Kerry Announces More U.S. Aid to Storm-damaged Philippines
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2013 Secretary of State John F. Kerry visited Tacloban in the Philippines yesterday and announced that the United States will provide an additional $24.6 million in humanitarian aid to help on-going recovery efforts from last month’s devastating typhoon, adding to the $62 million already given.
A U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, center, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, prepares to drop supplies over the airport in Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 14, 2013, in support of Operation Damayan.U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The new aid, provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is intended to help ensure that residents and relief workers have immediate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services, Kerry said, and to make sure they get food and temporary shelter essential to continuing their critical work.
“On behalf of President [Barack] Obama and the American people, it’s my privilege to come here today to offer our condolences to the families of the more than 6,000 who perished in the storm, and to wish a very full and speedy recovery to the some 27,000 who were injured,” the secretary said.
“We are keeping in our thoughts and prayers the nearly 1,800 people who still remain missing,” Kerry added. “The United States is committed to doing whatever we can as we go forward to try to help our friends in the Philippines recover.”
A super typhoon made landfall six times in 16 hours Nov. 8, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that caused flooding, landslides and widespread damage across the central Philippines. In Leyte province alone, according to USAID, storm surges reached 13 feet and sustained winds surpassed 175 mph.
“Last month’s typhoon broke the world’s heart, but what is certain is it didn’t break the spirit of the people here,” Kerry said.
“The resilience, the courage, the determination to rebuild and to remake what was, inspires all of us. The truth is that what’s been happening here since the moment this storm passed is inspiring to everybody,” he added.
In the immediate wake of the typhoon, one of the most pressing tasks was to coordinate the opening of Tacloban airport, the secretary explained, and the logistical challenge was overwhelming. But Capt. Roy Trinidad – a SEAL in the Philippine navy -- and U.S. Army Maj. Leo Liebreich and U.S. Air Force Maj. George Apalisok got right to work, he said.
The men worked and slept side by side for 10 days straight to oversee the enormous challenge of off-loading and distributing relief supplies. They spent their nights beneath a makeshift shelter made of a tarp and some buckets and boards, the secretary said.
“Their efforts saved hundreds of lives and inspired thousands more people to do the same,” Kerry said. “And it demonstrated the enduring partnership between two allies -– not only in good times, but in trying times as well.”
Kerry also applauded the team effort. “USAID, the U.S. military, and the departments of Defense and State, I can tell you unabashedly and with great pride, have done incredible work here together,” he said. “And all of that has been done in very close partnership with the Philippine government.”
Private corporations, nongovernmental organizations, faith-based groups and the diaspora communities have shown willingness of leadership and generosity to come together and deal with the catastrophe, Kerry said, and they all deserve an enormous amount of credit for working under the most difficult circumstances,” the secretary said.
USAID has just signed a memorandum of understanding with Procter and Gamble and Coca-Cola, Kerry added, and they’ve created a public-private partnership that will help more than 2,000 small convenience stores in the Philippines repair, restock and rehabilitate their shops.
And the Citi Foundation announced that it has raised $1 million for the recovery effort and that it is contributing another $500,000 to help the Philippines rebuild, he added.
“These are just some of the examples of the good citizens of both our countries who are working together and around the world,” the secretary added, “helping step up to this challenge.”
Kerry said the United States will watch and work closely with the government to make further determinations as plans are laid out and as the future is defined by the Philippine government.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)