QUEZON CITY Philippines — While rescue efforts have ceased relief assistance in cash and in kind is pouring in from foreign governments and Filipino expatriate communities abroad for the victims of the Feb. 17 landslide in Southern Leyte south of the Philippine capital of Manila.
Albert del Rosario Philippine ambassador to the U.S. made a special appeal on Feb. 18 to “all Filipinos friends of the Philippines and concerned groups and individuals to extend their helping hand to the victims of this tragedy.”
American troops onboard two naval ships which were originally to dock in Subic Zambales north of Manila for the annual Philippine/U.S. military exercises dubbed Balikatan (“shoulder to shoulder”) were quickly dispatched to the remote village of Ginsaugon St. Bernard where the massive landslide buried more than 300 homes and a school building with 246 pupils inside.
Guam Army National Guard Lt. Col. Arnold Marcus said in a brief phone interview with the Journal his troops were in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija where war games are being conducted as part of the Balikatan exercises and did not divert to Southern Leyte.
As of 12 noon Feb. 23 the Office of Civil Defense tallied 120 dead 560 survivors of whom 22 were injured while 980 remain missing. Some 682 families or 2 481 persons remain in five evacuation centers.
This is the second massive landslide in Leyte. In Nov. 1991 about 6 000 were killed in Ormoc City after a tropical storm triggered floods and landslides. Government officials determined that illegal logging was the cause of the 1991 landslide.
Neri Amparo head of operations of the National Disaster Coordinating Council told the Journal that the agency received some 37.68 million pesos ($725 000) in cash and kind.
The Filipino Community of Guam is accepting donations as is the Guam Chapter of the American Red Cross. A telethon was held on KGTF Channel 12 Guam’s public radio on March 2.
Foreign donors have sent or pledged some $2.27 million in relief and rehabilitation assistance to several key Philippine government agencies — the National Disaster Coordinating Council Department of Foreign Affairs and Philippine National Red Cross.
Five days after the landslide President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited the affected villages hand-carrying some 14 million pesos ($270 000) in separate donations from civic organizations foundations private companies and the Thailand government.
Del Rosario said the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. is accepting donations in cash check or money order. Donations should be made payable to the Philippine Embassy which will issue receipts for them. Checks may be mailed to the Philippine Embassy at 1600 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington DC 20036 attention Ms. Cynthia Tayam.
The names of donors the amounts donated and the dates they were received will posted on the Embassy Web site (www.philippineembassy-usa.org) and a regular progress report on the fund drive will be issued by the Embassy’s Press and Information Section.
All donations received by the Embassy will be transmitted to the NDCC in the Philippines del Rosario said. NDCC is the government’s inter-agency body responsible for coordinating disaster rescue relief and rehabilitation.
“The Philippine Embassy profoundly thanks all those who will respond to this appeal in the spirit of love and compassion for our fellow Filipinos ” Del Rosario said in a press statement from Washington D. C.
The Washington-based Philippine American Foundation also announced a 1.1-million peso ($21 200) grant for the building of homes for the survivors of the landslide as well as for those from surrounding areas who were displaced by the disaster.
“In the 20-year history of the Foundation we have found that communities cannot be recreated without providing shelter ” said Irene Natividad executive director of the PAF in a press statement. For victims of mudslides in the same area two years ago the PAF also donated 1.1 million pesos ($21 200) for a housing project to officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. That housing project was scheduled to be inaugurated in February but was postponed due to this latest natural disaster.
In another report to Secretary Romulo dated Feb. 21 Jose S. Brillantes Philippine ambassador to Canada said the Philippine Embassy issued an appeal for donations from the Filipino-Canadian community in Ottawa through the Jesus is Lord Movement and St. Brigid’s Church. The JIL Movement was founded in Manila and is now reputed to be one of the largest sectarian groups among overseas Filipinos.
Brillantes said donations among JIL’s parishioners will be sent to its offices in Manila.
Ariel Y. Abadilla. Philippine consul general in Hawaii reported that Filipinos donated cash and checks amounting to $2 070 and more than $2 000 in pledges for the victims of the landslide during a meeting between the Consulate and the Filipino community on Feb. 18.
Abadilla said the meeting originally held to discuss the community’s participation at the Honolulu Festival on March 11 and 12 focused on the Leyte disaster and how the community could help the victims. MBJ