body bags from a truck on the roadside until forensic experts can register and bury them in a mass grave outside of Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 19, 2013.
  • A Typhoon Haiyan survivor carries a bag of his recovered belongings in the ruins of his rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013.
  • A man uses a shovel to clean up mud inside St. Joseph Parish church, which was badly damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013.
  • Typhoon Haiyan survivors walk along a road in the destroyed port in the town of Guiuan, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013.
  • A young boy, a survivor of Typhoon Haiyan covers his ears as military C-130 aircraft land at the airport in Tacloban, central Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013.
  • Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan shade themselves from the rising sun after spending the night on the tarmac in the airport in Tacloban, where they wait to be evacuated, Nov. 15, 2013.
  • Toppled coconut trees dot a mountain in an area devastated by typhoon Haiyan in Leyte province, central Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: mark
May 01, 2014 6:01 PM
To make things simple and easy. They don't necessarily account for donations directly fiven to recipients or partner organizations of donors, they have their own trust system and they know where those went. These oeganizations will nit ask government where it went because they know first hand.What theit concern should be what they receive and where they spend it.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs