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Cablegate: Philippines Rethinks Disaster Strategy As Typhoon Nears

VZCZCXRO8044
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2231/01 2960925
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 230925Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5504
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHOVQHS/COMSEVENTHFLT IMMEDIATE
INFO RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2310
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0334
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/USMISSION UN ROME IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002231

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

BANGKOK FOR USAID /OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR A. DWYER
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA R. THAYER
USAID W/ FOR ANE/AA AND DCHA/FPP
GENEVA FOR N. KYLOH
USUN FOR OFDA REP
BRUSSELS FOR P. BROWN
ROME FOR USAID/OHA H. SPANOS
SECDEF FOR SOLIC
JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR J3/J4/J5
PACOM FOR J3/J4/J5
NSC FOR P. MARCHAM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI PREL KPAO SENV EAGR RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINES RETHINKS DISASTER STRATEGY AS TYPHOON NEARS
LUZON

REFTELS: A) Manila 2155 B) Manila 2140


1. (SBU) Summary. Threatened by a third typhoon in four weeks, the
Philippine government has prepositioned emergency supplies,
equipment and personnel in northern Luzon in the event Typhoon Ramil
(international name Lupit) makes landfall there this weekend. U.S.
military forces and equipment from the recently concluded
Philippines Bilateral Exercise (TALON VISION/PHIBLEX), many of whom
assisted victims of earlier storms, remain in the area to respond to
a possible request for humanitarian assistance from the Philippine
government. USAID has contributed over $6 million in aid to date,
and continues to provide humanitarian assistance to flood victims.
In a discussion with the Ambassador October 22, President Arroyo
voiced deep appreciation for U.S. assistance, and Secretary of
National Defense Teodoro lauded the outstanding contributions of
U.S. military and assistance agencies. The Philippine government is
restructuring its disaster relief bureaucracy, and the U.S. Mission
is engaged on long term recovery options. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
"Done Everything Possible to Prepare for Typhoon Ramil"
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) While still recovering from the massive destruction
inflicted by tropical storm Ondoy (international name Ketsana) and
Typhoon Pepeng (Parma) (reftels A and B), which left more than 850
dead and caused hundreds of millions in damage, Philippine
authorities are prepositioning relief supplies, equipment, and
personnel in those areas of northern Luzon likely to be hit by
Typhoon Ramil(Lupit) this weekend. National Disaster Coordinating
Council (NDCC) spokesmen reported that government agencies had
delivered 114,000 kilograms of food and non-food items to local
field offices, prepositioned medical support in northern Luzon
hospitals and brought seven inflatable boats and three 20-ton trucks
to northern Luzon. According to NDCC reports, approximately 40,000
police, firefighters, and public works personnel are on call in
targeted areas. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has
activated its primary disaster relief battalion, and the Philippine
Air Force has positioned two cargo aircraft to deliver relief
supplies to the northern Batan Islands, likely to suffer the brunt
of the storm. NDCC spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr. noted that
"we've done everything possible to prepare for Typhoon Ramil."

--------------------------------------------
U.S. Troops Finish Exercises, Poised to Help
--------------------------------------------
3. (SBU) U.S. military units, many of whom assisted victims of
tropical storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng (reftels A and B), concluded
participation in the Philippines Bilateral Exercise (TALON
VISION/PHIBLEX) on October 22 and elements remain in place pending a
possible request for humanitarian assistance from the Philippine
government. The U.S. naval vessels Harpers Ferry, Tortuga, and
Denver, currently docked at Subic Bay, possess helicopter lift
capability and could be deployed to northern Luzon upon request.
Some elements of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF)
ground and air assets and personnel are also in place to respond to
a request for assistance.

--------------------------------
USAID Assistance Tops $6 Million
--------------------------------

4. (SBU) To date, USAID has provided approximately $6 million to aid
victims of previous storms, including $4 million in grants to relief
organizations, $700,000 in non-food supplies, and $500,000 for
logistics and transportation support. Water, sanitation, and
hygiene are current priorities. USAID is supporting the provision
of latrines in evacuation centers and flooded areas, the improvement

MANILA 00002231 002 OF 002


of water delivery systems, and hygiene education, and plans an
additional $1 million in assistance towards meeting these needs. In
addition, 720 metric tons of vegetable oil worth $1.2 million from
USAID's Food for Peace program are scheduled to arrive in the next
few days. In recognition of its expertise, the Philippine government
has requested that USAID join the UN/Philippine government water
cluster technical working group to assess water issues, including
water borne disease. In recent weeks, almost 140 people have died
and 2,000 have been hospitalized as a result of leptospirosis, an
infectious bacterial disease facilitated by unsanitary conditions
brought about by Ondoy flooding.
5. (SBU) In cooperation with the Philippines Department of Education
, USAID is assessing the damage to schools in Metro Manila and is
prepared to provide assistance in the form of rehabilitation,
classroom furniture, and educational materials.
6. (SBU) The Consular Section issued a warden message regarding
Typhoon Ramil (Lupit) on October 19. To date staff has received no
reports or inquiries of American citizens in areas of northern Luzon
expected to be impacted by Typhoon Ramil (Lupit).
--------------------------------------------
Government Restructuring Disaster Management
--------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) During a U.S. business event October 22, President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo expressed deep gratitude to the Ambassador for the
wide array of help provided by the U.S. government to storm victims.
Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro lauded the U.S.
effort in a breakfast meeting that same day with the Ambassador,
citing the superb contributions of U.S. military forces as well as
USAID and other U.S. agencies.
8. (SBU) The Philippine government is considering various measures
to improve its disaster response capabilities. One bill recently
passed by the lower house - The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction
Act - would replace the current NDCC, which convenes only when need
arises, with a permanent body, the National Disaster Risk Reduction
Management Council (NDRRMC). Supporters contend that the NDRRMC
would be more proactive in terms of risk management, as full-time
staff could focus on longer-term issues, including urban planning.
The executive branch is also considering two executive orders to
mitigate flooding and flood damage. One order would relocate
residents of flood-prone areas near waterways, while the other would
create a river basin council composed of dam operators and local
governments of downstream watersheds to coordinate water release
from dams.
-------------------------------------------
Next Steps: Beyond Relief to Reconstruction
-------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Post, in consultation with USAID/OFDA and the U.S.
military, is considering a number of future disaster preparedness
options. Visiting World Food Program (WFP) Head, Josette Sheeran,
told Ambassador and Acting USAID Mission Director that WFP believes
immediate relief assistance will be needed for several more months.
Post is also engaging international organizations in discussions
regarding long term recovery measures. For example, USAID has
offered to provide technical support to the World Bank Post-Disaster
Needs Assessment (PDNA) team, which is currently assessing the
Philippines' long- term reconstruction requirements. In preparation
for the approaching Typhoon Ramil (Lupit), USAID/OFDA staff has
extended their stay in country to monitor the situation and
coordinate a possible USG response.
Kenney

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