Wednesday, November 13, 2013

7th Infantry Division conducting relief drive for 'Yolanda' victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): 7th Infantry Division conducting relief drive for 'Yolanda' victims
The Nueva Ecija-based 7th Infantry Division is conducting a relief drive for victims of super typhoon "Yolanda" in the Visayas Region.

Capt. Mark Anthony Ruelos, the unit's spokesperson, said that interested parties or individuals can bring their donations to Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija .

Once a sufficient quantity is gathered, the items will be flown by C-130 aircraft to the affected provinces.

The 7th Infantry Division earlier deployed 101 officers and men to help in the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts in Tacloban City, Leyte which was flattened by "Yolanda" last November 8.

NBI nabs suspected hacker of gov't websites

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): NBI nabs suspected hacker of gov't websites

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have arrested a suspected hacker of government websites.

According to Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, the suspect was identified as Rodel Plasabas with the aliases "Reaper", "anonymousbutuan" and "Anon Reaper" who was arrested Wednesday by NBI operatives in Butuan City.

The arrest was made after surveillance and serving of a search warrant for violation of Republic Act 8792 or the E-Commerce Law.

The suspect was online when the search warrant was issued.

Initial check on his current chats indicated discussions on website hacking.

Initial forensics were conducted.

The suspect will be presented for inquest Thursday before the Butuan City Prosecutor's Office.

Navy distributes 52,000 liters of potable water to Tacloban City residents

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): Navy distributes 52,000 liters of potable water to Tacloban City residents

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday announced that its water sanitation teams has distributed 52,000 gallons of purified water to the residents of "Yolanda" battered Tacloban City in Leyte province.

Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said that BRP Federico Martir (PG-385), which is carrying 6.19 tons of relief goods, has left Cebu City Thursday morning and is expected to arrive later in the day at Ormoc City.

He added that another PN logistics ship, BU-295, has departed Cebu for Guian town, Samar carrying some 85 tons of relief goods which will be distributed to the typhoon devastated residents there later Thursday.

Fabic also stated that PN diving teams and those from Office of Civil Defense in Region 5 has recovered 90 bodies off Tacloban Bay.

These are now subject to identification, he added.

NPA ambush of food convoy untrue–AFP

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 14): NPA ambush of food convoy untrue–AFP

A military report about communist rebels ambushing a group of soldiers escorting a food convoy headed for typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City in Leyte has turned out to be false.

Capt. Mardjorie Panesa, public information officer of the Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division based in Bicol, on Wednesday clarified that what happened was an encounter on Tuesday morning between government troops and suspected communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Matnog town in Sorsogon, in which two rebels were killed.

Earlier press reports (not the Inquirer) said the rebels had ambushed the soldiers who were escorting a government convoy carrying relief goods to Samar and Leyte, the two Eastern Visayas provinces devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares of the leftist Bayan Muna on Wednesday accused the military of “lying” about the supposed ambush.

“According to reports by the people of Matnog, no ambush took place and the Army could not even say if a shot was fired by the ambushers or what relief convoy was attacked since there was no relief convoy that passed the area. The AFP through Col. Joselito Makilala later backtracked and admitted there was just a supposed plan to ambush potential convoy but no ambush took place,” said Colmenares in a text message.

Reacting to the ambush report, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a former Armed Forces chief, warned the NPA that this “perceived strategy” to take advantage of the chaos and suffering in the Samar-Leyte region was a “big mistake.”

“I am still verifying these reports. But if indeed they (NPA) are responsible, this will be a blow to their projected legitimacy as an alternative government, the rightfulness of whatever they are projecting themselves as will be lost,” said Biazon in a phone interview.

“Those supporting their cause would think twice about continuing to support them. These are not the acts of so-called ideologues but plain bandits,” he said.

Party-list Rep. Walden Bello (Akbayan) appealed to the NPA’s “sense of decency and humanity to desist from such acts.”

Satur Ocampo, a former House party-list member representing Bayan Muna, was skeptical of the military report of an ambush.

“I don’t think the NPA  would take any action to prevent or hamper the flow of relief goods to the people in devastated areas. On the contrary, it’s a standing policy for the NPA to assist or facilitate in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations by all aiding entities and the survivors in such situation,” he said in a text message.

He called on the National Democratic Front—the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines; the NPA is the CPP’s military arm—to call for a “temporary ceasefire” between the NPA and AFP in order to “give full leeway” to relief and rehabilitation efforts in identified war zones.—

1,000 US troops to help Philippine aid effort

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 14): 1,000 US troops to help Philippine aid effort

United States, Asssistan, troops, Manila Bulletin, Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan, Yolanda, donations, military, troops, government

Lt. Wayne Simonds, medical administration officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, inventories available medical supplies Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in the medical supply storage room. The George Washington Carrier Strike Group is en route to the Republic of the Philippines to support humanitarian assistance efforts in response to Typhoon Haiyan. (AP Photo/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Liam Kennedy)

The number of U.S. troops helping the relief effort in the typhoon-hit Philippines could triple to more than 1,000 by the end of the week, officials said Wednesday.

Senior Obama administration officials said that after a very difficult first few days, they are cautiously optimistic that logistics-caused delays of large quantities of aid materials are easing.

Thousands were killed and 600,000 people displaced by last week’s powerful storm that struck the central Philippines, and many remain hungry, thirsty and sick. The Southeast Asian nation is a U.S. treaty ally, and Washington has provided $20 million in immediate aid.

President Barack Obama urged U.S. citizens, too, to contribute, directing them to a White House website with links to groups providing aid. He noted some of the areas hit by the storm are the same places where U.S. and Philippine forces worked together to liberate the islands during World War II.

“Recovering from one of the strongest storms ever recorded will take years,” Obama said in a statement. “But the strength, resilience and faith of the Filipino people are legendary.”

Coordination at the airport in the hard-hit Tacloban has improved, and a road to the city that was cut by the storm has opened up, which should accelerate the distribution of relief supplies, said administration officials, who briefed reporters about the U.S. response to the disaster. They demanded anonymity under ground rules set by the administration.

“For the first few days … it was a lot like trying to squeeze an orange through a straw. We are now getting more and bigger straws,” said one U.S. official.

The first airlift of hygiene kits and plastic sheeting from the U.S. Agency for International Development was distributed Wednesday to help 10,000 families, and another consignment was due to arrive in the capital, Manila, Thursday.

A United Nations spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said the U.N. World Food Program distributed rice and other items to nearly 50,000 people in the Tacloban area Wednesday.

The U.S. is using C-130 transport planes and Osprey helicopters to transport aid. The transport planes have evacuated about 800 victims of the disaster from Tacloban to Manila. Unmanned aircraft deployed from Guam have provided overhead reconnaissance to help in damage assessment.

U.S. ships are heading toward the area to expand search-and-rescue operations, provide medical care and a platform for helicopters to move supplies to remote areas, the White House said. A carrier and three escort ships are expected to arrive off the coast of the Philippines on Thursday evening, and several U.S. warships and surveillance aircraft are already there.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Harry Harris, ordered the activation of the USNS Mercy hospital ship so that it can begin preparations to go to the Philippines if ordered. The USNS Mercy is in San Diego and could be underway in the next several days, but it would not reach the Philippines until sometime in December.

The U.S. military is also helping transport Philippine security forces to enforce a curfew and restore order to the typhoon-hit region, where violence and armed looting has occurred because of lack of basic supplies. The U.S. officials said maintenance of security is the responsibility of the Philippine authorities, and the situation is improving.

Why they won't airdrop relief goods

From Rappler (Nov 14): Why they won't airdrop relief goods

It was suggested during one of the planning conferences. Why not have Philippine Air Force (PAF) choppers airdrop relief goods in the devastated areas to speed up delivery of supplies to victims who are already hungry?

The risks outweigh the benefits, PAF spokesperson Colonel Miguel Okol told Rappler. It might even complicate the security situation since the goods might not reach the target recipients, he added.

"Number one. When we release the goods, it's free falling or to whom it may concern. Number two, wouldn't that effect more chaos and law and order issues?" Okol asked.

"It's faster but they might be wasting the goods in the end," Okol added.

The idea was eventually dropped.

Widespread looting has become a problem in Tacloban City and other areas, where typhoon victims are going hungry because of delays in the distribution of relief goods. (READ: Tormented typhoon victims scour for food)

Local problem

Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras earlier said the distribution is a "local problem that they are trying to address."

The military airdropped relief goods before like in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ondoy that submerged parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces. (See photo here) Okol said they also stopped airdropping goods after a while.

Yolanda killed at least 2,275 based on the latest tally of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Initial estimates put the death toll at about 10,000 but President Benigno Aquino III downplayed this in a recent interview with CNN. He said the death toll is more likely to be around 2,500.

Yolanda's winds of up to 315 kilometers per hour caused storm surges as high as 20 feet submerging various towns and cities in the Visayas.

US readies Navy hospital ship for possible deployment to Yolanda-affected areas

From GMA News (Nov 14): US readies Navy hospital ship for possible deployment to Yolanda-affected areas

The US military has ordered the activation a Navy hospital ship for possible deployment to the Philippines in December, as the United States ramps up its relief mission after that country's devastating typhoon, officials said on Wednesday.
The USNS Mercy is slow-moving and it could take about three weeks for the ship to reach the Philippines from San Diego if it first stops in Hawaii to pick up additional personnel and equipment, a US military spokesman said.
With a capacity to treat hundreds of patients at any given time, the Mercy would bring enormous capability to efforts to help treat victims of Typhoon Haiyan during what is expected to be a long recovery for the Philippines.
"If ordered to deploy, Mercy would get underway in the next several days and could arrive in the Philippines sometime in December," the Navy's Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, tore through the central Philippines on Friday. It flattened the coastal city of Tacloban and destroyed all but two hospitals there.
The death toll is still unclear. But more than 670,000 people have been displaced by the storm, the United Nations said, and survivors have become increasingly desperate as essential supplies have dwindled.
On Wednesday, one US official said relief operations were picking up pace now that some logistical hurdles had been addressed.
"It's been a very difficult first few days wading through some of these logistical obstacles—that's not unusual in this kind of a crisis," the official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity. "We're getting a better handle on that and feel like we're starting to turn a corner."
The Mercy would join other US ships, including the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, which is expected to arrive off the Philippines on Thursday along with cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpens, the Navy said. The destroyers USNS Mustin and USS Lassen have already arrived off the Philippines, the Navy's Pacific Fleet said.
Other US vessels, including the amphibious ships USS Ashland and USS Germantown, are expected to arrive in the Philippines in about a week, it added.
The number of US military personnel on the ground could also triple to more than a thousand in a week, from just over 300 now, one US official estimated, speaking on condition of anonymity.

AFP lying, encountered troops in Sorsogon not carrying Yolanda relief—CPP

From the CPP Website (Nov 13): AFP lying, encountered troops in Sorsogon not carrying Yolanda relief—CPP

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the Aquino regime and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for making use of the Yolanda tragedy as a camouflage to carry out relentless offensive operations in Sorsogon province and elsewhere.

“MalacaƱang and its AFP officials were lying when they claimed that the 31st IB troops that figured in an encounter with the NPA yesterday were involved in humanitarian aid operations for Yolanda victims,” pointed out the CPP. A report issued by the AFP indicated that the armed encounter erupted past 5 a.m. in Barangay Balocawe in Matnog, Sorsogon.

“While awaiting more detailed field reports from the NPA Celso Minguez Command in Sorsogon, it is instructive to point out that the reported encounter happened in the interior areas of Matnog, a site that is at least three kilometers away from the Maharlika Highway land route from Luzon to Samar island and five kilometers away from the Matnog port,” said the CPP.

“The Aquino regime and the AFP are lying through their teeth in claiming that their troops involved in an armed encountered yesterday were involved in a humanitarian mission, exploiting the plight of the Yolanda diaster victims to conceal the brutalities of their continued offensive operations,” added the CPP.

“The encountered AFP troops were clearly on an offensive mode and carrying out search and destroy operations in the interior areas of Matnog.”

The CPP said NPA units in areas ravaged by the recent super typhoon Yolanda are currently engaged in relief and rehabilitation efforts assisting local Party branches and revolutionary mass organizations in mobilizing emergency supply for disaster victims.

The CPP said revolutionary forces are exerting efforts to reach out to hundreds of thousands of people especially in the interior and mountainous areas of Samar and Leyte islands, as well as in the islands of Panay, Negros, Mindoro, Masbate, Palawan and others who have been practically abandoned by the reactionary Philippine government.

Govt in 'full control' of security problem in Tacloban – Defense chief

From GMA News (Nov 13): Govt in 'full control' of security problem in Tacloban – Defense chief

Security forces have taken “full control” of the security problem in typhoon-hit Tacloban city, where looting incidents were reported in the aftermath of the disaster.

"There was a rampant looting in Tacloban. As of yesterday and the night before, there's no more (looting),” Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Wednesday. “We are in full control of the security problem in Tacloban."

Gazmin, who also chairs the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said at least 1,200 soldiers and 800 policemen have been deployed to the city to ensure peace and order.

The troops are backed by four armored personnel carriers, he said.

Latest reports from the NDRRMC showed that the death toll from Typhoon Yolanda, which tore through central Philippines last Friday, has increased to 2,344 with 3,804 injured and 79 missing.

Of the fatalities, 2,161 are from Eastern Visayas, the NDRRMC's 4 p.m. report said.

Gazmin assured the public that relief operations are ongoing for the affected population.

DND buying three planes for relief and rescue ops

From GMA News (Nov 13): DND buying three planes for relief and rescue ops

The Department of National Defense is set to buy three light airplanes to help the military respond to calamities and carry out relief operations.
DND assistant secretary Efren Fernandez said Wednesday that P2.67 billion has been set aside for the purchase of the three light-lift aircraft.
The planes will be used primarily for humanitarian assistance, disaster response, and maritime search and rescue operations.
According to technical specifications released by the DND bids and awards committee in September, light-lift planes "must be capable of loading a minimum of 2,200 lbs with maximum fuel load" and "fly a minimum of 700 nautical miles (1296.4 kilometers) without refueling."
Fernandez, head of the bids committee, said a pre-bid conference is set for Friday, with the deadline for the submission of bids set on November 29. Bidders are expected to have completed a similar contract within the last five years and should be able to deliver the brand-new aircraft within 540 days.
"The goods being offered must be used by the armed forces of the country of origin or by the armed forces of at least two other countries. The goods offered must be from the suppliers who are, themselves, manufacturers," he added.
The Air Force currently uses Bell "Huey" and PZL W-3 Sokol helicopters for search and rescue and relief operations. It also has Lockheed C-130 Hercules planes to transport relief goods.

Obama calls on US to aid storm-ravaged PHL

From GMA News (Nov 14): Obama calls on US to aid storm-ravaged PHL

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday encouraged Americans to donate money to support aid for survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) which ripped through central Philippines, destroying life, property and infrastructure.
Obama bemoaned the "awful destruction" of the typhoon, one of the most powerful on record, and directed Americans to the White House website where they could link up with aid organizations working to alleviate the suffering.
"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of the Philippines as they mourn so many loved ones and neighbors lost in the awful destruction of Typhoon Haiyan," Obama said.
"The friendship between our two countries runs deep, and when our friends are in trouble, America helps," Obama said in a statement.
"With so many families and communities in the Philippines in urgent need of food, water, shelter and medicine, even small contributions can make a big difference and help save lives."
US officials meanwhile voiced optimism that American assets including cargo planes and versatile Osprey aircraft would help bring help to victims still cut off by the storm.
The USS George Washington carrier and other Navy ships are steaming towards the ally and Washington has committed $20 million, roughly half for food and the rest to prevent diseases in the wake of the typhoon.
"I would say we are cautiously optimistic that we are starting to turn a corner on some of the logistics challenges," a US official told reporters on a conference call.
The Philippines faced a daunting task after the typhoon struck last week, with supplies piling up at the small airport in the flattened city of Tacloban.
The official said relief workers were now able to get more aid out of the airport and that the opening of a land route has provided a significant boost by connecting to a port.
"We are cautiously optimistic that that will be a pretty significant game-changer," he said.
The initial effort was "a lot like trying to squeeze an orange through a straw. We are now getting more straws, if you will, and bigger straws," he said.
Another US official said "over 1,000" American troops could be on the ground by the end of the week, up from around 300.
The US Marines Corps said four MV-22 Ospreys have left the US Futenma base in Japan, expanding the number of Osprey aircraft involved in the emergency work to eight.
The Osprey can land and take off like a helicopter but fly at the speed of an airplane, covering four times the distance of a traditional chopper.
Eight MC-130 cargo aircraft, a variant of the Hercules plane, also were deployed to reinforce the relief operation for victims of Yolanda, increasing the fleet of cargo planes to 12 to help with deliveries of food, water and other emergency items.
As of Tuesday, a team of US Marines already on the ground has delivered 129,000 pounds (nearly 60 metric tons) of relief supplies for the effort dubbed "Operation Damayan," or "Help in Time of Need."
The USS George Washington escorted by two cruisers and a destroyer comes with 11 helicopters as well as dozens of planes and the capacity to desalinate large volumes of water.
Another American destroyer and a supply ship were en route to the disaster zone and two amphibious ships, the USS Germantown and the USS Ashland, set off Tuesday from the port of Sasebo in southern Japan.
The Germantown and the Ashland are equipped with landing craft and amphibious vehicles, medical facilities and desalination systems.
Another amphibious ship, the USS Denver, remains on standby in Sasebo for deployment, a Navy official said.
According to UN estimates, 10,000 people may have died in the typhoon and nearly 10 million people -- or 10 percent of the Philippines' population -- have been affected.

US Marines fly Ospreys in delivering relief goods to Yolanda victims

From GMA News (Nov 14): US Marines fly Ospreys in delivering relief goods to Yolanda victims

Two US Marines V-22 Ospreys ferrying personnel to help in the relief efforts in Tacloban City prepare to take off from Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Wednesday, November 13. The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is an American multi-mission, military, tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. Reuters/

US Marines' amphibious vehicles to boost Yolanda disaster aid effort

From GMA News (Nov 14): US Marines' amphibious vehicles to boost Yolanda disaster aid effort

Amphibious vehicles carrying hundreds of US Marines have been ordered into action to help relief efforts in the hard-to-reach Philippines typhoon disaster zone.

The craft will ferry hundreds of troops into storm-ravaged parts of the country where broken infrastructure is badly hampering aid deliveries and adding to a growing sense of desperation among survivors of the horrendous storm.
The deployment, which will see the vessels sent from southern Japan, is the latest US contribution to the global bid to help the Philippines, which is staggering under the weight of possibly its worst-ever humanitarian disaster.
Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which were deployed earlier this week and can land and take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane, and amphibious assault vehicles give the US military greater reach in a region where many communities were cut off when Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) barrelled through.
Aircraft carrier the USS George Washington, with 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, was heading to the Philippines to join more than 200 US Marines already on the ground. A British warship was also underway, bound for the Philippines.
The UN estimates that more than 11.3 million Filipinos have been affected, with 673,000 made homeless, since Haiyan -- one of the most powerful typhoons ever -- smashed into the nation's central islands on Friday.
The UN on Tuesday launched a flash appeal for $301 million to help with the immediate aftermath of the disaster, which it has said could have already cost 10,000 lives.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army dispatched a mission to the Philippines on Wednesday to provide humanitarian assistance to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, a military spokeswoman said.
The mission consists of 148 specialists who will provide medical as well search-and-rescue services in Tacloban, the Philippine city worst hit by last week's deadly storm.
Other significant aid steps include:
-- Britain said it was offering 14 million pounds ($22 million) in disaster relief and ongoing prevention programmes. A public appeal by an umbrella group of charities in the UK has also been launched with London committing itself to matching the first five million pounds donated, taking its total commitment so far to as much as $30 million.
-- The International Labor Organization said it was working to put in place emergency employment and cash-for-work programmes as part of the UN's appeal. The ILO estimates that three million people have lost their livelihoods, at least temporarily. It says nearly half of these are vulnerable workers -- subsistence farmers of fishermen.
-- The Mexican government announced Tuesday that it was donating $1 million to help victims of the super typhoon in the Philippines.
-- The United Arab Emirates, Australia and Japan have pledged $10 million each.
-- Indonesia has offered $2 million in cash and emergency supplies, along with a transport plane packed with food, medicines, water filters and generators.
-- The European Commission said it would give 13 million euros ($17 million).
-- South Korea approved $5 million in emergency aid and dispatched a 40-member team including medical personnel.
-- Samsung Group donated $1 million dollars through international aid groups and HSBC said it was donating the same sum.
-- New Zealand will give NZ$2.15 million ($1.78 million).
-- Canada has promised up to $5 million to aid organisations.
-- Malaysia readied a relief crew and Singapore offered cash aid, while India said it was sending an aircraft with 15 tonnes of relief materials.
-- China, where the typhoon killed several people, is to give $100,000 towards the aid effort.
-- Taiwan sent two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft carrying relief goods and pledged $200,000 in cash.
-- Vietnam, itself faced with mass evacuations as a weakened Haiyan swung through its territory Monday, has offered aid worth $100,000.
-- France sent 10 tonnes of tents, tarpaulin and cooking equipment.
-- Germany's embassy in Manila said an initial shipment of 23 tonnes of aid was being flown in and German rescue teams were already at work.
-- UNICEF sent a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medical kits while refugee agency UNHCR organised an airlift.
-- The World Food Programme distributed rice to nearly 50,000 people in the Tacloban area. The organisation says it plans to implement general food distribution, emergency food-for-assets, and emergency cash-for-assets activities for 2.5 million people over the next six months.
-- The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management will send an initial $500,000 in aid from Subang in Malaysia.
-- Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it was sending 329 tonnes of medical and relief items which will arrive in Cebu within the next few days in four cargo planes.

Super-Copters, Spy Planes, and a Publicist: Here’s How The U.S. Military Will Help With Typhoon Relief

From Foreign Policy (Nov 12): Super-Copters, Spy Planes, and a Publicist: Here’s How The U.S. Military Will Help With Typhoon Relief

The U.S. military began providing humanitarian assistance in the Philippines on Sunday following a monstrous typhoon that leveled much of the country Friday and possibly killed more than 10,000 people, according to the latest estimates. The storm affected more than 4.2 million people across 36 provinces in the southeastern Asian nation, U.S. officials said.

How will the U.S. help, though? Here's a primer, based on announced deployments and previous disaster relief efforts.

Command unit: The first conventional U.S. forces on the ground were U.S. Marines, who flew from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Japan on Sunday in KC-130J Hercules planes. They are commanded by Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, a seasoned infantry officer who, ironically enough, led the service's public affairs division at the Pentagon until a few months ago. Kennedy's team is "continuously assessing the situation along with the Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines to determine how to best make use of personnel and resources," Marine officials said in a news release Monday.

The U.S. military has named Lt. Gen. Terry Robling as the "executive agent" for the operation. He commands Marine Corps Forces Pacific from Hawaii, and will likely be in close consultation with Kennedy and his staff. The initial focus will be providing maritime search and rescue missions, moving food, water and other supplies, and setting up logistical support to make the mission easier.

KC-130J planes: The initial group of Marines arrived Sunday in one of the workhorse aircraft of the U.S. military. They are capable of refueling smaller aircraft, including MV-22B Osprey and CH-53E helicopters, and carrying a variety of troops and supplies.

The military already has deployed at least five KC-130Js in support of the mission. On Monday, they assisted in delivering 38,000 pounds of relief supplies provide by the Philippine government, and transported 210 aid workers, Marine officials said. The Marines expected to assist on Tuesday with receiving humanitarian assistance supplies from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and assisting with the transport of people stranded in typhoon-ravaged areas.

MV-22B Ospreys: The Marine Corps has deployed at least four of the revolutionary tilt-rotor aircraft to the Philippines, providing an aircraft that can carry civilians and military forces and supplies quickly and into areas where runways are not available. The aircraft's design allow it to take off like a helicopter, but fly like an airplane once higher in the air.

P-3 Orion planes: The Navy quickly deployed two of these turboprop aircraft from Misawa, Japan, where personnel operating them were on a six-month rotational assignment in support of the Navy's 7th Fleet. The aircraft are capable of performing search-and-rescue missions, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The George Washington: This aircraft carrier was in Hong Kong when the storm hit the Philippines, carrying about 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard. Its crew were recalled early from their shore leave, and began making "best speed" for the Philippines Monday night, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. It is expected to be off the coast of the Philippines within two or three days. It provided some aid in Japan following the devastating earthquake there in 2011, but was forced to leave early when its personnel detected radiation in the air from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The cruisers Antietam and Cowpens: These ships are among those that will escort the George Washington. They'll provide security for the aircraft carrier, but also carry helicopters and supplies that could prove helpful in the Philippines. The Cowpens also was involved in the U.S. military's 2011 Japan relief mission.

The destroyer Mustin: This ship also will provide security for the George Washington, while serving as a landing site for helicopters. In 2011, it was involved in both earthquake relief in Japan and humanitarian assistance in Thailand, following widespread flooding during the country's monsoon season.

The supply ship Charles Drew: This is one of Military Sealift Command's noncombatant ships, carrying minimal weaponry while moving cargo and supplies for the U.S. military. This ship is manned primarily by civilian mariners, with a handful of U.S. sailors also typically on board. It also has space to land helicopters, most commonly the Navy's MH-60.

Carrier Air Wing Five: This unit is deployed aboard the George Washington and its accompanying ships, comprising about 1,900 sailors and 67 aircraft, the Navy said in a news release in September. It includes F/A-18F Super Hornets, F/A-18E Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E-2C Hawkeyes, C-2A Greyhounds, and MH-60S and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

The fighter jets' ability to assist in the Philippines may be limited, but the helicopters will almost certainly receive heavy work. The Hawkeyes and Greyhounds also will be able to provide support on the ground, as cargo planes capable of ferrying passengers and cargo to and from the shore.

If previous large-scale humanitarian assistance missions are any indication, the U.S. military could be in the Philippines for weeks, if not longer. It will all depend on how quickly conditions improve -- and how long the Philippine government welcomes help.

Why China Has The Most To Gain — Or Lose — From The International Response To Haiyan

From ThinkProgress (Nov 12): Why China Has The Most To Gain — Or Lose — From The International Response To Haiyan

As the international community rallies to help the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, who may number in the hundreds of thousands, it is Beijing that has the opportunity to determine how its neighbors in the region view it moving forward.

It is hard to blame China for being distracted in the days immediately during and following the landfall of the largest storm system that the region has seen. Haiyan decided to make an appearance during the highly watched Third Party Plenum of the ruling Communist Party, a rare gathering in which economic decisions are made regarding China’s future. News has slowly been trickling out of the choices made, including that Beijing is now aiming to see “decisive results” from a push for reforms allowing markets to have a stronger determining factor when allocating resources over the next decade. Those efforts, the 205-member Central Committee of the Party determined, would see results no later than 2020.

While that was ongoing, Haiyan crashed into the Philippines, killing as many as 10,000 in one region and flattering cities and towns across the islands that compose the country. In the wake of the epic destruction seen in the aftermath of Haiyan, the international community has rushed to provide aid to the millions affected.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is already working overtime with other relevant agencies to provide for the estimated 800,000 who have been internally displaced since the storm. The United States has already launched the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and its associated strike group to assist, and is readying three of the Marine Corps’ amphibious ships in the region to deploy to the Philippines in the next 48 hours.

That doesn’t include the monetary pledges that economic heavyweights in the area have offered, including the $20 million in humanitarian assistance the United States has put forward. Japan alone has donated more than $9.6 million, Australia another $10 million. In contrast, China’s response to date seems miserly in comparison, especially given its position as the second-largest economy in the world. So far, the Chinese government has only pledged $100,000 to the victims of the super typhoon, with another $100,000 to be sent through the Chinese Red Cross.

The extremely low number is not particularly surprising, given the rocky relationship that Beijing and Manila have had in recent years. At the core of the dispute between the two is ownership over a set of islands in the South China Sea, known as the Spratly islands, which would greatly shift the naval boundaries of the country who wins out.

Complicating matters further, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia also stake claims to the islands and their possible off-shore reserves of natural gas. While less volatile that the dispute between China and Japan over a different set of islands, the Spratlys are clearly on the mind of Beijing.

Not everyone agrees with the decision to offer such a minimum initial response The Global Times — a Chinese newspaper run as an English-language subsidiary of the state-run People’s Daily — issued an op-ed on Tuesday, urging Beijing to reach out to the Philippines despite the Spratly islands dispute. “China, as a responsible power, should participate in relief operations to assist a disaster-stricken neighboring country, no matter whether it’s friendly or not,” it writes. “China’s international image is of vital importance to its interests. If it snubs Manila this time, China will suffer great losses.”

The Chinese leadership has missed an opportunity to show its magnanimity,” said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong told Reuters. “While still offering aid to the typhoon victims, it certainly reflects the unsatisfactory state of relations (with Manila).”

All of this particularly matters not only because of the islands dispute, but also due to the goodwill China desperately needs in the region. As part of its much heralded “pivot to Asia,” the U.S. has been shoring up support among its allies, including the Philippines, in what many analysts have attributed to countering China’s rise. This has included supporting international mediation on the islands disputes on the one hand and increasing military presence in the Pacific — including a new Marine base in Darwin, Australia — on the other.

That support and basing is what allowed the U.S. to react so quickly to Haiyan and what China fears could be used against it in the future. The devastation of Haiyan presents an opportunity for China to win over many of its neighbors through the use of its growing wealth and influence in a show of goodwill, should it choose to accept that course. If not, the risk of further alienating it’s neighbors is extremely high, a course that could prove troublesome for Beijing down the line.

MNLF attack is borne out of misinterpretation – Sec. Sadain

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 13): MNLF attack is borne out of misinterpretation – Sec. Sadain

The attack of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)– Misuari faction fighters last September was a result of their misconception on the government’s statement regarding the closure of the review of the 1996 Peace Agreement at the tripartite level, said Secretary Mehol Sadain of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (MCMF).

Secretary Sadain together with Philippine government chief negotiator, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, spoke to the media recently to get a feel of the sentiments of the people here on the ongoing peace talks with the National Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“What happened in Zamboanga City is not a direct result of the peace process. More probably, it’s a result of the statement of the government that it is putting a closure to the review at the tripartite level, the one that directly impacts on the final peace agreement with the MNLF,” Sadain pointed out.

Sadain explained that “the statement must have been misinterpreted because ‘closure’ does not mean abrogating or abandoning the Final Peace Agreement. In fact, implementation was supposed to go on.”

The ZamboangueƱo lawyer furthered that the doable in the existing agreement would be implemented, and those which require other interventions will be discussed at a later date.

Sadain added that the government relayed the closure to the Indonesian facilitators of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), negating any claims that it was done surreptitiously.

Sadain also believe that the attack staged by the group of Nur Misuari was not about them being left out, ignored, nor the non-implementation of the 1996 peace agreement.

“It’s something else. And it’s something else that exists only in the mind of that particular leader,” Sadain stressed.

PAF denies one of its C-130s overshot in Ormoc

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): PAF denies one of its C-130s overshot in Ormoc

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) denied reports that one of its Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft overshot the Ormoc Airstrip in Leyte Wednesday afternoon.

What happened instead was that the aircraft, while taxing to its ramp after landing, had one of its landing gears touched the grassy portion of the airfield around 4:50 p.m.

"Immediately, the pilots shut down the engines of the aircraft and immediately unloaded all the cargo as per standard procedure on such matters," PAF spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said.

"It would have been a major incident had it really overshoot," he added.

Okol stated that the C-130 sustained no damage and was airworthy and serviceable.

"In fact, it is now in Mactan Air Base (preparing for another relief flight)," Okol added.

The PAF presently operates three C-130s, all of which are conducting relief missions for "Yolanda" victims.

No truth to reports claiming rebels attacking Leyte -- PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): No truth to reports claiming rebels attacking Leyte -- PNP

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday vehemently denied reports that New People's Army (NPA) fighters have conducted a series of attacks in "Yolanda-" battered Leyte province.

“All the text messages/FB [Facebook] posts about NPA attacking residents in Carigara, San Juanico, [and] armed men on way to Ormoc and Tacloban are not true,” the PNP Police Community Relations Group said in its Twitter account.

It also urged netizens and members of the media to disseminate this information.

“We need help in disseminating the right information (in order to prevent panic,” the PNP added.

Cebu logistics hub of massive relief operations for Tacloban, other 'Yolanda'-hit areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Cebu logistics hub of massive relief operations for Tacloban, other 'Yolanda'-hit areas

Hulking C-130 Hercules military cargo planes fly in and out of this air base, carrying much-needed relief goods to Tacloban City and other areas hit by super typhoon "Yolanda" and bringing in the injured and those stranded by the typhoon.

The military transport planes also flew to Cebu at least 300 families who fled from the misery in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City.

They are now temporarily staying inside this military base.

”We have to fly as many sorties as possible from dawn to dusk because airports in typhoon-devastated areas have no equipment for night landing,” Lt. Col. Marciano Guevara, Philippine Air Force (PAF) Second Air Division spokesperson, said.

Guevara said most of of their flights were to and from Tacloban City, the hardest hit by the super typhoon.

The strongest typhoon in recorded history wiped out the city, leaving survivors in desperate need for food, water and shelter.

The military planes are the quickest way to transport food, water and other relief goods to Tacloban.

They are also used to transport those who were wounded and stranded by the typhoon.

Guevara said they have to sort out the injured and give priority to those who need immediate medical attention such as the elderly and the children.

Guevara said the PAF has three C-130 cargo planes, their workhorse in troop and materiel transport and in relief operations.

Cebu was earlier designated by Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras as the hub for the massive relief efforts for areas badly hit by super typhoon Yolanda.

Almendras said Cebu is the closest logistics center to support both Tacloban and the Panay areas.

Government has also mobilized boats and ships of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard in transporting relief goods, equipment and aid workers to typhoon-affected areas.

Cebu-based shipping companies have also offered to transport for free relief goods to affected areas, many of which could not be reached by land because of damaged roads and bridges.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas based in Cebu City has targeted shipping out 50,000 food packs a day for typhoon victims.

Army engineers, IOM complete construction of 10 bunkhouses for Zambo standoff victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Army engineers, IOM complete construction of 10 bunkhouses for Zambo standoff victims

The government has completed the construction of 10 bunkhouses for families displaced by last September’s standoff brought about by the infiltration of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels.

Each of the bunkhouses built inside the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex has 12 rooms that could accommodate 10 to 15 person each room.

DSWD Assistant Regional Director for Administration Riduan Hadjimuddin said Wednesday that nine of the bunkhouses were built by the Army Engineering Brigade and the other one by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Each of the bunkhouses cost P516,000.

Hadjimuddin said that priority to occupy the bunkhouses are those whose houses were partially or totally damaged during the standoff, with female heads, pregnant women, lactating mothers, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and sick persons

Meanwhile, Hadjimuddin announced that 62 more bunkhouses will be built in Barangay Tulungatung, 17 kilometers west of this city, and in Barangay Taluksangay, 19 kilometers east of this city.

He said that 41 of the 62 bunkhouses will be constructed by the Army Engineering Brigade and IOM in Tulungatung.

He said the remaining 21 to be built in Taluksangay will be constructed by the Habitat for Humanity.

The construction of the bunkhouses are set to be completed next month, according to Hadjimuddin.

Command post set up at Iloilo Airport to receive aid from international community

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Command post set up at Iloilo Airport to receive aid from international community

The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) in Region 6 has set up an incident command post at the CAAP building at the Iloilo Airport in Cabatuan town in preparation for the coming in of relief assistance by the international community in the next few days.

This was announced by Office of Civil Defense Regional Director Rosario Cabrera after a directive from Malacanang alerted the RDRRMC to receive members of the international community out to bring relief packs for victims of supertyphoon Yolanda that heavily hit parts of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique.

Without naming the countries, Cabrera said the international relief members will come over to ensure systematic distribution of relief assistance in Panay on top of the international assistance in Leyte Island.

Cabrera admitted that the international media focus is on Leyte as the hardest hit area of Yolanda with international name Haiyan. She appealed to the local media to put Panay Island and its affected provinces, cities and municipalities in the disaster map to stir up attention to the plight of typhoon victims here.

Western Visayas has a total initial 195 deaths as of November 12 with Iloilo province having the most deaths at 133; followed by Capiz with 42; Antique, 11 and Aklan, 9. A total of 1,270 persons were injured and 15 missing while 244,642 families and 1.16 million persons were affected.

Damage to infrastructure in the region reached P144.58 million while agriculture damages reached P182.23 million on rice, corn and cassava, high value crops, livestock and fisheries.

Four provinces such as Capiz, Antique, Iloilo and Aklan were declared under a state of calamity, including Bacolod City and three component cities in Negros Occidental such as Victorias, Escalante and Cadiz and 15 municipalities in the region.

On the other hand, the United States government assured support and partnership with the Philippine government on disaster relief efforts.

According to the US Embassy, following formal request by the Philippine government, US Charge d’ Affaires Brian L. Goldbeck issued a disaster declaration announcing the immediate release of funds to provide health, water and sanitation support to those affected by the supertyphoon.

A disaster assistance response team (DART) was activated and went to Leyte immediately to assess the damages. Initial assessment showed the need for emergency housing supplies such as plastic sheeting and the need for clean water, hygiene kits with soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, sanitary supplies and improved sanitation facilities.

In addition, USAID’s Food for Peace is organizing a shipment of 55 metric tons of emergency food products to sustain 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for 4 to 5 days in Leyte. It is also planning to ship 1,020 metric tons of rice sufficient to feed 60,000 people in one month.

The US Pacific command is supporting the humanitarian efforts of the Philippine government by providing maritime search and rescue, medium to heavy lift support and logistical support. The initial focus of military efforts include surface maritime rescue (SAR), airborne maritime SAR, medium heavy helicopter lift support, fixed wing lift support and logical enablers.

Military engineers start clearing Tacloban City roads of debris

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Military engineers start clearing Tacloban City roads of debris

Military engineers, with the assistance of the Army's 1st Special Forces Battalion, have started clearing the roads of Tacloban City Wednesday.

Once the roads are cleared, delivery of goods and aid to victims of super typhoon "Yolanda" will be faster, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

He added that the engineers and their support troops arrived in Tacloban in two batches Monday and Tuesday.

Zagala said that the mission of these military personnel is to aid other troopers in the ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations as well as to provide assistance in road clearing operations,support on-going evacuations, and assist efforts to restore peace and order in typhoon-stricken areas.

He added that the military is expecting more responders from the Philippine Army in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the 11 M-35 trucks from the Army are expected to arrive this Wednesday in Tacloban to assist in the transport requirements from the two current major supply drop-off points in Tacloban and Guiuan.

Aside from Tacloban Airport, the Guiuan Air Strip in Samar was opened up as a major supply drop off point for HADR and relief goods.

In other hard- to- reach areas in Eastern Visayas, military choppers are still being utilized to deliver aid and relief goods to identified drop zones.

Mactan Air Base in Cebu remains the main supply hub for relief goods going into Tacloban City.

In aid of ongoing HADR efforts in Tacloban, the United States of America allowed the use of their air transportation assets to allow for faster delivery of goods and services of volunteers and evacuation of survivors.

The United States has deployed two Osprey aircraft that transported HADR assets and relief goods from Manila to Mactan.

US C-130s in Tacloban brought in HADR assets and relief goods and helped evacuate survivors out of Tacloban City.

There are between four to seven sorties in and out of Tacloban City by the US aircraft.

In Panay, the provinces of Capiz and Aklan, and portions of Northern Iloilo and Northern Antique were severely hit by the super typhoon.

Two major supply/logistics hubs were identified and established by the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Iloilo City and Roxas City.

Since Day One, forty-five officers and 800 enlisted personnel from the 3rd Infantry Division have been conducting HADR operations in Panay.

Additionally, 250 reservists from the Army, Air Force, and Navy volunteered their time to assist in the ongoing operations in Panay.

AFP choppers also brought in the relief goods into Roxas City from Iloilo City, during the time roads were still impassable due to felled trees and landslides.

When the roads were cleared, the Army used their M-35 trucks to keep the flow of goods and HADR assets moving from Iloilo City to Roxas City.

Likewise, two Navy ships (DF-341 and DF-352) delivered aid and relief goods to the islands of Carles and Estancia in Northern Iloilo.

Navy reserve ships now enroute to Tacloban City

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Navy reserve ships now enroute to Tacloban City

As part of the government's ongoing relief and rescue works in provinces badly pummeled by super typhoon "Yolanda", two fishing vessels, which are part of the Philippine Navy (PN)'s reserve units, have left Sangley Point, Cavite City for Tacloban City, Leyte Tuesday.

The two ships, the F/V Chrysanthemum and F/V Brilliant Star, are carrying relief items from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and 1,000 liters of fuel oil.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, PN spokesperson, said that the fishing vessels are owned by the Frabelle Fishing Corporation

The two ships are under the supervision of Lt. (j.g.) James B. Dinglasan and Lt. (j.g.) Ariel SJ Agamao.

F/V Chrysanthemum carries 51 tons of assorted relief items, 28 drums aviation gas, 32 drums of jet A-1 and other cargoes.

F/V Brilliant Star also carries 51 tons of assorted relief items, 58 drums Jet A-1 and other cargoes.

A total of 102 tons of assorted relief items were on board the two fishing vessels; fuel oil came from the Naval Air Group and Philippine Air Force, relief goods and other cargoes came from GMA Kapuso Foundation, TV5 Alagang Kapatid Foundation, St. Scholastica Foundation, DSWD, Frabelle Company and Ruth Galindo.

The two ships are part of the Philippine Navy Affiliated Reservist Unit (PNARU).

PNARU are private organizations which joined hands in partnership with the PN.

A unit under Naval Reserve Command, PNARU augments the regular force of the PN when the need arises.

Commonly, they are tapped to respond to disaster and rescue operations and most often they are the first responders being locals in the area of disaster.

F/V Chrysanthemum and F/V Brilliant Star were estimated to arrive at Tacloban City on Nov. 15.

The PN is committed to peace and nation building ready to respond whenever and wherever the call is sounded.

‘Tabak’ Division extends relief campaign for ‘Yolanda’ victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): ‘Tabak’ Division extends relief campaign for ‘Yolanda’ victims

The First Infantry “Tabak” Division has extended its relief campaign for the victims of super typhoon “Yolanda” in the Visayas region until Thursday.

The relief goods, gathered during the relief campaign that started Monday until Tuesday, were supposed to be airlifted Wednesday to Yolanda-hit provinces but did not push through due to the unavailability of C-130 “Hercules” cargo plane, according to First Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Jefferson Somera.

Somera said since the cargo plane was unavailable, First Infantry Division Commander Brig. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad has decided to extend the relief campaign until Thursday.

The relief mission, which was initiated by Trinidad, is dubbed “Oplan Tabang Visayas.”

Trinidad has urged his officers and men as well as the cross-section of the society to donate foodstuffs and household materials for the “Yolanda” victims.

They have designated drop-off centers where donors can bring their donations until 5:00 p.m. Thursday.

These are located at the Gaisano Capital and C3 Malls and Philippine Information Agency office in this city and at the Tabak gymnasium in Pulacan, Labangang town, this province.

“Together we will rise, we will help our fellowmen. Your little help is already a big help for those who are in need,” Trinidad said.

Somera said the relief goods that would be collected will be transported on Saturday to Tacloban City for distribution to the super typhoon victims.