UN issues $28.6-million international appeal for victims

Posted on December 23, 2011

AN APPEAL to the international community has been issued by the United Nations (UN) to raise $28.6 milion in humanitarian aid for the victims of tropical storm Sendong (international name: Washi) whose death toll has reached over a thousand.

The amount, which will be an “emergency revision” of the “Philippines (Mindanao) Humanitarian Action Plan 2012,” according to a statement issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, will provide clean water for drinking and bathing, food, emergency shelter and essential household items to the 471,000 affected families in Northern Mindanao for three months.

“Debris cleaning to reduce health risks and logistics services that ensure uninterrupted delivery of life-saving programs are also a priority,” the UN added.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council yesterday said Sendong has claimed 1,010 lives with 51 others missing, while damage was pegged at P1 billion.

According to the UN, the “flash appeal” was based on initial needs and priorities “and will be revised after six weeks, when it will present a more complete picture of current humanitarian needs and pace of recovery.”

Previous flash appeals from the UN included relief efforts in the aftermath of tropical storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009 that affected Metro Manila and nearby areas.

“It was as if the cities were hit by an inland tsunami. Entire areas were completely flattened; only a few sturdy buildings remain standing, and these has sustained a lot of damage,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Soe Nyunt-U said in the same statement, describing his visit in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities in Northern Mindanao.

For its part, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will send 42 metric tons of aid, including blankets, water containers, kitchen sets and plastic tarpaulins that can be used as emergency shelters.

The aid is expected to arrive today, according to a separate statement from the UN body.

International aid, meanwhile, continues to be expressed.

The Japanese government has sent P14 million worth of relief supplies, including water tanks, generators, tents, mattresses and blankets.

The first batch of shipment that arrived yesterday was received by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In addition, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon J. Soliman yesterday received a $150,000 donation from Ambassador Donald C.T. Lee of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.

As of Dec. 22, the DSWD has transported a total of P23.56 million worth of relief assistance to the field office in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao).

Likewise, P17.63 million worth of assorted relief commodities were transported to the DSWD’s field office in the same region from the UN-World Food Program, Maynilad Water Services, Inc., Philippine National Red Cross and Department of Health.

In a related development, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said “messages of sympathy and offers of assistance” have poured in from abroad.

It listed the following which have pledged support: World Health Organization and International Organization for Migration, $50,000; European Commission, €3 million; and League of Arab States.

In Asia-Pacific, Singapore has pledged S$50,000 (P1.7 million) and S$27,800 (P942,000) worth of relief packs; Indonesia, $10,000 in cash and offered search and rescue, and medical teams; Malaysia, $100,000; China, $1.10 million; Korea, $500,000; and Australia, A$1 million (P44.28 million).

Leaders of France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland have expressed readiness to provide relief assistance upon request of the government.

Canada, the United States and Israel have also expressed their sympathies.

Displaced residents

Meanwhile, funding has been released for the relocation of displaced residents in a hard-hit community in Cagayan de Oro, a Cabinet official said yesterday.

“We have released P50 million already from the local government support fund. That can be used to relocate people living in Isla de Oro,” Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo said in a text message.

The flash floods on Saturday triggered by Sendong swelled the Cagayan de Oro River, sweeping away houses and killing hundreds in the precariously situated islet.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, who visited Cagayan de Oro and neighboring affected communities on Tuesday, observed that the islet was in the path of the river, and the local government had warned in 2007 and 2009 that the area was not fit for habitation.

He has since ordered the local government to relocate survivors to a safer area.

“The residents of Isla de Oro were 10,000... It’s a danger zone, you cannot live in an area which is considered danger zone,” said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a Palace briefing yesterday.

“The President is clear in his strict instructions for them not to go back to Isla de Oro. In fact, he ordered Jesse Robredo, he ordered the regional director, to ensure that they should not go back to Isla de Oro...,” said Mr. Lacierda.

Mr. Lacierda recalled that a task force has been formed to look into how the tragedy “could have been prevented and what are the recommended actions as well as the liabilities of those who will be found to be at fault.”

Vicente Y. Emano, mayor of Cagayan de Oro, and his actions during the Sendong incident will form part of the investigation, he added.

“The foundations of that Isla de Oro are not as stable as any other place... that is a fact known to the local government. So pag-aaralan din po ’yung bakit nagkaroon po ng maraming residente doon at bakit pinayagan [we will study why there was a residential community there and why they were allowed to stay].”

For his part, Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said in a text message that as with other housing projects, the relocation “will be a collaboration with the LGU (local government unit),” with the local officials providing the site and the national government providing funding for housing, utilities and other amenities.

“The beneficiaries amortize the house, while NG (national government) subsidizes infra for utilities and facilities,” he added. -- Noemi M. Gonzales and Johanna Paola D. Poblete