Philippines Battles to Send Typhoon Aid as Rain Impedes Rescue

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November 12, 2013

U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington (CVN-73) anchored after its arrival at Manila Bay in this October 24, 2012 file photo. The United States is sending the George Washington Strike Group to support relief efforts in the Philippines. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/Files

By Joel Guinto, Cecilia Yap and Clarissa Batino

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — Rescuers in the Philippines battled to deliver emergency aid to areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which may have killed more than 10,000 people, as blocked roads and constant rainfall hampered relief efforts.

The desperation among survivors in Tacloban city, the capital of Leyte province that bore the brunt of the typhoon’s gale force winds, led Philippine President Benigno Aquino to declare a state of emergency and plead with locals to be patient. While airports reopened, food and other aid was held up by roads that were washed away or covered in debris.

A follow-on storm, Zoraida, was downgraded to a low- pressure area, the Philippine weather bureau said on its website, as areas in central and southern Philippines continued to be lashed by moderate to heavy rain.

The devastation may harm the economy, the government said. The storm affected as many as 9.7 million people, according to authorities, and many countries have pledged assistance, with the U.S. deploying an aircraft carrier from Hong Kong. Soldiers were dispatched to prevent looting as survivors scoured for food.

“The national government through the leadership of our president is doing its best to restore the delivery of basic services in affected areas as soon as possible,” Office of Civil Defense Administrator Eduardo del Rosario told reporters in Manila today. “Some power lines have been restored and national highways” are now open, he said.

‘Not Learned’

In Tacloban, television images showed bodies on the streets and floating in the sea, homes reduced to rubble, roads blocked by felled trees and crops flattened. At least 1,774 people are confirmed dead, with 2,500 injured and 82 missing, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. In December 2012 Typhoon Bopha killed 1,067 while Thelma, the deadliest storm in Philippine history, killed 5,080 in November 1991.

The chaos on the ground shows “this government has not learned from previous experiences,” Benito Lim, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said by phone. “The government should mobilize the police and military or train people to clear the roads so food and water can reach the victims,” Lim said.

Intermittent rain is making relief efforts difficult, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told ABS-CBN News Channel. An estimated 660,000 people have been displaced, John Ging, an official with the United Nations humanitarian affairs office, told reporters in New York, adding the death toll may exceed initial estimates of 10,000 people.

‘Catastrophic’ Losses

Losses will be $12 billion to $15 billion, or about 5 percent of economic output, according to an estimate by Charles Watson, director of research and development at Kinetic Analysis Corp., a disaster-modeling firm. “For the Philippine islands, it is catastrophic,” Watson said in an e-mail.

The government has 18.7 billion pesos ($429 million) to fund reconstruction, Aquino said yesterday. “In the coming days, be assured — help will reach you faster and faster,” he said in a televised address. There is no plan to sell bonds to fund rebuilding, Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said in a mobile- phone message today, and the Treasury has “enough liquidity” for rebuilding.

The peso weakened 0.45 percent to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since the middle of September, and the benchmark equity index gained 0.9 percent by the close, after dropping 1.4 percent yesterday.

Aid Effort

The UN launched an appeal for $301 million in aid, while the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement called for 87 million Swiss francs ($95 million). “It will be a long road to recovery,” Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said in a statement.

Field hospitals with medical teams from Belgium, Japan, Israel and Norway are on the ground, the World Health Organization said in a statement, with teams from Australia and Germany expected tomorrow. “The need for safe water and sanitation facilities is critical,” the WHO said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and other Navy ships to head to the Philippines, the Pentagon said in a statement. The carrier, which carries 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, is in Hong Kong for a port visit, with crew being recalled from shore leave and the ship likely to be on station within two to three days, the Pentagon said in the statement.

“The weather is pretty bad out there and we’re limited by seas and wind and things of that nature and how fast we can go, but we’re going to go as fast as we can,” Captain Thomas Disy from the USS Antietam, a cruiser that is part of the George Washington group, told reporters today in Hong Kong.

Controlling Prices

Britain deployed a Royal Navy warship and military transport aircraft, Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement yesterday. Taiwan dispatched a military plane to airlift supplies, the Central News Agency reported. Japan said it would send about 40 troops in an initial deployment to help disburse aid.

China is willing to consider giving more support, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a briefing today, after the government and the Chinese Red Cross donated $200,000.

The state of emergency “is important so we can ensure control over the prices of the basic commodities and services,” Aquino said. The police pledged to strictly enforce a price freeze on basic commodities such as rice.

Airports Reopen

Four of five airports affected by Haiyan reopened for commercial operations, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director General William Hotchkiss told Bloomberg Television. Tacloban airport, the most damaged of all, is open for relief efforts and some commercial operations, he said.

More than half of the mobile cell sites of Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. are operating, according to del Rosario from the OCD Administrator.

Gross domestic product in areas hit by the typhoon may decline as much as 10 percent next year, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told Bloomberg television. The regions affected account for 12.5 percent of national output, he said.

Still, the country has the fiscal ability to deal with the relief and rebuilding costs, he separately told an investment summit in Manila, given a lower-than-projected budget deficit that’s expected to be within 2 percent of GDP this year.

The government must better protect communities at risk, Senator Loren Legarda, chairman of the upper house committee on climate change, said today in a statement.

“We need to rebuild communities with the confidence that we are not rebuilding the risks again,” Legarda said.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

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