Philippines Declares State of Calamity

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November 11, 2013

Cargo ships being washed ashore are seen after super typhoon Haiyan hit Anibong town, Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

By Cecilia Yap, Joel Guinto and Clarissa Batino

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a state of calamity to speed aid to communities ravaged by super Typhoon Haiyan, which may have killed more than 10,000 people, as a lesser storm approached the nation.

The government has 18.7 billion pesos ($429 million) to fund reconstruction after Haiyan unleashed storm surges and gale-force winds that caused vast destruction, Aquino said yesterday in a televised address. Today, a fresh storm threatening the southern Philippines may pass through some areas battered by Haiyan.

SEE ALSO: Sailors’ Society Typhoon Haiyan Relief Appeal

The devastation may harm the economy, the government said, sending the peso and stocks weaker yesterday. The storm affected almost 9.7 million people, according to authorities, and 22 countries have pledged assistance. Soldiers were dispatched to prevent looting as survivors scoured for food.

“In the coming days, be assured: help will reach you faster and faster,” Aquino said. “The delivery of food, water and medicines to the most heavily affected areas is at the head of our priorities.”

Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines on Nov. 8, knocking down buildings and trees, flattening crops and destroying an airport. In Tacloban city, the capital of Leyte province, television images from the city showed bodies on the streets and floating in the sea, homes reduced to rubble, structures with their roofs ripped off and roads blocked by felled trees.

International Efforts

An estimated 660,000 people have been displaced by the typhoon, John Ging, an official with the United Nations humanitarian affairs office, told reporters in New York, as the world organization moved to help in rescue and relief efforts.

The peso yesterday weakened 0.9 percent to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since the middle of September, and the nation’s benchmark equity index dropped 1.4 percent by the close, its biggest fall since Sept. 30.

Haiyan’s total economic impact may reach $14 billion, about $2 billion of which will be insured, according to a report by Jonathan Adams, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Industries, citing Kinetic Analysis Corp.

“The 18.7 billion pesos the president mentioned is probably just an initial amount because it’s not going to be enough,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc., the nation’s largest lender. “Given still low interest rates and huge amounts of liquidity in the domestic market, the government may consider selling bonds to fund the rebuilding.”

UN Relief

Haiyan weakened into a tropical depression as it reached Vietnam Nov. 10, with no reports of casualties. The typhoon killed at least seven people in the southern China provinces of Hainan and Guangxi, according to the Xinhua news service.

The UN described efforts to step up relief operations. Ging, who said the death toll may exceed previous estimates of 10,000, described “huge” devastation of airports and roads hindering the delivery of aid.

“The scale of this devastation is that it’s the biggest typhoon recorded in almost a century,” said Ging. Large airlifts will be needed to deliver supplies until roads “strewn with dead bodies” are cleared, he said.

Valerie Amos, the UN’s chief coordinator of humanitarian affairs, has allocated a preliminary $25 million to facilitate aid organizations and will join an appeal in Manila with the Philippine government for additional funds to finance “massive” rescue projects, Ging said.

Blankets, Soap

The UN Refugee Agency planned an emergency airlift for Nov. 13 to deliver blankets, mosquito nets, soap and underwear as well as an emergency team to provide protection against the looting, mobbing of relief trucks and jail breaks reported in some areas.

The British Embassy in Manila announced an aid package of as much as $9.5 million, and President Barack Obama said in a statement that the U.S. stands “ready to further assist the government’s relief and recovery efforts.”

The Defense Department has dispatched about 230 U.S. troops to provide initial assessments of the support required, according to statements from the Marine Corps.

About 180 Marines and sailors arrived in the Philippines after departing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan in the last two days, according to a Marine statement. The Air Force has sent about 50 personnel.

U.S. Aircraft

Two KC-130J Hercules aircraft departed Okinawa yesterday and three more left today, according to the statement. The Marines also sent four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The Osprey, made by Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit and Boeing Co., flies like an airplane and takes off and lands like a helicopter.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the American embassy in Manila has provided “substantial financial assistance for health, water and sanitation” and the U.S. is organizing emergency shipments of food and other supplies.

The Philippine weather bureau said the new tropical storm it named Zoraida was forecast to make landfall today in Agusan del Sur province with top winds of 55 kilometers (34 miles) per hour, more than four times slower than Haiyan’s 235 kilometers per hour, according to the weather bureau. The lowest storm warning was raised in 21 areas, where 30-60 kilometer per hour winds are expected, it said.

Zoraida was forecast to reach Tagbilaran city in Bohol, a province hit by a magnitude-7.2 earthquake on Oct. 15, by the morning of Nov. 13.

State of Calamity

The state of calamity will “accelerate the efforts of the government to render aid and to rehabilitate the provinces ravaged by Yolanda,” Aquino said, referring to Haiyan’s local name. “This is important so we can ensure control over the prices of the basic commodities and services.”

The government also approved an extra 1.1 billion pesos in “quick response fund” of the departments of social welfare and public works, the president said.

“People are looting because they are hungry,” the country’s police chief Alan Purisima told reporters yesterday in Manila. “The supplies we placed on standby were also washed away by the storm. Most of our police in storm-hit areas are either missing or affected.”

Food Distribution

Tacloban airport, where only the runway survived the storm, opened again for limited commercial operations, with the city also accessible by land and sea from Luzon, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said at a briefing yesterday in Manila. Reconstruction costs will be significant, he said.

Gross domestic product in areas hit by the typhoon may decline as much as 8 percent next year, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a mobile-phone message, citing preliminary estimates. The regions affected account for about 12.5 percent of the nation’s output, he said.

From 50,000 tons to 120,000 tons of sugar may have been lost due to crop damage in the area, which accounts for more than half of the nation’s sugar plantations, Sugar Regulatory Administration head Regina Martin told reporters in Manila. The agriculture department said 131,611 tons of rice were lost, accounting for 1.8 percent of the last quarter’s production target.

For those wishing to make a contribution to relief efforts, the Philippines Embassy in Washington posted a list of donation contacts on its website, including the Philippine Red Cross at The State Department said mobile-phone subscribers in the U.S. can text AID to 80108 to make a $10 donation through the nonprofit mGive Foundation.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.
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