Friday, November 15, 2013

Operation Damayan in full swing

From DVIDS (Nov 14): Operation Damayan in full swing

Operation Damayan relief effort in Philippines

Lance Cpl. John Robertson, right, a landing support specialist with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assist a civilian displaced by Typhoon Haiyan as part of Operation Damayan at Villamor Air Base, Nov. 14. Typhoon Haiyan has impacted more than 4.2 million people across 36 provinces in the Philippines according to the government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry/RELEASED

By Wednesday morning, U.S. Marines from 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3rd MEB) had distributed approximately 384,400 pounds of relief supplies and helped 1,735 people displaced by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda find their way to Manila.

Operation Damayan, the U.S. government’s response to the Philippine government’s request for humanitarian assistance, had led to 12 U.S. Marine KC-130J Hercules helicopters and eight MV-22B Ospreys from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW) to deploy to the Philippines to help supplies, survivors, military and civilian relief personnel reach typhoon affected areas of the country still largely impassable due to debris, flooding and a breakdown in ground transportation.

“Clearly the U.S. military offers unique capabilities,” said Daniel Dieckhaus, a humanitarian assistance adviser with the office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. “Without the U.S. military helping the Philippine armed forces with air transport capability there would be no way of getting to some of these areas.”

U.S. relief efforts include maritime search and rescue, fixed-wing lift support, medium to heavy helicopter lift support and logistics enablers.

“The current situation remains the same. It’s a serious disaster and there are a lot of people in need,” said Dieckhaus. “But we have ramped up significantly in the last 72 to 96 hours and we know where to target. We are here, but there is a lot of work to do.”

“The men and woman of the U.S. armed forces assisting the Republic of the Philippines are as dedicated to this mission as they are to the defense of their country,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the deputy commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force and the commanding general of the 3rd MEB. “Assisting fulfills a promise that we made to friends and allies we’ve maintained a great relationship with over the last 100 years to be here in their time of need.”

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda has impacted more than 4.2 million people across 36 provinces in the Philippines, according to the Philippine’s national disaster risk reduction and management council.

Although stressful, hectic and at times confusing, this real-world operation tested the joint training and collaboration skills of U.S. and Philippine forces, who worked together to resolve problems and provide aid as one unit during the Philippine-led operation.

“We have been working with [Marines] all throughout the year and for years before that,” said Col. Miguel E. Okol, the director of the public information office, Philippine air force. “The Marine Corps is optimized similar to ours, very disciplined and hardworking and on behalf of our leadership we appreciate their help.”

SAF sends second RSAF C-130 to the Philippines

From Asia One (Nov 14): SAF sends second RSAF C-130 to the Philippines

A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) plane in Tacloban City, Philippines, carrying supplies for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aircraft has delivered the second tranche of relief supplies worth $120,000 to Cebu, Philippines this afternoon.
This is the second C-130 aircraft which the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has sent to Philippines. The aircraft carried tents, groundsheets, medical supplies and blankets to those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
The first tranche of supplies were sent to the town of Tacloban yesterday by the SAF.
In response to the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) request, the SAF will be extending the deployment of the second C-130 aircraft to the Philippines to support their ongoing relief efforts.
The C-130 aircraft will assist in transporting relief supplies and personnel between the capital city of Manila and areas in the Visayas region which were badly affected by the typhoon.

Terror suspect nabbed in Zambo

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 16): Terror suspect nabbed in Zambo

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission on Friday said operatives arrested Wednesday an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group over the kidnapping of six Jehova’s Witness members in Zamboanga City.

The commission identified the suspect as Ustadz Nidhal Pajiran alias Abu Rahman and Abu Kudama, among responsible bandits in their abduction in Patikul, Sulu in 2002.

Pajiran was apprehended in Barangay Tictapul by agents of the Special Project Mindanao Khilafa Islamiya, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a PAOCC-assisted operation.

“Pajiran was nabbed on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by Branch 266 of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom,” PAOCC said.

He was allegedly part of the group that abducted the members of the religious organization while doing door-to-door sale of cosmetic products in Patikul in August 2002. Two of the victims were beheaded a day after they were kidnapped, while the remaining four were rescued by the military following weeks of operation.

Pajiran was also involved in the abduction of American Jeffrey Schilling in 2000 in Sulu.

Schilling was held for seven months by the ASG, which threatened to kill him unless his family pays a US$10-million in ransom and Washington releases prisoners held in the United States. In April 2001, Schilling escaped.

According to authorities, Pajiran has been a member of the notorious group since 2000 when he joined Khadaffy Janjalani in Patikul, Sulu.

They said Pajiran had studied Madrasah in Barangay Muti, Zamboanga City where he met the ASG’s bomb experts Abdulla and Amilhamja Ajilul. He also went to Al Farouk Institute in Palawan in 1995 and graduated at the top of his class, they added.

Pajarin is said to be one of the religious leaders and trainers of the ASG in various trainings held in Sulu since 2003.

Army ‘tiles’ program wins peace

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 15): Army ‘tiles’ program wins peace

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Mechanized (Makatarungan) Infantry Battalion, Mechanized Division has implemented another approach in its quest to battle insurgency not with guns, but with nation-building efforts as the multi-agency program dubbed “Tiles for Peace.”

Partnering with local authorities and non-government organizations (NGOs), the army is getting everyone involved in masonry work; repairing the tiling in washing and lavatory facilities; and a general cleaning-up of schools.

Just recently, the army swooped down on Mapalacsiao Elementary School, Burgos Elementary School and Ungot Elementary School where they conducted voluntary social activities, said  Lt. Col. Jose Rico D. Atencio, Maratarungan Battalion commander.

Ungot School Principal Rio B. Miranda remarked: “We’re winning the peace rather than winning the war (on insurgency).”

Obama: ‘More help is on the way’

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 15): Obama: ‘More help is on the way’

United States President Barack Obama on Thursday (Friday Manila time) reassured the Filipino people that “more help is on the way” for the victims of the deadliest storm to hit the country this year.

Speaking during the press briefing on the cancellation of health-care policies under the Affordable Care Act at the White House, Obama described the tragedy in the Philippines as a “heartbreaking reminder of how fragile life is.”

“So our prayers are with the Filipino people and with Filipino-Americans across our country who are anxious about their family and friends back home,” he declared.

Obama further reiterated the promise he gave President Benigno Aquino III last Wednesday during their telephone conversation that the US will continue to offer whatever assistance it can.

He said American military personnel and the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) team are already on the ground “working tirelessly” to deliver food, water, medicine, shelter and to help with airlift.

Likewise, Obama said the US aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington and other ships are already in the Philippines to help with the search and rescue, as well as to deliver supplies, offer medical care and extend logistical support.

“You know, one of our core principles is when friends are in trouble, America helps,” the US President pointed out. “America’s strength, of course has always been more than just about what our government can do; it’s also about what our citizens can do. It’s about the bigheartedness of the American people when they see other folks in trouble.”

Once again, Obama encouraged Americans who want to help to visit typhoon to find out how they can support the relief efforts.

“Our friends in the Philippines will face a long, hard road ahead, but they’ll continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America,” he stated.

This is the third time that Obama issued a statement about typhoon Yolanda.

Last Nov. 11, he said the US government is providing $20 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to benefit typhoon-affected populations, including the provision of emergency shelter, food assistance, relief commodities, and water, sanitation, and hygiene support.

The following day, President Obama spoke with President Aquino over the phone to express deep condolences on behalf of the American people for the lives lost and damage caused by one of the strongest storms to ever hit land.
He discussed with his Filipino counterpart the need for a speedy assessment of what further American resources would be most helpful to assist in the Philippine recovery effort.

President Obama also affirmed that the thoughts and prayers of the American people go out to the millions of people in the Philippines affected by the calamity.

US deploys 1K Marines in storm-ravaged isles; China should send warships to RP — state media

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 16): US deploys 1K Marines in storm-ravaged isles; China should send warships to RP — state media

In Washington, the US military said Thursday it was deploying 1,000 Marines to support emergency relief operations in the Philippines following super typhoon “Haiyan” (“Yolanda”).

About 900 troops will board two US Navy amphibious ships — the Japan-based USS Germantown and USS Ashland — and are due in the Philippines in about six days, Marine Forces Pacific said in a statement.

An additional 100 Marines from the same unit will travel to the region by aircraft.

The ships were set to bring heavy engineering equipment — including backhoes, dump trucks and wreckers — amphibious assault vehicles, a tracked vehicle that can operate in the water and on land, generators and “water bull” portable water tanks.

Up to eight MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft were also set to fly to Manila’s international airport in the coming days, doubling the number of Ospreys available in the area.

The Marines, who will assist with road clearance and relief supply distribution, will travel by landing craft utility boats, landing craft air cushion vehicles, assault amphibious vehicles, small boats and rotary wing aircraft.

The announcement came hours after the USS George Washington arrived in the Philippines with 5,000 sailors aboard, bearing badly needed equipment, supplies and expertise for the thousands left homeless and hungry by one of the strongest storms in history.

It is one of eight American ships currently in the region as part of “Operation Damayan” — Tagalog for “solidarity.”

US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, urged Americans to donate generously to their former Asian colony.

In Beijing meanwhile, Chinese state media said China should send warships to the Philippines as part of the typhoon disaster relief effort to counter US and Japanese influence, state-run media said Friday.

Beijing and Manila are embroiled in a row over disputed islands, but if the Philippines rejected the warships proposal, that would only “underscore its narrow mind and will be of no loss to China”, the Global Times said in an editorial.

An eight-strong flotilla of US vessels, headed by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, arrived off the Philippines Thursday bearing badly needed equipment, supplies and expertise for the thousands left homeless and hungry by one of the strongest storms in history.

Tokyo is tripling its emergency aid package for the Philippines to more than $30 million, and plans to send as many as 1,000 troops to the disaster zone — the largest single relief operation team sent abroad by its de-facto military.

“We believe China should send its warships to the Philippines too,” said the Global Times, which is close to the Communist Party, adding such a move would be “well-intentioned”.

The dispute over islands in the strategically vital South China Sea — which Beijing claims almost in its entirety — has been running for years.

Manila says Chinese vessels have occupied Scarborough Shoal, which it claims itself, since last year, and it is open to question whether it would welcome a Chinese navy presence in its waters.

The US and Japanese militaries’ part in the relief efforts was an element of Washington’s Asia strategy and may have “more intentions hidden behind the humanitarian aid”, the newspaper — which often strikes a nationalist tone — said in a separate report.

Beijing could send a hospital ship, the Peace Ark, escorted by warships if dispatching its newly commissioned aircraft carrier the Liaoning was “sensitive and premature”, said the editorial.

It came after China said Thursday it would provide a further $1.6 million aid to the Philippines, mainly in tents and blankets, after widespread criticism of its initial modest response of a $100,000 government donation, matched by the Chinese Red Cross.

The country was cautious about sending troops overseas in the past because of “a lack of capabilities, experience and many other concerns”, said the Global Times editorial, which was similar in both English and Chinese editions.

But now, it said: “The Chinese military must gradually assume a more forceful role in China’s diplomacy.

“There is no need for a stronger China to worry about what we should do if our offer is rejected by the Philippines or if we are criticized by global public opinion due to poor performance,” it added.

PNoy thanks volunteers at Army repacking center

From InterAksyon (Nov 15): PNoy thanks volunteers at Army repacking center

Pres. Benigno Aquino III addresses volunteers at the Army repacking center in Fort Bonifacio. (Philippine Army photo)

President Benigno Aquino III visited the repacking center at Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio Thursday night to thank volunteers even as he asked them to increase efforts for the victims of super typhoon “Yolanda.”

Salamat po sa pagdamay niyo. Hindi po ako matatapos magpasalamat sa lahat. At kung pupuwede po sana, paspasan pa natin dahil talaga pong matindi ang pangangailangan ng mga kababayan natin doon (Thank you getting involved. I have not finished thanking everyone. And if possible, let us increase our efforts because the needs of our countrymen is really great),” Aquino told the volunteers.

Kapag napapagod na po kayo isipin na lang natin na sa bawat pack ay may isang pamilyang nabigyan natin ng paraang magpatuloy ang buhay. Kailangan nating maibangon ang mga kababayan natin (If you grow tired, let us think that each pack is a family given a chance to continue living. We need to uplift our countrymen),” he added.

Captain Anthony Bacus, officer in charge of the Army’s Public Affairs Office, said Aquino was accompanied by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Army chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes.

He said the repacking center at the Army gym was set up in partnership with the An-Waray party-list.

Bacus said the Army has dispatched 34 M35 military trucks loaded with relief goods to typhoon-stricken areas.

“A third batch of relief personnel (was) just sent out today (Thursday),” he added.
The government has come under criticism for what has been perceived to be its slow response to the disaster and in bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of victims.

On Friday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 1.9 million families, or more than 9 million individuals, have been affected by Yolanda.
The agency placed damage estimates thus far at P4 billion.

Death toll jumps to 4,000 in Tacloban as US carrier unloads food, water

From InterAksyon (Nov 15): Death toll jumps to 4,000 in Tacloban as US carrier unloads food, water

A US Navy MH-60S helicopter drops supplies at Tacloban airport. (Reuters/Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman/US Navy/Handout)

The death toll from super typhoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan) doubled overnight in Tacloban City alone according to a tally by the local government, reaching 4,000, as helicopters from a US aircraft carrier and other naval ships began flying food, water and medical teams to ravaged regions on Friday.

The government, which had asked media not to report unverified casualty counts that were much higher than the official toll, later on Friday issued an updated figure that came closer to the local government's tally. The official national government tally is now 3,621.

President Benigno Aquino III has faced mounting pressure to speed up the distribution of aid and also come under criticism over unclear estimates of casualties, especially in Tacloban, capital of Leyte .

A notice board at Tacloban City Hall estimated the deaths at 4,000, up from 2,000 a day before. The toll, written in blue marker on a whiteboard easel, is compiled by local officials who started burying bodies in a mass grave on Thursday.

Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said some people may have been swept out to sea and their bodies lost after storm surge -- a tsunami-like wall of seawater -- slammed into coastal areas. One neighborhood had a population of between 10,000 and 12,000, and now was completely deserted, he said.

The City Hall toll is the first public acknowledgement that the number of fatalities would likely far exceed an estimate given this week by Aquino, who said the loss of life from Typhoon Haiyan would be closer to 2,000 or 2,500.

Adding to the confusion, the United Nations, citing government figures, put the latest overall death toll at 4,460.

The OCHA site cited the Department of Social Welfare and Development as its source. It also said Yolanda has affected 11.8 million people, of whom 921,212 are displaced.
Asked for the source of the figures, Manila-based OCHA spokeswoman Orla Fagan said:" We are getting it from the operations centre of the regional taskforce set up by the NDRMMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council)."

But NDRMMC spokesman Reynaldo Balido insisted the official toll from the typhoon remained at 2,360.

When asked about the UN's statement, Balido replied: "Not true."

By Friday afternoon, his boss, Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario, had updated the official toll to over 3,600.

Partial, official death toll now at 3,621

On Friday afternoon, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) announced that the partial and official death toll for super typhoon "Yolanda" had reached 3,621.

This can be broken down into:

-Bicol: 5
-Western Visayas: 113
-Central Visayas: 72
-Eastern Visayas: 3,422
-Zamboanga Peninsula: 1

NDRRMC executive director Eduardo Del Rosario added that 12,165 were injured and this is broken down into 2 for CALABARZON, 21 for Bicol, 134 Western Visayas, 102 Central Visayas, 11,906 Eastern Visayas and 1 for Zamboanga Peninsula.
Still missing are 1,140 individuals--11 for Western Visayas, 5 for Central Visayas and 1,124 for Eastern Visayas.

Mr. Aquino disputes '10,000' death toll

On Tuesday, Aquino said estimates of 10,000 dead by local officials were overstated and caused by "emotional trauma." Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria, the director of Regional Police Office 9 who made that estimate to media, was removed from his post on Thursday.

A police spokesman said Soria was due to be transferred to headquarters in Manila. But a senior police official told Reuters he believed Soria was re-assigned because of his unauthorized casualty estimate.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said in a radio interview Friday that, as of Thursday night, the toll had reached 2,600 “or more than that,” citing figures from the Office of Civil Defense, a figure already more than Aquino's estimate.

Survivors have grown increasingly desperate and angry over the pace of aid distribution, which has been hindered by paralyzed local governments, widespread looting, a lack of fuel and debris-choked roads.

The dead are still being buried one week after the storm although many corpses remain uncovered on roadsides or under splintered homes in the worst hit city of Tacloban.
Roxas said disaster response teams have become more focused, systematic and organized compared to the first two days after the typhoon struck, when first responders such as local governments and military and police units were themselves casualties of the disaster.

He admitted that government was caught off guard by the magnitude of the disaster and that there is a need to again review disaster preparedness and response resources.
Foreign aid officials have called the disaster unprecedented for the Philippines.

"There is utter devastation. People are desperate for food, water, shelter, supplies and information about their loved ones," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters on Thursday during a visit to Latvia.

"We are doing everything possible to rush assistance to those who need it. Now is the time for the international community to stand with the people of the Philippines."

US George Washington

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier and accompanying ships arrived off Eastern Samar province Thursday evening, carrying 5,000 crew and more than 80 aircraft.

The carrier moved some fixed-wing aircraft ashore to make more room for the helicopters on its flight deck.

"One of the best capabilities the strike group brings is our 21 helicopters," commander Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery said in a statement. "These helicopters represent a good deal of lift to move emergency supplies around."

US sailors have brought food and water ashore in Tacloban and the town of Guiuan.

The carrier is moored near where US General Douglas MacArthur's force of 174,000 men landed on October 20, 1944, in one of the biggest Allied victories of World War Two.

Another US aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, led a massive aid operation off Indonesia's Aceh province after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

Aquino has been on the defensive over his handling of the storm, given warnings of its projected strength and the risk of a storm surge, and now the pace of relief efforts.
He has said the death toll might have been higher had it not been for the evacuation of people and the readying of relief supplies, but survivors say they had little warning of any seawater surge.

Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim, who on Sunday estimated 10,000 likely died in his city alone, said Aquino may be deliberately downplaying casualties.

"Of course he doesn't want to create too much panic. Perhaps he is grappling with whether he wants to reduce the panic so that life goes on," he said.

The preliminary number of missing as of Thursday, according to the Red Cross, remained at 22,000. That could include people who have since been located, it has said.

'Who’s in charge?'

Tacloban's main convention center, the Astrodome, has become a temporary home for hundreds of people living in squalor. Families cooked meals amid the stench of garbage and urine. Debris was strewn along rows of seats rising from dark pools of stagnant water.

"We went into the Astrodome and asked who is in charge and just got blank stares," said Joe Lowry, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, which is setting up camps for the displaced.

Survivors formed long lines under searing sunshine, and then torrential rain, to charge mobile phones from the only power source available -- a city hall generator. Others started to repair motorbikes and homes. A rescue worker cleared debris near a wall with the spray-painted words: "We need food."

Outside Tacloban, burials began for about 300 bodies in a mass grave on Thursday. A larger grave will be dug for 1,000, Lim said.

The city government remains paralyzed, with an average of just 70 workers on duty, compared with 2,500 normally, he added. Many were killed, injured, lost family or were too overcome with grief to work.

More than 920,000 people have been displaced, the United Nations said. But many areas still have not received aid.

"It's true, there are still areas that we have not been able to get to where people are in desperate need," UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Manila. "I very much hope that in the next 48 hours, that will change significantly.”

"Yes, I do feel that we have let people down because we have not been able to get in more quickly."

MEDIA STATEMENT: 'Let us work together in peace' - GPH Peace Panel in Talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF On typhoon Yolanda

From the Mindanao Examiner (Nov 15): MEDIA STATEMENT: 'Let us work together in peace' - GPH Peace Panel in Talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF On typhoon Yolanda

TYPHOON YOLANDA (Haiyan) has ruined the lives of millions of our people, and has made a wasteland of vast areas in the Visayas, even as the Philippines is still reeling from a series of catastrophes in the Visayas—Pablo, Sendong, and the earthquake in Bohol, to name the most recent—that have wreaked havoc on the lives, property, and tranquility of our people. Today, in the wake of Yolanda, the most powerful storm in human memory, the entire country and most of the world are engaged in the most massive relief and recovery operations in our history.

We are all doing our share in this effort, as Filipinos and as human beings, with compassion, and in solidarity with our suffering sisters and brothers, their children and elders, and their shattered communities.

The task is massive. Government needs all the help it can get. Indeed, the global community has responded generously. Many Filipinos have risen to the call to provide all kinds of relief to the victims and their families, and are gearing for the challenge of long-term reconstruction.

Never has our motherland been in such a need for national unity since perhaps the Second World War. United, we shall overcome this tragedy. Divided, we shall fail our people.

We call on all Filipinos to set aside the politics and ideologies that have divided us, and with arms linked kapit-bisig, together surmount this crisis.

We are heartened by the declaration of a ten-day ceasefire in typhoon-affected areas by our brothers and sisters engaged in armed struggle against the government. But the task is huge; it will need more than a token suspension of armed hostilities in a limited area. We therefore urge the Communist Party of the Philippines to extend a humanitarian ceasefire indefinitely and nationwide and join the rest of the country in mobilizing all necessary resources in a human chain of service to our people. We ask them to pick up the tools that give life, help rebuild from destruction, and promote the peace we so badly need in our land.

Our armed forces and police have changed their mode of operations from armed resistance to unarmed resistance, rescue, relief and rehabilitation in Yolanda-affected areas. We invite our brothers and sisters in the New People’s Army to do the same by participating in this national effort.

For the sake of our people.
In the name of humanity.
For peace in our beloved Pilipinas.

Japan to deploy 3 SDF ships to crisis-hit Philippines, triples aid to 30 million USD

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Japan to deploy 3 SDF ships to crisis-hit Philippines, triples aid to 30 million USD

The Japanese government said Friday it would deploy three Self-Defense Forces (SDF) vessels to the typhoon-ravaged Leyte island in the Philippines, with as many as 1, 000 SDF personnel expected to assist with relief efforts there and throughout the Philippines.

Japan's Foreign and Defense Ministry officials said Friday the operation, which is expected to swing into full gear as early as next week, would mark the biggest mobilization of SDF troops for a relief mission ever overseas.

With Leyte island and its surrounding waters, being used as the primary base for Japan's troops, personnel will also be deployed from the vessels to the hard-hit city of Tacloban where emergency supplies, including food and fuel are running dangerously low, ministry officials said.

Transportation of supplies and troops between Leyte and the mainland by Japan's first-responders has already taken place utilizing Japan's Air Self-Defense Force's Osprey planes -- their first official deployment outside of Okinawa -- as well as regular helicopters, defense ministry officials said.

SDF officials here also said that they had already successfully airlifted vital medical equipment, medicine to combat the rampant spread of infectious diseases in the area, water purification units as well as generators to central Cebu Island, but additional Japanese medical personnel have also been stranded in Manila awaiting regular flights to Cebu, officials here said, hampering the ongoing relief mission.

Efforts have also been hamstrung by civil unrest and with some areas posing security risks to troops and rescue workers.

"What we are watching most carefully is the local security situation," Shigeru Iwasaki, chief of the SDF's Joint Staff, said at a recent press briefing.

"We will gather information not only from the Philippine government, but also from U.S. military troops who are working there so we will be able to secure the safety of our personnel," he was quoted by local media as saying, with reference to instances of looting and gunfire in some of the disaster-hit areas that remain un-policed.

Next week's deployment from Japan will greatly assist international relief efforts underway on the ground in the Philippines, Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday, with calls for Japan to bolster medical and rescue efforts, which have been hampered by fuel shortages making it difficult for vehicles to access those in need and civil unrest which has compromised the security environment there.

Onodera said the two Maritime Self-Defense Force's transport vessels are being equipped with helicopters and supplies at the Kure naval base located in Hiroshima Prefecture, prior to their disembarkation.

The government also announced Friday that it was tripling its emergency aid package for the Philippines to more than 30 million U.S. dollars, with 2 million U.S. dollars worth of emergency relief goods being channeled through Japan-based charities and non- governmental organizations here, the foreign ministry said.

The ministry confirmed that it has earmarked a total of around 52 million U.S. dollars in emergency funding, which also comprises a 20 million U.S. dollar contribution to its poverty reduction fund at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).

3rd Infantry Division says it is on top of relief, search mission in Western Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): 3rd Infantry Division says it is on top of relief, search mission in Western Visayas

The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division on Friday announced that it is on top of the ongoing relief and search mission in Western Visayas which was badly hit by supertyphoon "Yolanda" last Nov. 8.

"We are on top of the situation and we would like to reassure the public that your Armed Forces is stepping up its efforts in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations. We are in close coordination with the local government units, government agencies and non-governmental organizations in order to synchronize our plans and actions for the quick recovery of the region from the devastation of Typhoon 'Yolanda'," 3rd ID commander Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad said.

He added that he is also continuously conferring with the 3rd Infantry Division staff on the dynamics of military response to the disaster.

Disaster Response Task that were deployed in the entire region even before "Yolanda" onslaught, are continuously engage in clearing of road access, delivery of relief items, and in providing the necessary security especially in the hinterland barangays which are heavily devastated by the super typhoon.

Baladad addded that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has stepped-up its joint HADR operations.

Transportation assets of the AFP such as helicopters, navy boats and military trucks are continuously rolling for the distribution of relief items from the DSWD, provincial government and non-governmental organizations.

Helicopters of the Philippine Air Force have an average of three to four sorties daily (with a total of more or less 10,000 packs of relief goods) and prioritize the hinterland and Island barangays in the region that were heavily devastated.

Navy boats and BFAR vessels also help in reaching the small Islands which are in great need of relief supplies.

In support to the ground mobility assets of the provinces, about 20 trucks of the 3rd Infantry Division also run day-in and day-out to deliver the relief goods (more or less 30, 000 packs of relief goods).

“The Armed Forces here in Western Visayas is doing everything in its capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance to our people. We appeal to all sectors of society to join us in our “Bayanihan” efforts to help our fellowmen here during these difficult times," Baladad said.

In the spirit of "Bayanihan", the AFP’s General Headquarters, the Northern Luzon Command, the Headquarters of the Philippine Army in Manila and other AFP units in Luzon, the 10th Infantry Division based in Davao, and other military units in Mindanao, are also extending humanitarian assistance to typhoon victims by collecting and packing relief items to be delivered here in Western Visayas.

Meanwhile, a C-130 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force in Manila loaded with relief items for the victims and aviation gas for the helicopters arrived at Roxas City airport in Capiz Thursday.