Monday, November 18, 2013

BDA SouthMin staff told to start gathering relief goods

From the MILF Website (Nov 19): BDA SouthMin staff told to start gathering relief goods

The head of Bangsamoro Development Agency-Southern Mindanao (BDA SouthMin) Regional Management Office told his staff to start gathering relief items prior to the coming of whatever disaster.
Mohalikin D. Piang, BDA SouthMin Regional Manager related that during their Management Committee Meeting, held in Cotabato City, BDA Executive Director Dr. Mohammad S. Yacob reminded them to be always ready for whatever calamity that may happen in the regions and that the BDA regional staff should have relief goods ready for distribution.

Yacob hinted the six BDA Regional Managers to spearhead in gathering relief goods such as noodles, rice, sardines and any food that may be shared to disasters victim in their respective regions should calamity happens.

Piang told his BDA staff to start contributing some kilogram of rice from their wages. He said the staff may also ask contributions from relatives or friends and stock it at the BDA regional office.

“If ever there are calamities like flooding, fire or earthquake that may happen in our region, we are ready to send our humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Piang related that BDA has just delivered relief goods to three barangays of Zamboanga on November 6-8, 2013 as a help to the victims of the conflict between the government troops and Moro National Liberation Front fighters loyal to founding Chairman Nur Misuari.

The Zamboanga outreach initiative served more than 700 families. Beneficiaries received rice, noodles, sardines and used clothes.

The humanitarian assistance was supported by United Nations High Commission on the Refugees.

Piang reminded the staff that BDA helps anyone in times of disaster be they are IPs, Muslims or Christians. “This is in adherence inclusivity, one of our core values , BDA does not discriminate any group of people.

BDA is an agency established in 2001 tasked to determine, lead and manage relief, rehabilitation and development projects in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.

Various agencies like World Bank and other countries have been extending support to BDA.

MNLF: From the Bangsamoro People of Filipino-Colonized Mindanao--An Open Letter to President Benigno S. Aquino III, Secretary Manuel Rozas II, Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco, and Governor Mujib Hataman

Posted to the MNLF Website (Nov 19): From the Bangsamoro People of Filipino-Colonized Mindanao--An Open Letter to President Benigno S. Aquino III, Secretary Manuel Rozas II, Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco, and Governor Mujib Hataman by RRayhanR

In Facebook, the OPEN LETTER of one of the few Bangsamoro intellectual icons of Filipino-colonized Mindanao (never mind the famous name) instantly received enthusiastic approval ('likes'). The OPEN LETTER directly addressed two national Filipino colonialist leaders, President Benigno S. Aquino III and DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas II and also two Mindanawan political collaborators, Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco and ARMM Governor Mujib Hataman. It involved both an inquiry and appeal surrounding the 19-day September AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City that resulted in mass killing and massive humanitarian disaster.

Apparently reflecting the collective sentiments and concerns of the oppressed Bangsamoro people of Mindanao under Philippine colonialism, the OPEN LETTER instantaneously elicited corresponding respose from the other well-known intellectual personalities of Filipino-occupied Mindanao, like Dr. Yolanda O. Stern and Dr. Raden Ikbala, among others.
Thus, due to the importance and controversy of the course of events revolving the Philippines-Bangsamoro war in Mindanao that has been ignited again by the present Aquino government, which have chosen military solution rather than peaceful dialogue as mandated by the September 2, 1996 GRP-OIC-MNLF Jakarta Peace Agreement, it is therefore important to let the global stakeholders of Mindanao peace share, read and judge for themselves the OPEN LETTER and spontaneous response. This is now quite possible thanks to the monitoring systems of global media and digital social networks!
Dr. Yolanda O. Stern, the famous 'daughter of Mindanao' and globally-known peace laureate, has responded to the OPEN LETTER with a short citation of soul-searching approval. She has always been a keen observer of the consequences of the 4-decade Mindanao war and the untold suffering and misery of the Muslim and Animist Lumad natives as well as the conscious Christian inhabitants of Mindanao. Simply said, she cares. Her symbolic words of concern and advise:
 "These questions need to be answered simply and clearly. Practice truth and fear nothing! All these fragments and evidences about what they saw, when they saw it and what they heard. Rumors and gossips are not accepted as evidence in court. Is there a team doing it?"
Dr. Raden Ikbala is today a noted Tausug intellectual icon whose deep concern for the healthy welfare and holistic well-being of the oppressed Bangsamoro people of Mindanao has truly earned him and few of his kind admiration, pride and tribute from the silent majority of Bangsamoro society. His valuable contribution to the Bangsamoro struggle to achieve peace, tranquility, justice and harmony with all societal groupings, including the oppressive colonizers and the colonized victims, has truly endeared him to the Mindanao peace stakeholders.
He responded to the OPEN LETTER with the following food-for-thought words:
 "Those who are going to celebrate it this last days of November are turning peace into DAP (Diyurupang Aku/Pakahanungan) Fooling me on the road to peace. DAP as in Dunces Acting Peace.

We love peace. We must all love peace. Especially so that God inspires: "Wa Sulhun Khayr", ('Making peace and reconciliation is better'.) Especially so that Christmas is in the air, with the perennial theme of peace - PEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TO MAN. Muslims and Christians must be on in peace.

 Nonetheless, the Holy Scriptures highlight truth. "Ja al Haqq", ('Truth is Love'). Veritas Liberati Vos, (''The Truth Shall Set You Free'). 

Justice is the bridge of truth and peace. Chapter 4, Verse 135 declares: "Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it may be against yourselves or your parents, or your relatives; even if it be against rich or poor."

Hence, to be able to establish genuine peace, the truth about the AVOIDANCE ZAMBOANGA WAR AND DESTRUCTION must be established, such as why Noynoy, Roxas, Hataman and (Mayor) Beng did not accept the ceasefire proposals of (Vice-President Binay, DND Secretary Gazmin, MNLF Chair Nur Misuari, Civil Society Organizations, United Nations (UN) and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

 The 'READ (OPEN LETTER) QUESTIONS" of Reynaldo R. Reyes which are similar to the questions of millions of citizens must be answered.

 PEACE WITHOUT TRUTH AND JUSTICE IS MERELY A MIRAGE. Therefore, to be able to give substance, the theme of the 19th Week of Peace, 'Lord, Heal Our Land,' must be amended with the three essences of healing the social maladies, vid., TRUTH as the basis of JUSTICE, yielding PEACE: 'Lord, Heal Our Land With Truth, Justice and Peace'."
"PLEASE GIVE US THE TRUE ANSWERS. We are law-abiding citizens of this country. We pay our taxes regularly from which BILLION PORK BARREL and the controversial DAP, by all scale and measure the government has corrupted.
As such, we strongly believe that it is our constitutional right to air out our grievances in the light of the very tragic and unfortunate man-made and natural calamities that occurred in Zamboanga City since September 9 to date.
On the unwanted 19 days siege that fidgeted untold and catastrophic destruction in terms of lives and properties in Zamboanga City, may we ask President Benigno S. Aquino III, Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco and Governor Mujib Hataman to clearly explain the following to the Filipino people especially to the peace-loving citizens of Mindanao.
(1) Their grounds or justifications for unilaterally refusing to accede to the ceasefire proposal of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari which was reportedly endorsed by the Secretary Generals of the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), five (5) days after the outbreak hostilities. Indeed the wanton destruction and the massive tragedy could have been avoided;
(2) May we ask for a clear explanation on why Secretary Roxas was given the blanket authority to maneuver the conduct of the 19 days siege, even usurping the field functions of the AFP commanding generals, which information has been circulating in the social media;
(3) May we ask for a verified and true account or report on the number of military men casualties, who met their untimely demise because they were dragged into the bloody conflict by the Commander-in-Chief of the AFP who have chosen war not peace. One report has it that after five (5) days of pitch battle in the war zone, more or less five hundred (500) soldiers were killed and quite a big number sustained mortal wounds. Another report in the social media has it that after 19 days war, military lost more than One Thousand (1,000) soldiers, two (2) military tanks and quite a great number of wounded soldiers, who are still confined at the WESTMINCOM hospital, off limit to media;
 (4) May we ask for the reason why up to this point in time Philippine Congress and the Senate have not conducted a thorough investigation or inquiry in aid of legislation on the phenomenal Zamboanga City mayhem. Ironically, when a plate breaks in Luzon our Liberal Party (LP) Stars of the PORK BARREL SCAM would walk a mile across even on bended knees to know the reason why. To us, this is necessary to uncover the truth that is being hidden by you know who?
(5) May we be enlightened on the Malayo-Hataman-Climaco-Roxas-Aquino conspiracy that facilitated the MAKE BELIEVE SURRENDER of 23 fake MNLF freedom fighters from Basilan, the home place of Mujib Hataman. Is it enough that PNP Superintendent Chiquito Malayo should be axed only as Acting City Police Chief? This military operation scandal demoralized honor-deserving PNP officers and bespeaks as well as of the deceitful, disgraceful and undeserving leaders we have in this country.
(6) Why did Aquino, Roxas, Climaco and Hataman allow the BURNING (as part of the military CLEARING OPERATION) of the more than Ten Thousand (10,000) homes, and 13 Muslim mosques in Barangays Sta. Barbara, Lustre, Rio Hondo, Mariki, Sta. Catalina and Talon-Talon by the military, rendering more than Twenty Thousand (20,000) families (mostly Muslims) desperately homeless? Why were the Philippine Naval vessels stationed along the sea coast of Mariki, Arena Blanco and Rio Hondo ordered to indiscriminately fire, using their heavy cannons, at private homes in Talon-Talon, Sta. Catalina and Mampang killing innocent and unarmed helpless civilians? And,
(7) We ask the International Human Rights Commission of the UN, not the Human Rights Commission (HRC) paid by Aqino's DAP, to look seriously into the human rights violations committed numerously against the innocent civilians by the military during the 19 days siege.
If Aquino, Climaco, Roxas and Hataman for one reason or another cannot give us true answers to all these valid and legitimate inquiries there is no wonder why Germany which was ruled by a fascistic homosexual has darkened some pages in world history in the early 1940s. The homo-sadist Emperor of Rome who rejoiced in merriment in his palace when Rome was blazing in fire could be one telling reason for all of us to wonder. Remember the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God forbids!
My friend once cautioned me to be extra careful with people "nagpapa-cute at nagpapa-angel" look. He told me even 'Satanas' was once an angel! It is from him I learned the newly coined word "BAYOTRY." 
Seemingly now the die has been cast for Philippine colonialism under the Aquino government to wage all-out war rather than 'all-out peace' against the Bangsamoro freedom fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). 
By clearly undermining the MNLF-launched Bangsamoro freedom struggle by refusing to recognise the historical value and virtue of the September 2, 1996 GRP-OIC-MNLF Jakarta Peace Agreements to achieve 'just and lasting peace' in war-torn Mindanao, the Aquino government have only emulated the colonial duplicity of the Marcos Dictatorship, Cory Aquino government and Arroyo administration to resolve the Mindanao war with military solution. But not with peaceful formula.
Thus, if the 19-day September AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City will become the concrete precedent for the embattled Aquino government to put closure to the Philippines-Bangsamoro war in Mindanao, the MNLF freedom fighters can only hold their sacred ground to pursue and to pray for their original objective of regaining independence and national self-determination for the oppressed Muslim and Lumad natives as well as the conscious Christian supporters of Mindanao. So Allah help them! -rrr/bfs      

Dramatic US humanitarian effort in Philippines aids Asia 'pivot'

From GMA News (Nov 19): Dramatic US humanitarian effort in Philippines aids Asia 'pivot'

US Navy Seahawk brings relief goods to remote villages in Leyte, Samar

Desperate villagers reach for aid delivered in an emergency drop by crewmen on board a US Navy Seahawk helicopter in San Jose, Leyte on Monday, November 18. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by Typhoon Yolanda, which tore across several islands in Central Philippines on Nov. 8, killing close to 4,000 people based on latest government tally. AP/Wally Santana

The U.S. military's response to the devastation wrought by one of the world's most powerful typhoons has been breathtaking.

About 50 U.S. ships and aircraft have been mobilized in the disaster zone, including 10 C-130 transport planes, 12 V-22 Ospreys and 14 Seahawk helicopters air-dropping supplies from an aircraft carrier.

The accelerating relief efforts underscore a fast-expanding U.S.-Philippine military alliance that could grow even stronger in the wake of the catastrophe as the United States pursues its "pivot" towards Asia.

As U.S. ships deliver food, water and medicine, they are also delivering goodwill that could ease the way for the United States to strengthen its often-controversial military presence in one of Southeast Asia's most strategic countries.

"It is not that the United States used assistance to promote rebalancing, but that rebalancing enabled to the U.S. to respond so decisively," said Asia security expert Carl Thayer.

The Philippines is one of Washington's closest allies in Asia and a crucial partner in President Barack Obama's strategy to rebalance U.S. military forces towards the region to counter the rising influence of China.

The United States sent the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier to lead relief efforts after Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 3,900 people on Nov. 8, leaving many survivors dazed and without food and water for days.

By coincidence, and heavy in symbolism, the carrier is moored off the coast near where U.S. General Douglas MacArthur's forces landed on Oct. 20, 1944, in one of the biggest Allied victories, fulfilling his vow "I shall return".

High-fives all round

The U.S. forces are also using an airfield in Guiuan, one of the worst-hit towns in Eastern Samar province, that was a major base during World War Two and then abandoned.

Now U.S. helicopter crews dump tarpaulins and stacks of food aid, dishing out a round of high-fives to grateful villagers before jumping back into their helicopter and taking off for the next drop.

On Monday, the United States announced an additional $10 million in aid, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian aid to more than $37 million.

The United States and the Philippines are in the middle of negotiations to increase a rotational presence of U.S. forces in the country, deploying aircraft, ships, supplies and troops for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

The widening military cooperation, that includes the use of bases for temporary deployment, signals rapidly warming security relations after Manila closed big U.S. military bases that had operated for decades in 1992. Manila later allowed the return of American troops for training and joint exercises. The new agreement is expected to expand these activities.

A senior Philippine officer said some of the equipment the United States provided had been in place before the typhoon struck.

"But, in the future, we'll be better prepared to deal with disasters if our two governments signed the framework agreement on enhanced defense cooperation and increased presence," he said.

"The humanitarian cooperation we're seeing between the Philippines and the United States makes the new agreement more relevant."

China's response to the disaster was slow off the mark and, some would say, less than generous. The world's second-largest economy initially announced it was giving $200,000 and then raised that by $1.64 million. Only on Sunday, more than a week after the storm struck, did it say it was ready to send rescue and medical teams.

Japan has sent three ships with trucks and engineering equipment, while Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore have sent C-130s.

'China found wanting'

China and the Philippines are locked in a bitter dispute over islands in the South China Sea and many Chinese took to Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, to say the Philippines should not be given anything in aid.

"China has been found wanting in (humanitarian aid) capacity in 2004 and again in 2013," Thayer said, referring to the 2004 Asian tsunami. "If one were looking at a connection between political motivations and humanitarian assistance, Beijing would be a good place to start."

Brigadier General Paul Kennedy, commander of Third Marine Expeditionary Brigade, commanding the U.S. operation, said there was no plan for a permanent presence in the Philippines.

"I've been coming here for 28 years training, much of it done over disasters, obviously," he said. "It's already a tacit agreement that when a disaster happens, we'll do this.

"The United States isn't going to take advantage of the crisis to increase its footprint. It would be taking advantage of someone's appreciation."

Asked how long the U.S. military presence would last in Guiuan, he said: "We'll base it on the demand from the Philippine side."

Patrick Cronin, an Asia-Pacific security expert at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said the United States remained focused on helping survivors of the storm.

"America's response includes our military, civilian disaster and foreign experts, and non-governmental organization, all pulling together to minimize misery and catalyze reconstruction," he said.

"The emergency response opens an opportunity to move forward with long-discussed plans for a modest U.S. rotational military presence in the Philippines."

Military official assures all donations will reach 'Yolanda' victims

From the Philippine Star (Nov 18): Military official assures all donations will reach 'Yolanda' victims

A military official on Monday assured that all donations sent by concerned people will reach the victims of super typhoon Yolanda as he announced the deployment of 500 more soldiers to the Visayas.

Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronni Ordoyo, Southern Luzon Command head, said the deployment of extra troops to areas such as Tacloban City, Samar and Leyte was done in coordination with various government agencies, private firms, local government units and non-government organizations.

"This is proof of the overwhelming support and response by our Filipino compatriots to help our fellowmen reeling from the havoc," Ordoyo said.

The additional teams consist of staff from the Naval Forces for Southern Luzon Command, Tactical Operations Group 5 and the medical corps of doctors, nurses and emergency responders.

Ordoyo said the military contingent also includes the service support personnel from the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army who formed the Team Albay and Team Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region.

He said that the 1st Special Forces Battalion and 565th Engineer and Construction Battalion were the first batch of troops deployed to the Visayas.

"Please be assured that every donation you give will reach the Yolanda victims," Ordoyo said.

He said that the various forms of relief assistance now pour in continuously at the different designated “bayanihan” centers in Southern Luzon and Bicol regions since the Task Force Kaagapay was launched.

He also reported that the troops have distributed 13,800 packs of relief goods to the victims.

Newest British destroyer deployed to remote typhoon-hit areas

From the Philippine Star (Nov 19): Newest British destroyer deployed to remote typhoon-hit areas

British destroyer HMS Daring set sail from Exercise Bersama Lima to the Philippines as part of the British government's humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Wikimedia Commons

 The latest air-defense destroyer of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy arrived in the country as an addition to the British contingent assisting in relief mission to victims of super-typhoon Yolanda.

The HMS Daring, delivered relief goods  to 200 families living in three barangays of Guintakan Island in devastated Sta. Fe town in Cebu on Monday night as its first mission.

Commander Angus Essenhigh, its captain, said that the warship's "flexibility" allows it to reach remote coastal communities flattened by the severe weather event.

"Overnight, we'll sail out to the worst of affected areas to hopefully start distributing relief that is so urgently needed in the islands," Essenhigh said in a CNN interview on Monday.

"The outlying islands have not been visited yet and that's part of what we're doing," he added.

Essenhigh said that the Type 45 destroyer is also out on a reconnaissance mission to scout for areas that have not yet received sufficient aid.

"[We are] passing that information back to the UK channels to inform the wider government or the NGOs active as to where we could prioritize," the Navy official said.

The UK has also sent an airplane carrying 95 tons of emergency aid.

Earlier, a 12-strong medical team from the UK has been deployed to various areas to treat typhoon victims.

4 bombs found in former war-torn Zambo villages

From the Philippine Star (Nov 19): 4 bombs found in former war-torn Zambo villages

Four bombs believed left behind during a standoff between members of the government security forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were found by evacuees as they returned to their villages on Thursday.

Explosives experts from the city police recovered three 40-mm rifle grenades and a projectile of a 90-mm shoulder-fired rocket in Sitio Ayer in Barangay Sta. Barbara and Sitio Fishpond in Rio Hondo, according to city police director Senior Superintendent Dennis Basngi.

The two areas were among the five villages devastated in the three-week firefight between the military and the rebels.

Army contingents from CDO, Davao reach Baybay City in Leyte

From MindaNews (Nov 18): Army contingents from CDO, Davao reach Baybay City in Leyte
The two Army contingents that left Cagayan de Oro and Davao cities last weekend have reached typhoon-devastated Baybay City in Leyte on Sunday.

Col. Julian Pacatan Jr., commander of Task Force Diamond, said that although they found Baybay City devastated by super typhoon Yolanda, the “situation among the residents has stabilized” after relief goods have reached them earlier Saturday. Pacatan described the devastation they saw as the Army contingents wind its way to Baybay City.

“We saw abandoned houses, felled coconut trees and downed electric poles along the highway but the situation has stabilized. The residents are no longer hungry,” he said.
Pacatan noted that plenty of food aid reached the city from Tacloban last Saturday.

He also said that communication in the city “has been restored,” with Globe Telecom running its system by generator, which forces shutdown several times a day.

Task Force Diamond left Cagayan de Oro Friday while Task Force Aguila left Davao City Saturday. Both contingents consisting of soldiers, doctors and engineers are veteran responders of typhoons Sendong and Pablo in Mindanao.

Pacatan said their contingent has already cleaned a school building and is presently repairing a hospital damaged by typhoon Yolanda.

He said their heavy equipment are clearing the roads of downed electric poles, trees and other debris.

“I never saw so much destruction but I was told that Tacloban was much worse than Baybay,” Pacatan told MindaNews by phone.

Pacatan said the four ferryboats that carried their convoy and other relief trucks used the two ports of Liloan and San Ricardo in Leyte from Lipata, Surigao del Norte.

As of Sunday, the Lipata port in Surigao City experienced congestion as hundreds of trucks carrying relief goods used it as jump-off point to the typhoon devastated areas in the Visayas.

Meanwhile, Araceli Solamillo, Department of Social Welfare and Development director for Region 10, said they received instruction from their national office to stop repacking food relief items after food aid from the United Nations and other countries started arriving in typhoon-affected areas.

The repacking centers at the Mt. Carmel Church in Barangay Carmen and DSWD regional office along Masterson Avenue this city grounded to a halt Sunday night.

“There is so much food packs in Leyte already. We are starting to reassess the other needs of the victims,” Solamillo said.

Solamillo said they are thinking of buying personal hygiene kits for women and kitchen utensils, which were popular items during typhoon Sendong, she said.

She said the DSWD regional office has spent P17 million, sent by the national government, to buy relief goods such as sardines, noodles and rice.

At one point last Friday, the DSWD has found it difficult to find suppliers of relief goods.

Solamillo said the volunteers who responded to the call of the DSWD managed to pack some 78,000 food packs since Tuesday.

“The volunteers did a wonderful job. Our first shipment was among the first to arrive in Tacloban and feed its hungry residents,” Solamillo said.

Volunteers from all walks of life, including typhoon Sendong victims, trooped to the DSWD relief centers and pack the food bags by hand.

Solamillo said they still have 15,000 relief bags awaiting shipment this week.

CPP: CPP condemns AFP for relentless offensives in Negros and elsewhere amidst devastation and NPA ceasefire

From the CPP Website (Nov 18): CPP condemns AFP for relentless offensives in Negros and elsewhere amidst devastation and NPA ceasefire

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for waging relentless offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Visayas amidst the widespread devastation caused by the recent supertyphoon Yolanda and the ceasefire declaration issued by the CPP to the concerned NPA units.

News reports state that the AFP offensives resulted in at least two successive armed encounters last Saturday between a unit of the NPA and the fascist troops of the 47th IB at around 9:30 am in Sitio Pating, Barangay Magbalyo, Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental. According to the commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, the AFP has been carrying out offensive maneuvers in Kabankalan for two weeks now.

“It is apparent that the AFP leadership is completely oblivious to the state of calamity and difficulties being experienced by the people of Negros,” said the CPP.

The Negros Island is among the worst hit areas during the November 8 typhoon. In Negros Occidental, record-strong winds destroyed nearly 25,000 homes in Negros Occidental and resulted in widespread damages to crops, livestock and fisheries resources initially estimated at P100 million.

NPA units in Negros, including those which figured in an armed encounter with units of the 47th IB, have gone on active defense mode in order to extend assistance to calamity victims. This is in line with the ceasefire declaration issued earlier by the CPP last November 14.

The CPP ceasefire declaration, which covers NPA units in typhoon-hit regions including those in Negros Island, will remain in effect until 2359 hours of November 24. The declaration directs concerned units of the NPA to concentrate on the immediate task of assisting the typhoon victims to carry out rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts while cautioning Red fighters against hostile movements of the APP within the territory of the people’s democratic government.

The Aquino regime has yet to issue a parallel declaration. “It is apparent that the Aquino regime does not want to reciprocate the CPP’s issuance of a ceasefire declaration because it does not want the AFP to cease its offensives against the NPA in the vain hope of meeting the targets of its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression against the people.”

“The continuing offensives being carried out by the AFP underscore the Aquino regime’s mispriorities and criminal ineptness in preparing for and confronting the effects of the recent supertyphoon,” said the CPP. The CPP pointed out that the AFP also carried out offensives in Sorsogon province a mere four days after typhoon Yolanda.

“The AFP is also busy spreading false information claiming of armed actions by the NPA within or near disaster areas in order to justify increasing its deployment of troops to carry out surveillance, suppression and offensive operations against the people and their mass organizations,” added the CPP.

“Aquino’s failure to declare a ceasefire furthermore exposes the hypocrisy of his regime’s call for national unity,” added the CPP. “Aquino’s call for unity is a desperate effort to cover-up its criminal incompetence and gross failure to prepare for the supertyphoon and mobilize emergency relief which has resulted in unnecessarily large number of deaths and injuries.”

Flow of vehicles using Matnog port eases as Navy deploys vessels

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 18): Flow of vehicles using Matnog port eases as Navy deploys vessels

The flow of traffic of vehicles transporting relief goods and passengers from various parts of Luzon to Leyte and Samar provinces in eastern Visayas through the port Matnog in Sorsogon to the Allen port in northern Samar has eased up with the deployment of Philippine Navy ships.

The Navy, through its Naval Forces Southern Luzon, has deployed BRP Dagupan City (LC 551), a logistics support vessel, and BRP Tagbanua (AT 296), a landing craft utility vessel, from Cebu City to Matnog port to help decongest the number of stranded rescuers, relief operations, military troops and humanitarian mission caravan bound for Leyte and Samar.

Commodore Manuel Abinuman, Navforsol commander, said the AT 296 left Matnog port at 2:10 a.m. Monday bound for Allen port with 80 tons of cargo -- consisting of four M35 trucks, one Elf truck, one pick-up and two sports utility vehicles – and 19 civilians and 30 military passengers.

Abinuman said another four more Philippine Navy Auxiliary Reserve Unit (PNARU) vessels manned by naval reservists are expected to arrive Monday to augment the decongestion operation by helping ferry those stranded to the two provinces.

The Navy has also commissioned MV Maria Natasia, another PNARU vessel, and has already transported relief goods, military troops, disaster responders and trucks from Matnog port.

The augmentation of PN vessels is solely for relief and disaster response purposes, Abinuman clarified.

Thus, priorities will be personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, government line agencies and local government units.

PN transports additional 1,366 Tacloban evacuees to Cebu Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 18): PN transports additional 1,366 Tacloban evacuees to Cebu Monday

The evacuees were landed at Commodore Veloso Pier in Naval Base Rafael Ramos, Mactan at 11 a.m.

They were welcomed by Naval Forces Central deputy commander, Capt. Ingemar S. Pernes and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza.

“I can hardly look at the tragic effect of Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban and other parts of Leyte but I felt happy and proud to be part of the Navy’s team that is committed to support the victims in the modest way we can,” said BRP Bacolod City commanding officer Cmdr. Jonathan V. Zata said.

Upon disembarkation from the ship, the evacuees were welcomed by various local government and private agencies and organizations giving free services to uplift their morale and bringing back their condition to normal.

GMA Kapuso Foundation, ABS-CBN Cebu and Gardenia Bakeries Phils, Inc. provided hot meals, bread and bottled water to the evacuees with the assistance from Department of Social Welfare and Development, Lapu-Lapu Sangguniang Kabataan, Tau Gamma Fraternity and Barangay Gon-ob.

Free medical services and medicines were rendered to the evacuees through the combined efforts of Red Cross, Lapu-Lapu Hospital, City Health Office and Barangay Basak. Free calling services were provided by Globe, Smart and Sun telecommunication companies.

Even the PN provided free call and internet services to the evacuees

More than 5,000 evacuees and rescue and relief personnel have been transported by the PN Navy to and from Leyte and Samar since the disaster response operations started last week.

Relief aid now reaching all areas in Visayas battered by 'Yolanda'-- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 18): Relief aid now reaching all areas in Visayas battered by 'Yolanda'-- AFP

Relief supplies have reached all communities in the Visayas Region battered by Supertyphoon "Yolanda", Central Command head Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said on Monday.

'I believed (rescue workers) have reached and supplied all the affected communities with the basic goods. And if there are still areas that are unserved by our rescue and relief workers, please tell us immediately so we can respond," he added.

Deveraturda added that the now swift response of relief forces can be attributed to the now functioning roads, highways, seaports and airports which were earlier cleared by military and civilian units.

He added that the devastated areas are now slowly coming back to life with the arrival of mobile ATMs, water, power and electricity.

Likewise, food and other basic supplies are now being brought back thanks to the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Deveraturda added that the military and police, through the deployment of additional personnel, have also brought law and order back in the super typhoon battered communities.

He stressed that these law enforcement units also ensured orderliness in the distribution of relief goods.

With these concrete achievements now in the offing, Deveraturda expressed hope that the rehabilitation work will proceed more smoothly.

USAID to provide additional USD10M for 'Yolanda' relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 18): USAID to provide additional USD10M for 'Yolanda' relief efforts

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) on Monday announced that the American government is providing an additional USD10 million in humanitarian aid for the victims of Supertyphoon "Yolanda".

This was confirmed by USAID assistant administrator Nancy E. Lindborg.

This brings the total US humanitarian aid to more than USD37 million.

This new contribution will help restore clean water in and around Tacloban and will provide additional support for the massive logistics operation dispatching and distributing relief supplies to those in need.

“The devastation left in the wake of the typhoon is truly staggering. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods,” Lindborg added.

“This additional USD10 million from the United States will allow much-needed relief supplies to reach to hard-hit areas and ensure that 200,000 people in and around Tacloban have clean running water.”

In support of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ relief effort, the United States is providing airlift and logistics capacity, food aid, shelter materials, clean water, and hygiene education and supplies to help the estimated nine million people across 44 provinces in the Philippines that have been affected by "Yolanda".

British destroyer joins in relief efforts for 'Yolanda' victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 18): British destroyer joins in relief efforts for 'Yolanda' victims

The HMS Daring, the latest air-defense destroyer of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy, joined in the multi-national force providing help to the victims of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" by airlifting relief goods to 200 families living in three barangays of Guintakan Island in Sta. Fe, Cebu Monday.

The British ship’s crew composed of the executive officer, medical team, engineers and communications team were joined by the representative of the Save the Children Foundation and the liaison officer of the Philippine Navy Multinational Coordinating Council, Cmdr. Oscar Faeldon, during the distribution of relief in the said island.

Aside from giving relief goods consisting of high-energy biscuits, canned goods and shelter kits, the group also provided medical services with medicines to 200 individuals.

They also repaired the barangay hall of Agdan using roofing materials derived from the ravaged facilities of the island.

Guintakan Island is among the areas in Northern Cebu directly hit by Supertyphoon "Yolanda".

With no means of communication, the residents of the island used the debris of the disaster and formed the word “HELP” in an open ground hoping that a passing aircraft will notice it.

Luckily, a helicopter of HMS Daring which flew by the island sighted the call for help of the residents.

After verification, the Royal Navy ship sought permission from the Philippine Navy for the conduct of relief operations in the said island.

Naval Task Group 'Tulong Visayas' now in Tacloban City

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Naval Task Group 'Tulong Visayas' now in Tacloban City

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Tuesday announced that its Naval Task Group 'Tulong Visayas, a 160-strong contingent, has arrived in Tacloban City Monday morning to boost the ongoing relief efforts in the "Yolanda" battered area.

Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said the contingent consists of 20 officers and 140 enlisted men.

These personnel come from the Philippine Marine Corps, Naval Combat Engineering Brigade, Naval Communications Electronic and Information System and the Manila Naval Hospital.

Fabic said that these men are equipped with one payloader, two M-35 trucks, two dump trucks, one forklift, one backhoe loader, one tractor head, one low-bed trailer, one fuel cell, one welding machine, three squad tents, one generator, one trailer and one ambulance.

The deployment of the unit is in-line with the national government's effort to rehabilitate Tacloban City and bring back basic services to its residents, the PN spokesperson said.

Non-commissioned officers training on counseling, coaching and mentoring

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Non-commissioned officers training on counseling, coaching and mentoring

Realizing the vital role of the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) as the backbone of the military, the Philippine Army (PA) has launched a program for their basic training on counseling, coaching and mentoring.

These skills are essential in the molding of new soldiers under their wing, Army deputy public affairs office chief Capt. Anthony Bacus said. He added that the program is being handled by the PA's Technical Working Group of the NCO Counseling, Coaching and Mentoring System (TWG-NCOCCMS). As of this posting, NCOs of two units, the 6th and the 4th Infantry Divisions, are now undergoing the said training.  One of the primary thrusts of PA chief Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes is to strengthen the NCO Corps by fully empowering and encouraging them to take participative roles.  He further emphasized the need for professional development of NCOs by allowing them to learn, seek, absorb, and accept responsibility in order to achieve and ensure mission accomplishment. Guided by this tenet, Col. Rene Glen O. Paje, Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, OG1, Philippine Army, crafted a proposed policy on the NCO Counseling, Coaching and Mentoring System.

Under this policy, NCOs holding leadership positions in a certain unit or office shall be appointed as counselors, coaches and mentors of their respective subordinates.

Airlift extends lifeline to remote Yolanda survivors

From Rappler (Nov 18): Airlift extends lifeline to remote Yolanda survivors

AID FROM THE AIR. Members of the Philippine Air Force Sokol 550th Search and Rescue Group drop sacks of food relief in eastern Samar province, Philippines, 17 November 2013. EPA/Dennis Sabangan

AID FROM THE AIR. Members of the Philippine Air Force Sokol 550th Search and Rescue Group drop sacks of food relief in eastern Samar province, Philippines, 17 November 2013. EPA/Dennis Sabangan

HOMONHON, Philippines – Helicopters dropped emergency supplies to desperate villagers as a growing global relief effort following the Philippines typhoon pushed beyond devastated towns and cities Monday towards remote island and mountain communities.

On the tiny island of Homonhon, which suffered a direct hit from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), residents of what was left of their shattered village waited patiently as US troops unloaded water supplies from a helicopter that flew in off the USS George Washington aircraft carrier.

The approach to the village offered an aerial view of the destruction visited on the island, where thick coconut groves had been torn up and flattened.

The helicopter stayed just 10 minutes before flying off with promises to return with rice supplies.

The USS George Washington has galvanized the huge international relief effort in the central Philippines, since its arrival in the region on Thursday, November 14.

Its main task has been airlifting large-volume supplies to inland airstrips and then ferrying them piecemeal by helicopter to more remote areas.

In many villages, there is no space to land, and the helicopters are forced to hover low and drop the cartons to residents straining to remain standing against the downdraft from the rotor blades.

Television footage has shown residents of one isolated settlement jostling each other as supplies were pushed from the chopper, setting off a frenzied scramble as villagers tore apart the packing and scurried away with the contents.

Improving, but still critical

Ten days after the super storm hit the central islands of Leyte and Samar with some of the strongest winds ever recorded, aid agencies and humanitarian groups have firmly established operational posts in the flattened region's largest city Tacloban.

There is still no regular power in Tacloban, where the typhoon triggered a powerful, tsunami-like storm surge that left thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless.

But aid distribution centers have been set up, ensuring a steady flow of food and water supplies to still-traumatized residents, while mobile surgical units are providing emergency care for the sick and injured.

Some petrol stations are open and enterprising individuals were selling fuel in Coke bottles by the side of the roads that have been largely cleared of debris, as cars and motorbikes made a tentative return to the streets.

Fresh fruit is available for a price, with makeshift stalls selling satsumas, apples and bananas.

But the overall situation remains critical, with the United Nations estimating that up to four million people have been displaced, of which only 350,000 have found shelter in evacuation centers.

The official death toll stands at 3,976 with 1,598 people missing.

The UN said an estimated 2.5 million people are in need of food assistance, and that priority should be given to ensuring supplies of rice seed for the crucial December-January planting season.


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had started distributing aid to residents of Guiuan, Mercedes and Salcedo – shoreline communities in southeastern Samar that were laid to waste by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

"This is only the start," said Pascal Mauchle, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines. "Our next plan is to reach people in Homonhon and Suluan – small isolated islands near Guiuan – by boat."

President Benigno Aquino III, who has come in for some criticism over the speed of the initial response to the disaster, toured the worst-hit areas on Sunday, November 17, and said he would stay in the region to oversee the relief operation.

Stressing the logistical challenge of accessing so many badly affected people spread out over such an enormous area, Aquino appealed for "patience" and vowed to accelerate the distribution where possible.

Emy Esperas Edanol, a 44-year-old fruit seller, welcomed the president's decision to make his temporary base in the area.

"I hope that his presence here will speed up the relief," Edanol said, as she made her way to Tacloban city hall to ask for a death certificate for her father, who was killed in the storm surge.

Although the situation in Tacloban has markedly improved in the past three days, daily life is still a grinding struggle among the grim ruins of the once thriving coastal city.

An Agence France-Presse journalist saw one man salvaging wood to rebuild his shack as three bloated bodies – two of them children – lay nearby.

"Please can you tell the authorities to come and pick these up?" he begged.

Aquino promotes 12 Army generals, including one linked to Morong 43 arrest

From InterAksyon (Nov 18): Aquino promotes 12 Army generals, including one linked to Morong 43 arrest

Major General Aurelio Baladad is implicated in the illegal arrest of the so-called Morong 43

President Benigno Aquino III has promoted at least 12 Army generals, including the division commander implicated in the illegal arrest of the so-called Morong 43, health workers who were allegedly members of the New People’s Army (NPA), in February 2010 in Morong, Rizal.

Acting Army spokesman Capt. Anthony Bacus said Army Chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes on Monday led the donning of ranks of the senior officers during the flag-raising ceremony at the Army’s headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Leading the newly promoted were Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sandigan Class 1982 and current commander of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Capiz, and Maj. Gen. Jet Velarmino (PMA ’82), current commander of the 8th ID based in Samar.

Baladad was implicated in the arrest of the 43 community medical personnel who the military claimed were rebels attending a bomb-making seminar at a farm during their arrest.

Also promoted to major general is Hernando Iriberri (PMA Matikas ’83) and current commander of the 7th ID based in Nueva Ecija.

Promoted to brigadier generals or one-star are:
  • Gerardo Barrientos, Assistant Division Commander of the 4th ID
  • Richard Lagrana, Commander of the 902nd Brigade, 9th ID
  • Alex CapiƱa, Commander of the 201st Brigade, 2nd ID
  • Ricardo Jalad, Assistant Division Commander of the 5th ID
  • Vic Castro, Commander of the 702nd Brigade, 7th ID
  • Ivan Samarita, Commander of the 202nd Brigade, 2nd ID
  • Edmundo Pangilinan, Commander of the 601st Brigade, 6th ID
  • Donato San Juan, Commander of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), Special Operations Command
  • Roger Salvador, Commander of the 501st Infantry Brigade, 5th ID
“The Army leadership recognizes that the able leadership of every commander is an indispensable factor in carrying out the Army’s mission,” Coballes said.

Japan sends first major deployment of relief troops to Philippines

From InterAksyon (Nov 18): Japan sends first major deployment of relief troops to Philippines

Japan on Monday dispatched two warships, carrying some 650 troops, to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines in the first major contingent of the military's largest overseas aid deployment.

The two vessels, also carrying six helicopters, left the western port of Kure and are scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on Friday, said a defence ministry spokesman.

He added that Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are sending a total of 10 planes Monday to the disaster-struck nation -- seven C-130 transport planes, two KC-767 tanker planes and one U-4 multi-purpose support aircraft.

The troops' duties will include providing medical support and transporting relief goods.

An advance team of about 50 SDF personnel was sent last week while the total troop deployment was expected to rise to almost 1,200 in all.

But the timeline for sending the remainder of the troops was not immediately clear.

It is the first time Japanese troops have been active in Leyte -- an area hit hard by Super Typhoon Haiyan -- since the island turned into one of the biggest battlegrounds of World War II when US forces counter-invaded in 1944.

The 1,180-strong contingent will be the largest single relief operation team ever sent abroad by Japan's defence forces.

Previous overseas missions by the SDF, which adheres to the country's post-war pacifist constitution, have usually numbered in the hundreds.

The previous record was 925 personnel sent in 2005 to Sumatra after the Indonesian island was ravaged by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami.

Other deployments have included UN peace-keeping missions in Cambodia and East Timor as well as logistical activities in Iraq and naval refuelling operations in the Indian Ocean to back the US military in Afghanistan.

US pledges add'l $10M for Yolanda victims

From GMA News (Nov 18): US pledges add'l $10M for Yolanda victims

The United States will donate an additional $10 million in humanitarian aid for the thousands left starving and homeless by super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which lashed central Philippines on November 8.

In a statement Monday, Nancy E. Lindborg of the US' Agency for International Development Assistant Administrator of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance said more than $37 million have been provided for the victims.

The additional contribution will help restore clean water in Tacloban City, the hardest hit area of the typhoon, and will provide additional support for the massive logistics operation dispatching and distributing relief supplies.

“The devastation left in the wake of the typhoon is truly staggering,” said Lindborg after completing an aerial assessment of the affected areas. “Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods.”

She said the additional $10 million “will allow much-needed relief supplies to reach to hard-hit areas and ensure that 200,000 people in and around Tacloban have clean running water.”

The US, a close ally of the Philippines, has deployed aircraft, including two Osprey aircraft and nine C-130s, to help deliver relief goods and rescue survivors from the Visayas to Metro Manila, said Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

The Philippine government, meanwhile, has vowed to be transparent in handling financial assistance received from various nations and international organizations meant for the typhoon victims.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told GMA News Online last week the Commission on Audit “will ultimately audit because those donations and grants will enter the government's books and therefore have to be accounted for.”

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Department of Foreign Affairs is in charge of coordinating all foreign assistance for the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in its 6 a.m. update on Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) said damage was estimated at P10,384,690,061, including P1,295,508,600 in infrastructure and P9,089,181,461 on agriculture. A total of 288,922 houses were destroyed while 282,884 were damaged.

It said Yolanda had affected 2,212,955 families or 10,306,318 people in 10,365 villages in 44 provinces. Of these, 74,015 families or 353,862 people are staying in 1,550 evacuation centers.

The death toll remained at 3,976 with 18,175 injured and 1,598 still missing.

JTF 505 activates for Operation Damayan

From DVIDS (Nov 18): JTF 505 activates for Operation Damayan

CAMP AGUINALDO, Philippines – Joint Task Force 505 officially activated today, Nov. 18, in order to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in support of the government and Armed Forces of the Philippines in Operation Damayan.

Lt. Gen. John Wissler, U.S. Marine Corps, commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force, was designated as the JTF-505 commander by Pacific Command commander Adm. Samuel L. Locklear on Nov. 13. JTF-505 follows the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s Force as they were the initial U.S. military response to the government and Armed Forces of the Philippines provided lifesaving support and critical relief supplies.

JTF-505 headquarters will be located at Camp Aguinaldo, near Manila, and will coordinate U.S. military relief efforts. The task force will work closely with senior representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other U.S. agencies to ensure continued, timely and swift responses to requests from our allied partner, the Government of the Philippines.

“Because of the longstanding partnership and friendship between our two nations, the U.S., working in support of the government and Armed Forces of the Philippines, is able to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities and supplies in times of crisis,” said Wissler.

JTF-505 currently includes nearly 850 personnel on the ground and an additional 6,200 in the USS George Washington Strike Group. An additional 1,000 Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are expected to arrive in approximately three days. Personnel and equipment from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps has come from Hawaii, Okinawa, mainland Japan and the continental U.S.

JTF-505 will integrate and coordinate with foreign military units and non-governmental relief organizations supporting the disaster efforts.

“The U.S. military has a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to respond to those people affected by natural disasters,” said Wissler. “As we reach out further and further into the outlying areas, we will have a better assessment of the complete scope of disaster. The duration and extent of JTF-505 support will depend on the needs of the government of the Philippines, and we are fully partnered with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in our relief operations. We will be present as long as we are needed, but no longer than required.”

U.S. Military relief efforts in the Philippines continue to grow

From DVIDS (Nov 17): U.S. Military relief efforts in the Philippines continue to grow

PAMPANGA, Republic of the Philippines— In a time-sensitive operation where every minute counts, military forces from around the world and humanitarian workers are supporting the Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines in a fight to save the lives of those who have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan by providing resources like clothing, food, water and medicine.

Aid is arriving at remote areas and at the request of the Government of the Philippines, the U.S. Pacific Command continues to send more support to the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations (HADR) in the Philippines.

A total of six more VM-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) arrived at Clark Air Field, Pampanga, Republic of the Philippines, Nov. 15-16 in support of the Philippine Armed Forces in Operation Damayan.

A total of 14 Ospreys are currently operating round the clock to provide much needed supplies like food and water to the most isolated areas affected by the typhoon.

“The aircraft will really display how it is made for this part of the world when we fly south delivering the supplies out to the people and reaching those remote areas where people have not been able to receive supplies,” said Capt. Robert S. Swartz, a MV-22B Osprey pilot with VMM-265 which is currently assigned to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s aviation combat element, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We don’t need an airport to land, especially since all the damage the airports took down there. All we need is enough space like a soccer field, so there are definitely a number of those zones for us to reach the people.”

The Osprey is an ideal aircraft for this HADR operation due to the capabilities it provides, according to Swatrz.

With its vertical take-off and landing capabilities, it can operate in austere environments. Its ability to convert quickly to fixed-wing configuration gives it greatly increased speed and range over traditional rotary wing craft, substantially strengthening the ability to save lives and reduce suffering.

The typhoon has impacted millions people across throughout many provinces in the Philippines so having the capability of being the first on-scene is important in demonstrating U.S. support and friendship to the Government of the Philippines, according to Swartz.

“What people need to understand is that the biggest typhoon in recorded history happened in the Philippines and we are out here supporting the request of the Government of the Philippines in their lead on fully getting back on their feet,” said Swartz.

As the number of Ospreys nearly doubles, the amount of aid to the people of the Philippines will also. With more aircraft in the air, more help will be arriving at those isolated locations.

Typhoon relief effort boosts U.S. soft power in Asia region

From CNN (Nov 18): Typhoon relief effort boosts U.S. soft power in Asia region

Typhoon Haiyan survivors wait for an evacuation flight as a U.S. Navy helicopter takes off at the airport in Tacloban, Philippines, on Sunday, November 17. Troops and aid organizations have encountered blocked roads and devastating damage in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in history. <a href=''>See how you can help.</a>

Typhoon Haiyan survivors wait for an evacuation flight as a U.S. Navy helicopter takes off at the airport in Tacloban, Philippines, on Sunday, November 17. Troops and aid organizations have encountered blocked roads and devastating damage in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in history.

As an expression of hard power, they don't come bigger or more fearsome than the USS George Washington.

The U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier can base as many as 75 warplanes, has a combat load of 97,000 tons and is manned by 6,250 battle-ready crew.
But as an expression of soft-power, the Nimitz-class carrier is finding its influence in its Asian theater of operations goes far beyond the range of its fearsome arsenal as it assists the Typhoon Haiyan relief operation -- known as Operation Damayan -- in the Philippines.
Equipped with everything from a 51-bed hospital ward and an operating theater to dentists' surgeries, according to Jane's Defense, the USS George Washington is leading a flotilla of U.S. Navy support vessels in support of the effort.
The projection of U.S. power on the world stage, especially in the context of a humanitarian disaster such as Haiyan, represents a public relations goldmine for the U.S. military, at a time when the U.S. is perceived as losing influence in the region to China.

Tacloban relief effort continues

Video shows moment typhoon hit

Mother: Not sure if kids died in typhoon
It may not be the only navy helping in the aftermath of the disaster -- Britain and Australia have both committed vessels to the relief effort -- but considering the Washington's traditional links with the Philippines as a former colony (and for many decades one of its most important strategic bases) the relief effort has a special resonance.
"The U.S. extending its soft power in the region as well as directing the relief operation are not contradictory objectives," Philippine political analyst Ramon Casiple told CNN. "The Philippines and the U.S., of course, have a long history so there is an expectation that they would help because they've helped in previous chapters in our history."
He said even the region that is the focus of the relief effort -- eastern Leyte province -- has special meaning for the U.S.-Philippines relationship.
"This is the area where General MacArthur's forces landed during World War II when he fulfilled the promise of returning to the Philippines after ousting the Japanese.
"But while there's an expectation, there is also a gratefulness for this help."
Criticism has been leveled at China for its ham-fisted handling of its relief contribution, initially pledging $100,000 in humanitarian support. Although it later raised the amount to $1.6 million, analysts have said that it has allowed its spat with the Philippines over the Spratly Islands -- claimed severally by Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Vietnam -- to cloud its judgment.
The donation, which does not meet even that of furniture store, Ikea, which has pledged $2.7 million through its charitable foundations, has dented its global image at a time when American influence is seen as declining in the region as China steps into the breach.
Analysts say China has missed an opportunity to win hearts and minds though non-traditional forms of diplomacy of which the supply of emergency assistance can form a crucial component.
"One reason China's efforts to develop its soft power have failed is the utilitarian way Beijing approaches the rest of the world. Instead of using culture, adept diplomacy and trashy movies to seduce other countries, China hands out cold, hard cash," said analyst William Pesek in a recent Bloomberg View.
"All the investment poured into railways in Indonesia, tunnels in Brazil, power grids in Cambodia, hydroelectric projects in Laos, bridges in Vietnam, roads in Zambia, factories in Malaysia, airports in Myanmar, and mining rigs in Uzbekistan comes with a high cost. In return, China demands complete docility. That's the message being sent to the Philippines now."
Meanwhile, the victims of Haiyan are happy to find help where they can.
"If you are talking of those western allies aligned with the US then you have the same level of commitment to humanitarian aid," Casiple said. "The others, meaning these countries not so aligned to the Philippines or those such as China that have issues with the Philippines, are a bit more reticent.
"But the main thing to remember is that they are giving aid."