Typhoon-Ravaged Philippines Asks for Int'l Help
R.P. Defense Chief Says Situation Could Get Worse
Inquirer.net, News Report, Cynthia Balana and Jocelyn Uy, Philippine Daily Inquirer Posted: Sep 28, 2009
MANILA, Philippines— Overwhelmed by the devastation caused by Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international name: Ketsana), the Philippine government on September 28 sought aid from the world community.
“We are appealing for international humanitarian assistance... for (relief from) the effects of Tropical Storm Ketsana,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said in a nationally televised briefing.
The appeal came some 48 hours after Typhoon "Ondoy" struck Metro Manila and a large part of Luzon, as the government struggled to cope with floods that killed at least 140 people and displaced nearly half a million.
The government has placed Metro Manila and 25 provinces under a state of calamity.
Teodoro said the potential for a more serious situation was there and “we cannot wait for that to happen.”
The call for international aid was for Metro Manila and Region IV-A (Calabarzon), according to the defense secretary who had sent a formal letter of appeal to the U.N. resident coordinator in the Philippines.
The appeal came after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said "Ondoy" had strained the country’s “response capabilities to the limit.”
The President described the deluge, which was the worst to hit Metro Manila in more than four decades and left 80 percent of the metropolis under water, as a “once-in-a-lifetime” storm.
“(It) was an extreme event that has strained our response capabilities to the limit. But it is not breaking us,” she said.
But with the threat of disease lurking over the disaster zones and relief workers in dire shortage of supplies to help survivors, other officials said authorities were not coping.
“We are concentrating on massive relief operations. (But) the system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed,” said Anthony Golez, head of the Office of Civil Defense.
Authorities said some people remained stranded in their flooded homes more than 48 hours after the floods, while power and telephone services were still cut in the worst-hit areas of Metro Manila.
Poor drainage systems meant some places remained waist-deep in water, while vast swathes of the sprawling metropolis of 12 million people were covered in sludge.
In schools, open-air gymnasiums and other makeshift evacuation camps, tens of thousands of people were desperately short of food, water and clothes.
Apart from relief goods, funding and medicine, the Philippines may also ask for international rescue teams, said Teodoro, chair of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).
Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said among the most immediate needs were heavy equipment to clear debris from the roads.
Assistance and expressions of sympathy from the international community and Filipinos abroad started to come for people displaced by "Ondoy."
Aid from Japan, U.S., China
Japan announced Monday it would provide emergency relief goods worth about 20 million yen ($220,000) to the victims in response to the Philippine government’s appeal for help from other countries.
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada extended his government’s letter of sympathy to Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and expressed sadness over the loss of many lives and damage to property in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.
Okada said Japan would spare no effort in providing necessary assistance and cooperation for rehabilitation of affected people and areas.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila said Ambassador Kristie Kenney authorized an additional $50,000 in immediate disaster relief assistance, bringing the total of US relief assistance to $100,000.
The U.S. Embassy said the assistance would be delivered to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).
In addition, U.S. Navy personnel are assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in search and rescue efforts in Cainta, Rizal and Pasig City, among the most flooded areas.
“Damage caused by this storm is heartbreaking,” Kenney told Sen. Richard Gordon, PNRC chair, on Sept. 26.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila said it was donating $10,000 in disaster relief to the PNRC. Chinese Ambassador to Manila Liu Jianchao had called Gordon to inform him of the assistance.
“The Chinese government and people were saddened by loss of lives and have deep sympathy with the Philippine government and people,” Liu said in a statement.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction to property caused by the storm that swept through the central Philippines over the weekend.
WHO Relief Fund
The U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO) announced a $42,000 relief fund.
The WHO said those crammed into evacuation centers were at risk of water-and air-borne diseases. “There is also a greater risk of acute respiratory infection and injuries, (and) wound infection from doing repairs after the floods,” it said.
World Vision, a humanitarian group, had begun distributing relief packs by helicopter and was assisting the Philippine Coast Guard. It said it planned to raise about $2 million and was appealing for more funds from its donors.
Help from Filipinos Abroad
The Philippine consulates in Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Dubai have been contacted by Filipino communities, which have expressed willingness to give donations and mobilize community members.
In Winnipeg, Canada, an evangelical church made a special collection during the Sunday service for the victims of "Ondoy."
“Each calamity, each typhoon hurts us. It pains my heart to see our co-Filipinos going through [these] difficult times. It’s going from bad to worse there,” Filipino Roslyn Pamplona, a church minister, was quoted saying by CBC News.
In Westport, Connecticut, the U.S. chapter of the International Save the Children movement said its staff in Manila was mobilizing a rapid relief effort to assist children and families who have lost their homes.
Donation from Senators
Local government units in the provinces offered assistance to areas affected by Ondoy.
Wasting no time, the Phil. Senate swiftly approved Monday afternoon a resolution introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago allocating P1 million each from senators’ pork barrel to help areas devastated by "Ondoy."
The money will fund relief operations, reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas in Metro Manila and other affected regions, according to Santiago.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile announced that the Senate would donate a total of P1.5 million to the victims of the storm through the ABS-CBN Foundation Inc., GMA Kapuso Foundation and the PNRC.
Private Sector Aid
Philippine companies have also offered help.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it would airlift all relief donations from the provinces to Manila.
In a statement, PAL said that any bulk cargo box containing donations addressed to reputable, nonprofit, charitable organizations in Manila would be airlifted for free.
Individual donations for private or personal families will not be accommodated.
PAL said donations must be in a cargo box or container inscribed with “care of the PAL Foundation.” Complete information of the consignee organization must be supplied with the cargo box or container.
Station heads of the airline will verify and limit the contents of the donation boxes to items of value and use, and exclude donations like expired food and medicines, water, rice (due to weight considerations) and unusable stuff.
Globe Telecom announced that it would accept relief goods at its stores during mall hours.
Donations, except cash, would be taken in at Globe stores in Alabang Town Center, Festival Mall, Robinsons Malate, SM Southmall, Mall of Asia, SM Bicutan, SM Fairview, Trinoma, SM North, Greenbelt 4, Park Square and SM Makati.
Metrobank Group chair George S. K. Ty announced that Metrobank, through the Metrobank Foundation, would donate P10 million for relief and rehabilitation.
With reports from Jerome Aning, Michael Lim Ubac and Riza T. Olchondra and Agence France-Presse
Photo credit: Image of submerged cars at UERM in Manila - from Facebook post of CAMILLE MAGNO. Video posted on Inquirer.net
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