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Cablegate: Usg Assistance Saves Lives After Typhoon Frank

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OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1624/01 1920236
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 100236Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1219
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001624

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/EX AND EAP/MTS
STATE PASS USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI EAGR SENV RP
SUBJECT: USG ASSISTANCE SAVES LIVES AFTER TYPHOON FRANK

REF: A) Manila 1504 B) Manila 1521 C) Manila 1543 D) Manila 1560 E)
Manila 1582


1. Summary: Coordinated U.S./Philippine efforts during a critical
two-week period following the landfall of Typhoon Frank saved many
people from thirst and hunger in the ten areas of greatest
devastation. Our assistance also generated tremendous good will and
emphasized for Filipinos once again the humanitarian aspect of the
U.S. military. Typhoon Frank pounded 49 Philippine provinces June
21-22 and killed 557 people, injured 826, and left 26 people
missing. Another 800 crew and passengers are presumed dead after
the sinking of a ferry. USAID and its Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA), Philippine and U.S. military forces, and Embassy
staff were on the ground providing critical, life-saving provisions
and services to the hardest-hit areas. The extensive press coverage
overall shed a positive light on the financial assistance, relief
supplies, and coordinated efforts by the USG and its Philippine
partners. The USG humanitarian assistance totaled $2,169,625, which
saved lives and reinforced our friendship with the Philippines. End
summary.

Devastation Caused by Typhoon Frank
-----------------------------------

2. Typhoon Frank (international name "Typhoon Fengshen") affected
over four million people in 49 provinces across the Philippines, and
nearly 39,000 of these people are still in evacuation centers. The
Philippine National Disaster Coordinating Council estimates damage
of $260 million to agriculture and infrastructure. A significant
number of the dead and missing were on the ferry MV Princess of the
Stars when it capsized during the typhoon on June 21. Of 866
passengers and crew members on the manifest, there were only 56
survivors, 173 confirmed dead, and the balance are missing,
including two American citizens. The final number may be higher, as
there were likely un-ticketed children and other passengers aboard.
Other typhoon-related deaths and injuries were caused by floods,
falling objects, capsized boats, and electrocutions.

Targeted and Effective U.S. Assistance
--------------------------------------

3. The United States was swift in its response with initial
disbursement of $100,000 from USAID/OFDA to the Philippine National
Red Cross (PNRC) on Jne 23 for the purchase and distribution of
emergncy relief supplies, including blankets, plastic mats,
mosquito nets, and water containers. The USSRonald Reagan and its
carrier group arrived westof Panay Island on June 25. In
coordination wit the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the
Philipine government, and the Philippine National Red Cros (PNRC),
U.S. Navy aircraft flew about 320 sorties to deliver over 500,000
pounds of relief commodities between June 25 and July 2. In addition
to carrying relief supplies donated by the U.S., the sorties carried
supplies from the Philippine government, non-governmental
organizations, and third countries.

4. Helicopters and C-2 aircraft transported Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) and USG personnel, including the Ambassador, to
otherwise inaccessible areas on Panay and Sicogon islands. These
relief goods, including water, food, and shelter material, saved
lives in remote areas of the Philippines.

5. On June 26, a two-person USAID/OFDA team joined the eight U.S.
Embassy personnel in Iloilo to assess needs and work with Department
of Defense and Philippine counterparts to coordinate the U.S.
assistance. USAID/OFDA airlifted hygiene kits, plastic sheeting,
and water containers valued at more than $560,000, which U.S. Navy
helicopters transported to remote affected areas. DOD's logistical
support and $123,700 in additional supplies amounted to $1,503,900.
Again, military aircraft allowed relief supplies to reach to
isolated populations that would have otherwise struggled to
survive.

6. The Navy vessel USNS Stockham arrived at the site of the
capsized MV Princess of the Stars on June 24 with small boats, two
search and rescue helicopters and an underwater scuba team to assist
the AFP and Philippine Coast Guard with rescue operations. The
Stockham increased the Philippines' search and rescue capabilities
while the hope of finding survivors flickered. It left the
typhoon-affected area on July 1.

7. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other
high-ranking Philippine officials, civilian and military, have

MANILA 00001624 002 OF 002


expressed their deep gratitude and personal thanks for the immediate
and generous response delivered to the most desperate Filipinos
during this tragic period. U.S. Navy sailors and helicopter pilots
who were instrumental in the effort were personally congratulated by
President Arroyo when she arrived in Iloilo City on July 1. In
addition, President Arroyo offered her personal thanks to Rear
Admiral Phil Wisecup, commander of the Ronald Reagan Strike Group
and Commodore Brad Smith, Captain of the Stockham, following the
memorial mass for the victims of the ferry sinking held on Sibuyan
Island on July 1. Philippine officials and non-governmental
organizations are now concentrating on long-term rebuilding of
typhoon-damaged communities.

Positive Message on U.S. Relief Efforts
---------------------------------------

8. U.S. relief efforts garnered extensive and overall very positive
media coverage, with a number of pictures of U.S. disaster relief
efforts in the national and regional print and broadcast media.
While initially there was some skepticism expressed by Manila-based
media about the humanitarian capabilities of the USS Ronald Reagan
carrier group as well as allegations of a hidden agenda, Philippine
authorities including President Arroyo quickly countered this
notion. Media coverage emphasized the joint U.S.-Philippine aspect
of the humanitarian assistance with photos and reports of U.S.
military personnel working alongside their Armed Forces of the
Philippines counterparts and with local relief groups including the
Philippine Red Cross and the National Disaster Coordinating Council.
Coverage dominated the headlines both on TV and in print from June
23-July 4 and ongoing media coverage continues to mention U.S.
assistance in the wake of Typhoon Frank. Media were also intrigued
by the stories of sailors from the Reagan Strike Group with
Philippine family ties.

9. Comment: This compassionate USG response saved lives, augmented
our already-close relationship, and brought positive press coverage.
Without the airlift provided by U.S. forces, many remote and
ravaged areas of the Philippines would have been very difficult to
reach, leaving many residents hungry, thirsty, and without shelter.
Through close collaboration with Philippine government and civil
society, our team on the ground was able to pinpoint hard to access
areas and deliver the commodities that they desperately needed.
When the Ambassador, USAID Mission Director, and Philippine and U.S.
military officers visited remote sites and took part in delivering
goods, they witnessed the difference this made on an individual
level. U.S. assistance alleviated the suffering of thousands of
people.

KENNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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