Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bangsamoro Development Agency-SulTa Region Officials visit Sulu capitol

From the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Nov 22): Bangsamoro Development Agency-SulTa Region Officials visit Sulu capitol


Officials of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA)-Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Region (SulTa) headed by  Regional Manager Donimar Ajiji and his staff made a courtesy call to officials of Sulu Province at its capitol on November  15, 2013  at Jolo, Sulu.
The purpose of the visit was to strengthen coordination between the BDA and the local government; and provide updates on BDA programs; other community programs and projects in the Sulu-Tawi-Tawi area. The group of Manager Ajiji was supposedly to meet Governor Abdulsdakur “Toto” A.Tan II but unfortunately the governor was out of town. Manager Ajiji instead met Vice Governor Abdulsakur Tan who welcomed them in his office.

In the course of their conversations, Vice Governor Tan asked what BDA is all about, its mandate and community undertakings?  Manager Ajiji told Vice Gov. Tan that the BDA is a product of GPH-MILF peace process and was created through Executive Order No. 120 signed by President Benigno C. Aquino III. He also updated the vice governor on the current Tahderiyyah Curriculum Program funded by UNICEF & other lined-up projects for the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The meeting was fruitful since Vice Governor Tan was thoroughly enlightened on the BDA programs and other undertakings. The vice governor assured the group of his support to BDA activities in his province. In return, Manager Ajiji expressed his gratitude for the support that the local government unit may extend to BDA.

Manager Ajiji assured the vice governor of BDA’s close coordination and strong partnership with the local government unit of Sulu on matters that shall redound to the general welfare of the people in the province.

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in October 15, 2012 at Malacanang Palace, Manila also stipulates the role of local government units in the proposed Bangsamoro new political entity.

16 foreign armed forces helping PH

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 22): 16 foreign armed forces helping PH

Friends in good times and bad.

This was how the Australian defense attaché summed up Thursday the Multinational Coordinating Council (MNCC) of the Philippine government and the armed forces of 16 countries working together for faster and more efficient distribution of relief to the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Eastern Visayas.

“Our shared histories with the Philippines go a long way back. Friendship is not just about the good times. Friendship is also about the bad times, too,” Lt. Col. Paul Barta told the Inquirer.

The 16 countries on the council are the Philippines, Australia, United States, Japan, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Sweden, Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand, Spain, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel.
“Our friendship has been long term. Our commitment remains long term and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of the Philippines. After a formal request from the government of the Philippines, the United States arrived and ready to help along with other nations,” said Tina Malone, spokesperson for the US Embassy.

“Our role was to amplify the government of the Philippines’ response by providing
extra help in a time of need in the spirit of damayan,” Malone added.

China, which has one of the world’s biggest and most capable militaries, has already sent aid to the typhoon survivors but is not yet on the MNCC list.

‘Starting point’

The Philippines and China have been embroiled in a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) for decades, with tensions rising in January after Manila took their dispute to the United Nations for arbitration.

Asked at a news conference about China’s absence from the council, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the 16 countries were a “starting point.”

“We expect that there are foreign militaries that want to take advantage of the MNCC. We will welcome all the support that we will be getting, specifically for the MNCC, all the military support,” Batino said.

The council was organized on Nov. 16 “to coordinate and synchronize military-to-military operations between member countries along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Batino said.

It is the first time for the AFP to work with foreign militaries on the same council to “accelerate humanitarian and disaster relief operations and to fully maximize” each country’s efforts, he said.

The Israeli government has called its help mission, “Operation: Islands of Hope.”

The Israeli Defense Force has a composite team of medical personnel, engineers and search-and-rescue personnel, according to Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Menashe Bar-On.

Israel has also dispatched an advanced mobile hospital with 100 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies, which will be based in Bago, Cebu province, to attend to the medical needs of typhoon survivors.

The Australian government has also sent a hospital ship, which has already served hundreds of survivors, some of whom sustained severe injuries that needed surgeries, Barta said.


AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the foreign contingents had a total of 61 airplanes and 14 naval vessels, aside from hundreds of rescue and medical personnel responding “swiftly and regularly to areas of critical and immediate needs for resource and relief.”

The United States has 13 naval vessels positioned southeast of Samar Island and east of Leyte Island to augment relief operations in Tacloban City, Guiuan, Palo, Borongan and Kalikawan, Bautista said.

The HMAS Daring of the United Kingdom is anchored northeast of Panay Island servicing the relief operations in Capiz province.

Seven C-130s from the United States, Australia and Japan and several foreign helicopters have been flying relief missions with others standing by “for immediate deployment if necessary,” Bautista added.

US Lt. Gen. John Wissler, head of the US military contingent, said that after Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas, “the situation on the ground was chaotic but would be chaotic in any part of the world because of the tremendous devastation.”

He said coordination with the Philippine government allowed the foreign countries wanting to help to hit the ground running when they arrived in the typhoon-hit areas.

“It was not a happy scene by any stretch, but the force that came on the ground was ready to be employed quickly,” Wissler said.

Red tape

Asked how the MNCC handles the notoriously slow bureaucratic system in the Philippines, Batino said: “We have to process the military support. We have our rules to follow. We have to issue clearances and government agency permits.”

“These are the things that we want to coordinate to accelerate the [delivery] of government support,” Batino said.

US Ospreys show worth in Philippines aid effort

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 22): US Ospreys show worth in Philippines aid effort

U.S. Marines provide safe drinking water to typhoon survivors Thursday Nov. 21, 2013 at Tacloban city, Leyte province in central Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, slammed into central Philippine provinces Nov. 8, leaving a wide swath of destruction. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

The U.S. Marines’ newest and in some quarters most controversial transport airplane is showing the world what it’s got — for the sake of the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan),  and perhaps its own future.

The MV-22 Osprey, which can tilt its rotors to fly like either a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft, is delivering tons of aid every day to people affected by the Nov. 8 storm. The U.S. military’s humanitarian effort presents a golden opportunity: The Marines want to show how safe and versatile the Osprey is, countering critics and helping to persuade allies to buy their own.

Anger over the decision to base the aircraft on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the only place in Asia where they are permanently deployed, has made the aircraft the poster boy of anti-military sentiment there. Opponents cite noise problems and high-profile crashes in the early days of the Osprey, though its safety record since then has been better than any other helicopter-type aircraft.

With its unique design, the Osprey can fly faster and farther and carry heavier loads than the helicopters it replaced.

“Anything that’s different generates criticism. And the Osprey is different,” says Capt. Travis Keeney, who has been flying the aircraft for six years. “There’s nothing like it in military history.”

He’s taken the Osprey to Iraq, Libya and Africa, but this is the biggest humanitarian mission he’s ever been involved in. He wants his aircraft to shine, and his squadron has a lot to prove.
Keeney’s first orders Tuesday appear to have little to do with humanitarian aid. His crew is told to sit tight and prepare to transport an Israeli general.

The Osprey has proven itself in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that has gotten the attention of militaries around the world — including Israel’s.

“Everybody wants to see it,” Keeney says.

But that plan is scrapped, and by 10:30 a.m., Keeney’s Osprey and five others delivering aid are on their way to a busy drop zone in Borongan on the island of Samar. They will make as many runs as they can to pick up and offload supplies.

Keeney’s day usually goes about 12 hours — with nine or 10 in the pilot’s seat and six of actual flying. Shifts earlier in the crisis were longer, but even now he doesn’t have time for breaks. He takes whatever food he needs with him on the Osprey. If he needs to relieve himself, he has an empty bottle.

As the plane, now bursting with boxes of supplies from the U.S. Agency for International Development, gets close to the disaster zone, the crew chief lowers the back ramp, turning the rear of the Osprey into a huge window onto the bright blue Gulf of Leyte and the devastated Samar coastline below. The crew assesses the damage along the way to see what other places they should try to reach.

Borongan, the first stop, was not so badly impacted, and the drop is organized and efficient. Local men run to the Osprey, grab the boxes and race back to the loading area. In 15 minutes, the Osprey is airborne again.

Lifting off in an Osprey feels much like it does in any helicopter, but when it switches to airplane mode it’s much faster, zooming forward like a jet.

Guiuan, the next stop, has suffered far more damage and is much more hectic. It is so congested with aircraft that Keeney decides to bag it and fly to the USS George Washington, a short hop offshore. Within a half hour, the Osprey is refueled and back in Guiuan, with supplies to drop off from the carrier.

From there, the Osprey flies to Tacloban, which was almost completely flattened by the storm and has become a hub for aid efforts.

The area around the runway has become a tent city populated by nongovernmental organizations, military planners, emergency workers and local people desperate for supplies or a flight out.

Helicopters buzz the skies like mosquitoes. Most of the military aircraft here are American, but an Austrian C-130 taxis by as Keeney’s Osprey begins to load up.

Keeney takes off as soon as the plane gets more fuel and more supplies, including 10 bags of rice. En route to Guiuan, over the eastern Samar town of Salcedo, Keeney sees a distress signal spelled out on the ground.
He decides to make a quick drop.
As soon as the ramp goes down in LZ Salcedo, dozens of men, women and children rush the plane, ignoring instructions from the crew. They climb on board and fight each other to get the bags of rice.

This is what crew chief Michael Anthony Marin was told wouldn’t happen — that the chaotic early days of the aid effort were over. This is his first flight since getting to the Philippines, and his first real-world operation as a Marine.

“I was scared as hell,” the 27-year-old says later. “You could see the desperation in their eyes. I was worried about the safety of my crewmembers.”

Fearing the situation could get out of control, the crew cranks up the Osprey’s propellers, creating a deafening roar and a strong rotor wash on the ground. With no more rice to grab and the wind on the ground making it hard even to stand upright, the crowd disperses and the Osprey flies off.

The next stop is only about a mile away. This time, townspeople run to the plane, form a chain gang and quickly offload the USAID boxes — no panic, no fighting.

“I guess a situation like this just brings out the best and the worst in people,” Marin says. “You want to keep them going, but there is only so much you can do.”
It’s just after 7 p.m. Keeney is tired after the day’s run, and disappointed about the morning delay.

“We got out, conservatively, about 3,600 pounds of supplies today,” he says. “We had six Ospreys flying, so altogether that’s about 25,000 pounds. But we could have done a lot more if we had had that extra time.”

About two weeks after the typhoon, Marines say things are improving.

Maj. Brian Psolka, the operations officer for the Keeney’s Osprey squadron, VMF-265 of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Battalion, says that roads previously inaccessible to ground transport have opened up, so the Ospreys are under less pressure to make drops outside of the more established landing zones, like Guiuan and Tacloban. He said mob scenes like the one at LZ Salcedo are now rare because logistics and civil order have improved significantly.

Rebuilding will take a long time, but a degree of stability is beginning to return to the millions affected by the monster storm, which killed at least 4,011 people, left more than 1,600 missing and displaced hundreds of thousands more who went days without basic necessities.

“We hope they get back on their feet as soon as possible,” Psolka says, adding that the Ospreys will leave as soon as the Philippines government says they are no longer necessary. He also says he is convinced that the Ospreys have proven their mettle, delivering more supplies and moving more people to otherwise inaccessible places than would have been possible with regular helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.

Marin, the crew chief, is ready to stay as long as needed despite his “crazy” first day.
“I’ve been in the Marines for three years,” he said as he smoked a post-mission cigarette outside the hangar. “It’s always training, training, training. Sometimes you wonder why you do it. Then something like this happens and it puts everything into perspective. We prove ourselves by doing something like this.”

BRP Ramon Alcaraz to conduct disaster response mission in Eastern Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): BRP Ramon Alcaraz to conduct disaster response mission in Eastern Visayas

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday announced that the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's second Hamilton-class cutter in service, will be conducting her first ever humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) mission shortly after her commissioning Friday morning.

This will be held at Pier 15,South Harbor, Manila with Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as the guest-of-honor and speaker.

Surviving members of the Alcaraz family are also expected to attend the event, Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

Immediately after the ceremonies, BRP Ramon Alcaraz will proceed to Tacloban City to help in the ongoing relief efforts for victims of typhoon "Yolanda."

The vessel will be transporting relief items from different government agencies and non-government organizations.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz will also be ferrying Navy personnel who will be utilized for various relief operations which will include but not limited to clearing operations, medical missions, relief goods distribution, repair and rehabilitation and security augmentation.

AFP forms coordinating center to institutionalize foreign assistance

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 21): AFP forms coordinating center to institutionalize foreign assistance

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Since foreign aid had been pouring in after the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday has decided to institutionalize the military assistance given by 16 countries, particularly the United States, to the Philippines in the form of the Multinational Coordinating Center (MNCC).

AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista, in a press briefing at the Office of Civil Defense headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, officially announced the creation of the MNCC “to coordinate and synchronize military to military operations and facilitate the cooperation between the AFP and the US Joint Task Force in support of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).”

As foreign contingents of 61 air assets, 14 naval vessels and seven C-130s fly and dock to the country for relief missions, Bautista said the newly-established council was tasked to ensure that the movements of foreign aid were monitored “perfectly to the general situation of the disaster relief efforts of the national government.”

Representing the members of US Marine Corps, Lieutenant General John Wissler said the American forces will continue to provide their relief efforts and augmentation forces for as long as these are needed, noting that the US forces are “simply here to support.”

“This tragedy would have brought every nation to its knees but one thing that comes to me is the resilience of the people of the Philippines. From the government to the AFP to the private sector to the people who have been affected, your coming together has made this partnership (Philippines-US) easy,” he said.
Wissler, contrary to his fellow American and CNN reporter Anderson Cooper, lauded the “hardwork” of the government and the AFP for their “very rapid response.”
He said the AFP-led coordination center has been “central” to the effective application of all the resources that different nations have contributed.
But when asked if USAID dart leader Al Dwyer has a comment on Cooper’s report, he told the media he cannot comment on the broadcast journalist’s report since he was not able to see it.
Dwyer pointed that the criticisms against the government’s response may have been caused by its non-simultaneous efforts.
“In the early days (of the aftermath), the focus was to get as many people as many as possible. The perception of lack of organization was not building the infrastructure first and then responding (to the survivors’ needs) rather than responding simultaneously,” the USAID official said.

Abang Lingkod still waiting for Comelec proclamation

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 21): Abang Lingkod still waiting for Comelec proclamation

Abang Lingkod is waiting for a certificate of proclamation from the Commission on Elections, its first nominee Stephen Paduano, alias Carapali Lualhati, former national commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, said yesterday.

The Supreme Court, in an en banc decision, has ordered the Comelec to proclaim Abang Lingkod one of the winning partylist groups of the May 13 elections, with the number of seats it may be entitled to, based on the votes it garnered.

In its decision promulgated October 22 and posted on its website, the SC said the resolution issued by the Comelec on May 10 cancelling Abang Lingkod’s registration and disallowing its participation in the May 13 elections is reversed and set aside.

The Comelec has 15 days to answer the SC ruling, Paduano said.

He said that as first nominee, he expects to sit as Abang Lingkod’s representative in the House of Representatives.

PA chief oversees HADR operations in Tacloban City

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): PA chief oversees HADR operations in Tacloban City

Philippine Army (PA) chief Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes on Thursday visited Tacloban City to oversee the ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations for the victims of super typhoon "Yolanda" which wreck havoc in the Visayas last Nov. 8.

The visit aims to determine other operational and logistical requirements to expedite the conduct of relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts in the region.

About 155 military vehicles and 4,000 Army troopers have been mobilized to help in the ongoing DRO efforts in Tacloban and other typhoon-affected areas.

The PA is closely collaborating with other government agencies in the conduct of HADR operations to ensure that relief items and necessary services be delivered to the people.

The Army will likewise remain an effective partner of the government in extending help and assistance to the communities ravaged by the typhoon.

Gabriela party-list joins BALSA multisectoral caravan in delivering relief packs to 'Yolanda' victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): Gabriela party-list joins BALSA multisectoral caravan in delivering relief packs to 'Yolanda' victims

Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi De Jesus said Thursday they joined the BALSA multisectoral disaster aid caravan that left Manila on the same day on a rough road trip to deliver at least a dozen trucks loaded with relief packs, hope and solidarity to communities in Eastern Visayas waylaid by supertyphoon "Yolanda."

The lawmaker heads the Lingap Gabriela team, composed of 30 urban poor leaders and women health care workers who toiled the past few nights in bundling up 1,500 "Mother and Child Relief Packs" containing underwears, sanitary napkins and VAW educational fliers, aside from over 2,000 packs with standard relief items.

The fliers, written in Tagalog and Waray languages, provided instructions for women to defend themselves from gender violence in situations where they are vulnerable.

De Jesus chose to take the long road trip instead of traveling by air because, she said, she wanted to see up close how Yolanda affected women and children in other provinces and cities also hit to a lesser extent by Yolanda.

She explained that she wanted to zero in on the reported incidences of violence against women and children and the rising risks to human trafficking especially in the totally devastated areas of Samar and Leyte where poverty translates into lawlessness and criminality.

"The Gabriela center for women's services is not only wrecked. My staff went to Tacloban and surrounding towns last week and reported they lost their hospitals, clinics, and schools, which makes women so vulnerable and all the more without access to health services," De Jesus pointed out.

The caravan will meet up with many aid-loaded trucks belonging to Tulong Migrante, Sagip Kanayunan, and Tulong Kabataan in the Bicol region and cross the strait together into Samar.

The southern counterpart will sail from Northern Mindanao, and BALSA hopes to bring a total of 60 trucks of goods into the disaster-ravaged areas.

To help the public follow their progress, the organizers put up the Twitter hashtag #TabangEV where they post pictures and stories of updates, as well as action bulletins for donors and volunteers.

Decision to transfer some of the evacuees at Villamor Air Base done for safety reasons --AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): Decision to transfer some of the evacuees at Villamor Air Base done for safety reasons --AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday that the decision to transfer some of the Tacloban City evacuees staying at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City was done to decongest the facility so that it can accommodate more aircraft whose mission is to deliver relief goods and rescue personnel to provinces battered by typhoon "Yolanda" in the Visayas.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, said the move was also done to prevent possible accidents involving evacuees and rescue aircraft.

The evacuees will be transferred to the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City for the moment. They will be housed near the National Capital Region Command complex near Gate 6.

"Villamor Air Base is getting crowded and the recommendation is to transfer some of the evacuees to decongest the facility so that it can accommodate more aircraft and more air operations," Zagala stressed.

He said that the decision was reached by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Zagala added that they have more than enough personnel to secure the evacuees and the volunteers caring for them. He only requested that volunteers bring a valid ID card when entering Camp Aguinaldo.

US commitment to help PHL in 'Yolanda' tragedy remains

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): US commitment to help PHL in 'Yolanda' tragedy remains

US acting deputy chief of mission Tina Malone on Thursday said the American commitment to help the Philippines get over the humanitarian crisis brought by super typhoon "Yolanda" remains.

"With on its own, our friendship has been long term, our commitment remains long term and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of the Philippines," Malone stressed.

She added that the US role in the crisis was to help the Philippines address the logistical constraints (brought about by "Yolanda") especially when it comes to forwarding relief goods.

"Our Defense Department has played an invaluable role in providing short term airlift capability and the humanitarian communities capacity to deliver aid to the hardest hit areas in increasing (quantities)," Malone pointed out.

"Our Pacific Command has proven critical to helping overcome the obstacles to delivering aid that were initially encountered in their response effort. To date, the United States has provided more than US$ 47 million in humanitarian assistance to those affected by Typhoon 'Yolanda'," she concluded.

Ranking DND official thanks multi-national force helping PHL in 'Yolanda' relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): Ranking DND official thanks multi-national force helping PHL in 'Yolanda' relief efforts
Department of National Defense (DND) undersecretary for legal and legislative affairs and strategic concerns Pio Lorenzo Batino on Thursday expressed his thanks and appreciations to the multi-national force helping the Philippines in its ongoing relief operations for the victims of super typhoon "Yolanda".

"We would like to thank and acknowledge the help extended by foreign militaries during this unfortunate event in the history of the Philippines," he said.

Countries helping the country include Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Sweden, Vietnam, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States.

Batino added the combined military efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the foreign militaries have accelerated the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for "Yolanda" victims.

"In this light, may we reiterate our sincerest gratitude to all foreign military for the continued support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and for the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for the communities affected by the typhoon," he concluded.

NPA rebels execute man in front of family, co-villagers

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): NPA rebels execute man in front of family, co-villagers

New Peoples' Army (NPA) rebels forcibly took a man out of his residence and executed him in front of his family and fellow villagers Thursday morning in Sitio (sub-village) Lapus -Lapus, Barangay Guindahap, Monreal, Masbate.

A report reaching Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Bicol police director, identified the victim as Nelson Bartolay, also known as Mono, 38, who was shot dead by the rebels at about 5:00 a.m. Thursday.

Deona said Bartolay was then preparing breakfast for his family when ten communist dissidents barged into his residence, tied his hands and took him outside.

At about 15 meters away from the house, the rebels shot Bartolay on his head and body.

Co-villagers of Bartolay and his family stood watching helplessly while he was being executed.

The leader of the NPA group even told them, "Naglilinis lang kami ng barangay rapists (We are just cleansing the village of rapists).”

After the execution, the rebels put a note on Bartolay’s body that says that they are responsible for the execution of the victim for his alleged sin, then casually walked away.

SOLCOM deploys more vessels to ease sea transport, traffic flow of relief goods

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): SOLCOM deploys more vessels to ease sea transport, traffic flow of relief goods
The Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) through its Naval Forces deployed on Thursday transport vessels to ease traffic congestion on sea travels from Matnog port in Sorsogon to Allen port in Northern Samar.

SOLCOM Commander Lieutenant General Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo requested augmentation of the landing craft utility vessel BRP Tagbanua (AT 296) and M/V Ursula, M/V Natasha, M/V Reyna Emmaculada, LCT Mailing and LCT Viva to expedite transport of relief goods and passengers from various parts of Luzon to typhoon-devastated Leyte and Samar provinces in the Eastern Visayas region.

Montenegro Shipping Lines owns and operates the M/Vs Ursula, Natasha and Emmaculada vessels while LCTs Mailing and Viva were coordinated through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

The Philippine Navy Auxiliary Reserve Unit (PNARU) is facilitating for another vessel which is to arrive at the area on Monday to augment sea transport operations and ferry stranded passengers.

The traffic volume in Matnog Pier has already stretched to a long queue of about 1.5 kilometers.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo said these initiatives help decongest the number of stranded military troops, rescuers, relief operations and humanitarian mission caravan bound for Leyte and Samar.

“As of Thursday the ships had so far transported from Matnog crossing to Allen, Samar a total of 206 tons consisting of 14 trucks, 11 vans, a fuel tanker, a pick-up, 18 SUVs, a bus, 36 military personnel and 187 civilian passengers,” Ordoyo said.

In addition, the Command also deployed at least 40 military personnel in Matnog and Bulan Port to provide security assistance to those transporting relief goods and any other assistance to Samar and Leyte.

“Pinasasalamatan ko po ang ating kasundaluhan at iba’t-ibang sector ng ating lipunan dito sa SOLCOM sa kanilang dedikasyon at mabilis na pagkilos para lalong mapabilis ang ginagawa nating Humanitarian Assistance and Relief Operation,” the SOLCOM commanding general expressed.

(We thank our soldiers and various sectors at the SOLCOM for their dedication and speedy actions on the humanitarian assistance and relief operations.)

Matnog and Bulan Ports serve as the nearest entry points for transporting needed assistance into the devastated Visayan regions.

Multi-sectors partner with SOLCOM for relief operations in Leyte, Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): Multi-sectors partner with SOLCOM for relief operations in Leyte, Samar
Various government agencies, private business entities, non-government organizations (NGOs) and local government units (LGUs) here team up with the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) for the relief operations and humanitarian missions to Tacloban City, Leyte and Samar.

In his update Thursday, SOLCOM Commander Lieutenant General Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo said his troops and the multi-sectors and LGUs spent their time and efforts delivering goods, clothes, mats and water to succor victims reeling from hunger, thirst and stress in the hardest hit areas.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo said they have already distributed some 13,800 packs of relief goods and dispatched the 10-wheeler truck loaded with 215 sacks of assorted goods, 145 sacks of new and slightly-used clothes and 230 boxes of bottled water to Samar.

Ordoyo also said the command’s Inter-Agency Humanitarian Relief Operations (IAHRO) dubbed “Task Force Kaagapay” was set up to provide focused and holistic approach to relief operations.

He said the SOLCOM task force successfully engaged the various stakeholders in Southern Tagalog and Bicol Regions to send in their relief assistance to the typhoon victims and several groups were tapped to assist in the relief operations for the typhoon victims.

Just a day after the task force launching, several donations poured in at different “Bayanihan” Centers and volunteers came in droves and offered their services sorting and packing relief goods.

“Patunay lamang ito na marami pa rin sa ating mga Pilipino and handang tumugon sa pangangailangan ng ating kapwa. Nakakatuwa na sa panahong ito ay nakikita natin ang tunay na diwa ng bayanihan. Kung patuloy tayong magtutulungan, hindi magtatagal ay malalampasan din natin ang krisis na ito,” Ordoyo remarked.

(This shows scores of Filipinos unite to respond to the needs of their suffering countrymen. It is heart-warming to note the “bayanihan” spirit is alive during these trying times. Together, we can wither the crisis if we help each other.)

Ordoyo also reported that already 500 troops were immediately deployed to the devastated areas and Team Quezon together with 85th Infantry Battalion also left Wednesday for Samar.

The SOLCOM commanding general expressed appreciation to various stakeholders for their cooperation and support to the efforts of the Command and likewise lauded his troops who have been working round-the-clock to aid typhoon victims.

Billions for jets but no money for sat phones?

From Rappler (Nov 21): Billions for jets but no money for sat phones?

"Is it true that even the NDRRMC has no sattelite phone?" a shocked Senator Nancy Binay asked defense officials on Wednesday, November 20, during the interpellation period for the 2014 proposed budget of the Department of National Defense.

The lack of communication equipment was the first telltale sign of the government's ill-preparedness for monster typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas III were in Leyte a day before the typhoon swept the Visayas. As soon as Yolanda made landfall on November 8, they went off the grid. (READ: Communications down, Mar can't be reached)

The two secretaries sent to supervise government response were incommunicado for hours until troops from Catbalogan City in neighboring Samar province crossed San Juanico Bridge and walked their way to bring them a satellite phone. It was early evening when they were able to report to Manila what happened there.

"Super Typhoon Yolanda and the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Central Visayas early this month exposed the country's shortness in readiness and capability to mount effective disaster response and relief operations," Binay said.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) doesn't have satellite phones. It has no tents. It has no generator sets at its disposal. NDRRMC depends on the assets of its member agencies – the DND, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Enery, among others.

Learning the lesson, NDRRMC will purchase 17 satellite phones next year.

Eyeing the billions for fighter jets

But it's not enough, said Binay. The government should "level up" the country's disaster response capability.

"Aside from training on readiness, we need additional equipment as well as prepositioned supplies so that we can easily and immediately respond to natural and man-made disasters," she said.

Binay wants the money for fighter jets and attack helicopters diverted to buy assets that can be used in disaster response. It's the position earlier made by former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief and now Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon. (READ: Bohol shows need for choppers, not fighter jets)

"Disasters are a plenty in the country and we're not boosting our capability to respond quickly and efficiently. No amount of defense posturing will change how other countries view us," Binay said.

The Philippines is buying 12 South Korean FA-50 fighter jets worth P18.9 billion. The jets are meant to establish minimum credible defense amid growing tension between Manila and Beijing over the West Philippine Sea. But Binay would rather buy "at least 7 brand new C-130 cargo planes, 51 Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin search and rescue (SAR) helicopters, and one landing ship or a combination of these."

The Armed Forces only has 3 operational C130s. The acquisition of fighter jets is considered a done deal, however. President Benigno Aquino III was in South Korea in October to sign a defense MOU.

Binay also want to divert the P3.4 billion budget for the purchase of 8 attack helicopters to the acquisition of 6 Sea King utility helicopters. The contract has already been awarded to winning bidder Italian aircraft manufacturer AgustaWestland, however. (READ: Air Force gets 8 new attack helicopters)

Binay said the Philippines also needs a hospital ship that can be sent to areas hit by disaster. "The country's topography and scattered islands really make disaster response a tough one as well as time consuming, that is why we need more workhorses in terms of material and equipment," she said.

PH accepts Chinese hospital ship offer

From Rappler (Nov 21): PH accepts Chinese hospital ship offer

GOODWILL. A tug pushes out the departing hospital ship Peace Ark bound for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines from a Naval base in Zhoushan in China's eastern Zhejiang province on November 21. AFP Photo

GOODWILL. A tug pushes out the departing hospital ship Peace Ark bound for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines from a Naval base in Zhoushan in China's eastern Zhejiang province on November 21. AFP Photo

The Philippines has accepted China's offer to send its hospital ship called The Peace Ark to assist in relief and medical operations in areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
The Peace Ark is a 10,000 ton hospital ship with 2,406 units of advanced medical systems including a CT scan room, digital X-ray room, blood bank, oxygen generation station, and its own pharmacy.
It has 300 ward beds, 20 of which are from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
The offer of the ship came with an increased aid packaged for the Philippines after the Chinese government received flak from the international community and the media for its initial donation of US$100,000 to typhoon victims which was deemed 'small change' and 'inadequate'.
Speculation among international media also insinuated that the 'measly donation' was due to the tension between the two countries over their territorial disputes in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
In a statement issued on Wednesday, November 20, the Chinese Embassy in Manila announced an overwhelming amount of additional aid including medical assistance, tents, and even mobile houses and cash donations from Chinese corporations.
The statement added that China also suffered from the super typhoon's wrath which affected 4 million of their people and caused them economic losses.
"The Chinese people are empathic with the hardships the Filipino people are facing," the statement said. It added that "Relevant Chinese authorities and the Chinese Embassy are also following the relief operations closely and will render further assistance if needed".
Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez says the schedule and other details related to the Peace Ark's deployment are now being coordinated with the concerned agencies.
Meanwhile, another hospital ship can be tapped by the Philippine government if needed. Hernandez says there is an "agreement in principle" between the Philippines and the United States that the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship will be deployed "at a time when it is needed most based on the assessment of the Philippines' needs."
Hernandez says the Philippines is grateful for the US' continued assistance and the overwhelming international aid being pledged and sent to the victims of typhoon Yolanda which killed more than 4 thousand people and left damages amounting to billions in the Visayas.

New US envoy to Philippines sworn in

From Rappler (Nov 22): New US envoy to Philippines sworn in

COORDINATING AID. Philippine soldiers arrive for security at Guiuan Airport on November 21, 2013. Mark Ralston/AFP PHOTO

COORDINATING AID. Philippine soldiers arrive for security at Guiuan Airport on November 21, 2013. Mark Ralston/AFP PHOTO

US Ambassador to the Philippines Phil Goldberg hastily took his new post Thursday so he could head to Manila and help coordinate America's aid to the typhoon-shattered nation.

"As we struggle to respond to this human disaster, we're proud that we're sending to the Philippines the right person for the job," US Secretary of State John Kerry said as he swore in Goldberg.

So far, the US has delivered about 1,780 tons of food, with about 13,000 US forces helping to deliver the goods to the stricken areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on November 8.

"We are going to continue to work to try to reach these devastated areas," Kerry said, adding that Goldberg had accelerated his departure to leave for Manila on Monday.

The top US diplomat also thanked the Senate for rushing through Goldberg's confirmation, "because we want to have our ambassador on the ground in the Philippines to deal with the challenges of emergency assistance."

The death toll stands at 4,011 with 1,602 people missing, according to a November 20 count. The United Nations estimates up to 4 million people have been displaced, of whom only 350,000 have found shelter in evacuation centers.

Goldberg said he was taking up his new diplomatic posting with "mixed emotions."
While he was honored to be the next US ambassador, "it's hard to think of the suffering of so many people in the Philippines in recent weeks and all they've endured without a touch of sadness and without being moved," Goldberg said.

But he paid tribute to the Filipino spirit, saying the people are "warm, but they're also tough and resilient. There should be no doubt that they will bounce back. I have no doubt."

Obama to renew Asia pivot in 2014

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 21): Obama to renew Asia pivot in 2014

President Barack Obama will visit Asia in April to push closer ties, an aide yesterday said, after his earlier cancellation of a trip raised questions about US staying power.

Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, acknowledged disappointment after the president called off a trip in October to negotiate with Republican lawmakers who shut down the US government in a failed bid to stop his health care reforms.

Rice said Obama would make up with his trip next year, saying: “Our friends in Asia deserve and will continue to get our highest-level attention.”

“No matter how many hot spots emerge elsewhere, we will continue to deepen our enduring commitment to this critical region,” she added.

Rice said US assistance to the typhoon-hit Philippines, which includes the deployment of more than 1,000 Marines, represented a broader pledge to all of Asia.

“America’s commitment won’t expire a few months or a few years from now. The United States of America will be there — reliable, constant, strong and steady — for the long haul,” she stressed.

Rice did not specify Obama’s itinerary.

Kyodo News reported that Obama’s stops would include Japan, his first visit there since conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power.

Obama had planned stops last month in the Philippines, Malaysia and, for international summits, Indonesia and Brunei.

Even US allies quietly voiced concern over Obama’s no-show, which offered an outsized role to Chinese President Xi Jinping at the meetings.

Obama pledged in his first term to “pivot” US foreign policy toward Asia, where the regional order is being transformed by the rapid growth of China’s economy and military.

But in his second term, Obama has focused on Syria’s civil war and easing hostility with Iran. The United States has also put a priority on taming its debt after two wars and a recession.

In the renewed regional push, Vice President Joe Biden will tour China, Japan and South Korea next month.

Biden met last Wednesday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and discussed China’s latest reforms, the White House said.

Rice said that Secretary of State John Kerry, who has invested most of his time in the Middle East since taking office, would return to Asia in December as well.

She added the US would stay true to its pledge to shift most of its navy toward Asia by 2020 and would pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that Obama hopes will shape the coming order in Asia.

The national security adviser also voiced alarm over China’s disputes with its neighbors, including US allies Japan and the Philippines, calling the tensions a “growing threat to regional peace and security and to US interests.”

CPP/NDF: NDFP-EV denounces Aquino government’s inutility in aiding calamity victims, calls for speedy humanitarian assistance

Posted to the CPP Website (Nov 21): NDFP-EV denounces Aquino government’s inutility in aiding calamity victims, calls for speedy humanitarian assistance

Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas commiserates with the millions of people who suffered losses of lives and properties in the region and elsewhere in the country due to Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last November 8. We condemn the gross incompetence and unreadiness of the Aquino government even though weather forecasts had already warned days in advance of the category 4 superstorm and the expected massive flooding from the storm surge. The Aquino government only made token announcements and evacuations, did not stock food and water, and did not prepare emergency services. Rather than passing the buck to the local government, it should have been the responsibility of the national governmment to ensure the safety and well-being of the people because of the scale and scope of the calamity.

It is simply untrue that the New People’s Army has been harassing relief operations to the people and that the NPA is sowing disorder after the storm. In reality, the NPA along with other revolutionary forces and the People’s Democratic Government has been striving to aid the stricken people and working to ensure the speedy delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Communist Party of the Philippines also showed concern for the people by declaring a unilateral ceasefire from Nov. 14-24 in the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda. It is in fact the Aquino regime that is antagonizing the people by garrisoning Tacloban City, the hardest hit area, with police and military troops who impose a virtual martial law. It is the Aquino regime that is causing disorder and anarchy because of its slothful and disorganized relief operations.

Thousands are believed to have been killed especially in Tacloban and Ormoc cities in Leyte, as well as Basey and Guian towns on Samar island, among other areas. After the storm, the people had to fend for themselves as the Aquino government’s relief efforts were virtually nonexistent. Indeed, more than a week after the storm, food and water have yet to reach Guiuan and other areas, and many of the dead have yet to be buried.

The presence of Aquino and other top governmment officials in the region after the storm were nothing more than publicity gimmicks. They were posing for the media, while outside, the people whose homes had been destroyed were living on the streets and dying of thirst and starvation. In the crucial days after the storm, the people had to commandeer food, water, medicine and other supplies because there was absolutely nothing coming from the government. Displaying utter heartlessness and contempt to the people despite their plight, instead of emergency supplies Aquino sent in armored cars and armed troops as a “show of force” to “stop the looting.” What little food and water arrived the people had to walk several kilometers to go to, and had to form long lines under the rain and under the heat of the sun. The Aquino rehimen is surely adept in stealing from the people through the pork barrel scam and patronage system, but lazy and despicable when the people desperately need help.

The Philippine and US governments make much of the psywar gimmick of some US troops participating in relief and rehabilitation, and there is talk of additional foreign troops. Do they have other, ulterior motives in doing so? In fact, there are more than 10,000 military and police troops in Eastern Visayas, but the Aquino regime is loath to shift them away from “counterinsurgency” operations and make them actually useful to the people by clearing roads, building shelters, repairing infrastructure, and restoring agricultural production. But the main concern of the military troops is to watch the people in the name of “peace and order” and to provide security for the publicity gimmicks of politicians, who take advantage of the people’s miseries to bolster their political ambitions. We condemn the Aquino government for putting more importance into its war with the NDFP, rather than in alleviating the people’s sufferings.

The damage to the region and elsewhere from Typhoon Yolanda may take years of social recovery. The natural calamity underscored the man-made calamity that is the Aquino regime. Having suffered for so long under the rotten semifeudal and semicolonial ruling system, the people surely resent the added ordeal the Aquino government made them undergo aside from the natural calamity and the long years of uncertainty ahead.

In the face of the plight of the many victims of calamity, the NDFP-EV is appealing to the people’s organizations in the Philippines and abroad to help the people of Eastern Visayas. The NDFP-EV is also calling on the New People’s Army, the revolutionary mass organizations and the People’s Democratic Government, to persevere in the relief operations they are already undertaking and to participate in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. There can be a unity of efforts to ensure that aid and supplies contributed by private individuals and groups, as well as by foreign aid agencies, non-government organizations and government organizations can directly and speedily reach the intended recipients.

The NDFP-EV also calls on the people to rise up and protest the scarcity of emergency supplies and the arrogant and callous method of distribution. The calamity victims and the people must also join hands and bring the Aquino regime to account for its incompetence and ill-preparedness, and demand as a matter of social justice the appropriate rehabilitation and recovery after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda.

CPP/NDF: NDF calls for united front of disaster victims

Posted to the CPP Website (Nov 21): NDF calls for united front of disaster victims

Rubi Del Mundo
NDFP Southern Mindanao Chapter
The survivors of Typhoon Pablo must unite with the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in the face of the Aquino government’s blatant ineptitude, corruption, state neglect and the worsening crisis of the semi-feudal economy. The Filipino people cannot simply rely on the spin of Aquino and Aquino’s men, as well as from debt-laden imperialist donors. While reeling from their loss, Yolanda victims have only to look at the experiences of disaster survivors in Southern Mindanao to learn that only through militant struggle and revolutionary perseverance can they survive the nightmare of Yolanda.

Nearly one year after Typhoon Pablo walloped the vast forests and farms of millions of indigenous peoples, peasants, banana workers and other agricultural workers, Typhoon Pablo survivors continue to wallow in utter poverty and oppression. Pablo victims in many of the revolutionary base areas have only received scant relief goods from the Aquino government, under conditions of unrehabilitated farms,roads and infrastructure. The relief goods were sparsely distributed over delayed periods of time. Worse, some of the relief goods and rehabilitation materials like galvanized steel were maximized and utilized for political patronage in the recent barangay elections.

The scanty relief goods and an even pitiful rehabilitation program for Typhoon Pablo worsen the already dismal situation of peasants. Because of the inherent problem of nonexistent government subsidy for agricultural production and because of usury, the lives of Typhoon Pablo survivors remain as miserable as ever.

Some have received vegetable seedlings but because of the lack of government subsidy and support that could have increased farmgate prices, income from these farms are virtually negligible. They could not earn much out of the dirt cheap prices of their produce. For instance, how can a peasant’s family earn with a P1 per kilo of squash?

Others who have made use of paltry incomes derived from cash-for-work schemes and small capital intended to rehabilitate their damaged farms are confronted with the ancient problem of usury. Loan sharks and small commercial traders and landlords exploit the niggardly situation of poor peasants and tenants who are made to survive Pablo with increased land rents and high interest financing schemes.The usurious schemes thrive under the very noses of local reactionary functionaries and bureaucrats who, ironically, boast of and falsely peddle that they are helping Pablo victims.

The reactionary government and its local functionaries ignore the deteriorating conditions of the peasantry while abetting this wanton crisis of feudalism in the Typhoon Pablo-hit countrysides. Customs officials are reported to exact bribes so that imported relief goods sourced out from well-meaning independent donors can be released to Typhoon Pablo victims.

Oplan Bayanihan operations and its attendant human rights abuses also aggravated the sad state of relief and rehabilitation in Typhoon Pablo areas. At the onset of Typhoon Yolanda, the AFP and the Aquino regime singled out looting as the very reason for their deployment of military troops and the military-led disaster agency to supposedly restore normalcy amid chaos. Hungry Typhoon Pablo survivors were also looked upon as thieves over their own lands when they took what they can when Pablo disaster struck and when, two months later, they confiscated undistributed relief goods at the DSWD.

Indeed, this is a government that would rather ignore disaster preparation, comprehensive relief and rehabilitation,and genuine land reform. This is a government that would rather resort to shooting the dispossessed and surviving people, and consider itself blameless.

Hence, the National Democratic Front Southern Mindanao calls for a united front of Filipino disaster survivors to remedy their abject suffering. Then and now, revolutionary forces and the masses persevere in rebuilding their lives and their lands.

Survivors in Eastern Visayas must unite with Southern Mindanao survivors, along with other disaster victims nationwide to struggle against the US-Aquino regime’s criminal negligence and fight for freedom from oppression and exploitation.