News / Asia

US Typhoon Response Improves Military Ties with Manila

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario (L) walks with U.S. Representative Chris Smith upon arrival at the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Pasay city, metro Manila, Nov. 25, 2013.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario (L) walks with U.S. Representative Chris Smith upon arrival at the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Pasay city, metro Manila, Nov. 25, 2013.
Simone Orendain
Philippines officials say the challenges of mounting the relief effort for Typhoon Haiyan show the urgency of signing a long-term agreement on an increased U.S. troop presence in the country. Typhoon Haiyan struck as the United States and the Philippines were negotiating a plan for more regular U.S. troop rotations to the country.

The negotiators have been meeting for months, but Philippine representatives have said they still need time to study some issues.

On Monday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario made a pitch for finalizing the agreement at a briefing with a U.S. Congressional delegation in Manila.

“I think this [disaster] demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we’re working out with the United States… because it accentuates one of the main purposes of the framework, which is to make humanitarian and disaster relief and response a major aspect of the agreement,” said del Rosario.

Haiyan crippled the central provinces’ infrastructure when its powerful winds knocked out electricity and downed communications towers. It wiped out most of the houses in villages and municipalities and left a tangled mess of trees and debris clogging roads for days.

The devastation hampered the aid effort and handicapped the Philippines military's ability to respond. The U.S. sent some 50 ships and aircraft to the region for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operation. U.S. forces also helped work out logistics for the Philippines' own response.

Relief operations in the 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)

Closer partnership

Arizona Congressman Trent Franks told reporters in Manila the U.S. is committed to solidifying the mutual defense partnership.

“I think it’s vitally important for us to stick together and take every opportunity we have, including this one, to try to bring our military efforts close together,” he said.

Carl Baker, program director at the Pacific Forum of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the Haiyan relief operation will influence negotiations between the two countries, but it should not be a determining factor for the agreement.

“I think it would be a mistake for the United States to go into those [negotiations] thinking that now it has additional leverage to convince the Philippines to accept terms that it wasn’t prepared to accept,” he said.

Philippine Aid Donors Factbox

Many countries and organizations are providing humanitarian aid to the Philippines in the wake of Friday's typhoon. The most prominent donors include:

  • UNITED NATIONS: $25 million released from U.N. emergency relief fund, appealing for more
  • UNITED STATES: $20 million in aid, plus military assistance
  • EU: $17 million
  • BRITAIN: $16 million, plus military assistance
  • JAPAN: $10 million, and an emergency medical relief team
  • UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: $10 million
  • AUSTRALIA: $9.3 million, including medical personnel
  • SOUTH KOREA: $5 million, plus a disaster relief team
  • CANADA: up to $5 million
  • U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: $2 million
  • NEW ZEALAND: $1.7 million
  • U.N. CHILDREN'S FUND (UNICEF): $1.3 million worth of supplies
  • HSBC (global banking group): $1 million
  • SAMSUNG (South Korean technology company): $1 million
  • TAIWAN: $200,000
  • VATICAN: $150,000 in initial assistance
  • CHINA: $100,000
  • CHINA RED CROSS: $100,000
The Philippines, which has one of the smallest military budgets in the region, wants the increased U.S. troop presence to complement its military expansion plans. It is particularly concerned with a contentious territorial dispute with China over islets in the resource-rich South China Sea. At the same time, the U.S. is shifting its security and economic focus to Asia, where China’s influence continues to grow.

Philippines Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista says the U.S. disaster response has helped strengthen the Philippine military.

“Among the other crisis we’ve faced in the past and also this one, they have always been with us, demonstrated their willingness and their capability to assist us in any problem that we face,” he said.

The China factor

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Fellow Ian Storey says the U.S. typhoon response has helped the two countries get closer to their objectives.

“The United States doesn’t want to say ‘We want to increase our military presence in the Philippines because of China.’ They will use other reasons as well, like a HADR as one of the widely important factors that they will use to strengthen their case,” he said.

Last week, China offered its 14,000 ton floating military hospital, called the Peace Ark toward Haiyan relief efforts. Storey says this is a significant move because it would be the Peace Ark’s first humanitarian response operation.

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Comment Sorting
by: ed from: nj
December 05, 2013 9:22 AM
And Clark AFB?

by: ed mays from: brick nj
November 25, 2013 8:12 PM
Gee, wasn`t it just awhile ago the Philippines kicked us out of Clark air Force Base...sure was. Now it`s a different story from them. And a short memory of our dead and wounded fighting for them in WWII against the ravaging and raping Japanese.
In Response

by: bb from: los angeles
December 05, 2013 2:15 AM
Woah fella, hold it there, you need to read history, the Philippines & the US fought side by side during the war. the Philippines was a colony/commonwealth when the war broke out, it wasn't just the US that got killed or wounded, when the US troops came back home after the war the filipino troops even the civilians were still fighting the enemies they died for them(US) too. In case you don't know, Pearl Harbor was bombed because Japanese knew US were based there, after they bombed Pearl Harbor they bombed the US bases in the Philippines because the Japanese knew they were also there. The filipino soldiers were part of the United States Armed forces with Gen. MacArthur as their leader & who established it before the war so it's a two-way street. In case you don't know this, the two countries have a Mutual Defense Treaty.
In Response

by: Keen from: Philippines
November 26, 2013 9:31 AM
Ed Mays of NJ, with due respect, Philippines and the whole Filipino community won't forget our HISTORY; we just forget the HATRED...

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