Lina Magallanes, ABM’s Asia Program Coordinator, is currently in the Philippines and was able to meet with partner staff and learn about their relief efforts following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Here is her update of the situation.
Together with staff from the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) National Development Office, I attended a meeting at the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), which is the coordinating centre of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance’s response to the emergency in the Philippines. We met with the NCCP General Secretary, Rev Rex Reyes Jr and Ms Minnie Anne Mata-Calub, NCCP’s relief and rehabilitation program coordinator. Ms Minnie gave us an update of the situation and briefly discussed the needs assessment report just completed by a team deployed to Western Visayas. In addition to Leyte and Samar, parts of Iloilo province were also very badly affected. Some small islands have reportedly not been reached yet because all of the small boats and fishing vessels have all been destroyed by the typhoon. Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which struck the eastern part of the Philippines on November 8 2013, killed more than 4000 people and up to 4.4 million displaced.
NCCP’s distribution of emergency relief goods consisting mainly of 15kg rice and other basic food items have started with 10 wheeler trucks plying the Bicol route and then on to Catbalogan, Samar. According to Minnie, the main challenges affecting the distribution of relief goods are logistics and transportation. Due to the extent of the devastation, goods have to come from Luzon (Manila) and other provinces; relief items need to be packed prior to transporting these so that distribution can be done immediately after the goods are delivered to the evacuation centres. Trucks have to queue for as long as 10 to 20 kms before they are able to cross between Samar and Leyte (to reach Tacloban).
When I asked Rev Rex Reyes, for his message, this is what he said: ‘At times like this, it is good to affirm basic biblical and early Christian praxis: As many as were able to give gave so that there was not a needy person among them.’ Rev Reyes said he is grateful and thankful for the immediate response and outpouring of concern and support, both from the local Philippine churches, and worldwide.
The mobilisation of volunteers to do packing of emergency relief goods is a massive undertaking in itself. The ECP, as part of its own emergency relief activities, are putting together relief packs in the national cathedral compound where there is sufficient space for the packing activities and where goods will be loaded into trucks. The ECP is working with the NCCP to coordinate logistics and identification of communities and beneficiaries in the worst affected areas. Two trucks of 1,000 relief packs from the ECP cathedral will be loaded this Sunday. Two national office staff will be going to Catbalogan on Monday to better understand the logistical side of the operation, as well as to get more information on much needed items that can be appropriately sent and distributed to the typhoon survivors.