Does the Philippines have adequate resources to aid Washi victims?

Sympathies from foreign governments poured in as tropical storm Washi ravaged homes and took hundreds of lives in the Philippines, but foreign and humanitarian assistance — needed the most in such situations — has been slow to arrive.

Washi hit the islands of Palawan, the Visayas and northern Mindanao morning of Saturday (Dec. 17), and donor governments offered assistance Monday (Dec. 19).

Australia has promised 55 million Philippine pesos ($1.2 million) in aid to flood victims, reports. Singapore has pledged 50,000 Singapore dollars ($38,462), which The Philippine Star says will be channeled through the Singapore Red Cross. The Chinese Embassy in Manila has pledged 440,000 Philippine pesos. Japan, meanwhile, donated water tanks, generators and other relief items worth 14 million Philippine pesos to victims of the disaster.

The response came two days after the tropical storm — said to be the deadliest in 2011 — struck. Could this be because the Philippine government has not made a formal appeal to the international community for foreign assistance?

The United States and Canada said they are ready to assist “should humanitarian assistance and recovery efforts be needed.” But the Philippine government, in a press release Monday by the Department of Budget and Management, said the “government is generously equipped to mobilize and support disaster relief efforts in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and other Sendong-affected areas.”

The government has 1.297 billion Philippine pesos in ready-to-use calamity response funds, the press release says. In addition, other government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of National Defense, and the Department of Education have separate quick-response funds that can be used for relief efforts.

“We also have the Local Government Support Fund shares of all affected local government units, for whom President Benigno S. Aquino III will provide Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) and Notices of Allocation (NCAs) tomorrow [Dec. 20],” DBM Secretary Florencio Abad said.

The latest report from National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Director Benito Ramos indicates the death toll from the disaster has reached 957. This, measured against data from insurance broker AON Benfield, is the highest recorded, outnumbering the 657 and 902 who died this year during Thailand’s massive flooding and a storm in Brazil.

The displaced are also increasing in numbers. The NDRRMCC reports almost 285,000 people need assistance inside and outside 62 evacuation centers in the country. These people are not only missing out on basic necessities such as food, water and shelter, but are also under the threat of incurring various diseases such as cholera, typhoid, respiratory infections and other communicable diseases.

If, truly, the government has enough funds to mitigate the scale of the disaster, then it should move quickly before the worse comes to worst.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.