The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has come together as an integrated community as member states work to provide relief for the Philippines, which has seen the death toll from the super typhoon Haiyan surge past 3,900.
The Jakarta-based ASEAN Co-ordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) has been leading these efforts as member states pour in assistance to one of the founding member states.
Joining together with the regional bloc, the United States has also been instrumental in bringing relief. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and a contingent of seven supply ships arrived in the Philippines on November 14th to deliver water and emergency rations to the victims.
"The response to tragedy by the United States, led by USAID and the US military, alongside our partners and friends in the region, including the ASEAN Member States and the AHA Centre, reflects our shared concerns and interests in the region and its people," US Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden told Khabar in an emailed statement on November 17th.
A commitment to help
The AHA Centre serves both as the regional hub for disaster risk monitoring and analysis, and as a co-ordination engine to ensure ASEAN's fast and collective response to disasters within the region. It was established in November 2011 based on a mandate in the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.
"ASEAN was on the ground even before the typhoon hit," Durudee Sirichanya, head of the Public Outreach and Civil Society Division of the ASEAN Secretariat, told Khabar Southeast Asia on November 15th. "The AHA Centre has been sending daily report [on the situation] to each member state since then."
"These daily reports have enabled the member states to quickly prepare the type of support they can offer because they have been well informed," she added.
As of November 15th, current regional bloc chair Brunei Darussalam has procured rice and water and handed them over to the Office of Civil Defense in Manila for distribution to affected communities, while food, water, and medicine prepared by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) have arrived in Cebu, according to the Centre.
A navy ship carrying relief goods has also departed from the sultanate and is expected to reach Tacloban, one of the worst-hit areas, on November 18th.
"The Association will offer its strongest support in recovery efforts and in restoring hope and confidence to the people of our community who have experienced such terrible personal loss," the ASEAN Chair said in a statement on November 12th.
Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam provide neighborly support
Indonesia has pledged $2 million in aid for the super typhoon victims. The assistance was handed over by the Co-ordinating Minister for Social Welfare, Agung Laksono, to the Philippines Ambassador to Indonesia, Maria Rosario C. Aguinaldo, on November 12th.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the Indonesian Disaster Management Agency, said the donation consisted of 75 tonnes of goods and logistics worth $1 million and another $1 million in demand deposit.
"It is an expression of our solidarity for a fellow ASEAN country that has gone through such a massive disaster,” Sutopo said in a text message to Khabar on November 13th.
He added that the Indonesian government ordered the deployment of three Hercules C-130 aircrafts to carry the goods and logistics, which have arrived in Cebu.
Indonesia has received a request from the Government of Philippines to extend the C-130 operations to help transport relief aid and civilians.
Malaysia, meanwhile, has pledged to send four batches of assistance. The first one, consisting of food, water, and tarpaulins arrived on a C-130 plane on November 13th. Three other C-130 flights followed suit on November 14th, 15th, and 16th. They deployed medical disaster rescue personnel, equipment, and supplies to establish a self-sustained field hospital and emergency operations in Tacloban City.
The government of Singapore has donated $200,000 to support relief efforts, and the Singapore Red Cross has launched an appeal for donations. The Singapore Armed Forces sent two C-130 planes to Tacloban on November 13th and 14th, carrying tents, ground sheets, medical supplies, and blankets. The planes are also used to evacuate civilians from Tacloban to Manila.
Thailand has appointed its Foreign Affairs Ministry as relief assistance co-ordinator for the Philippines and has been preparing to deploy of a C-130 plane and two Royal Thai ships carrying relief bags, water purification powder, water, rice, food items, and medicines. The planes and ships were scheduled to depart on November 19th.
The Thai government has also launched an appeal on national television asking Thais to donate; contributions have amounted to $2.7 million so far.
"We are still awaiting confirmation from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos regarding their assistance," Said Faisal, executive director of the AHA Centre, told Khabar on November 14th.
The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has written to the ASEAN Chair of its pledge of $100,000 to assist the Philippines with emergency relief efforts. Vietnam also has suffered its share of devastation from by the typhoon, which made landfall in the country on November 10th.
The Vietnamese government had prepared for the situation and evacuated over 800,000 people from Thanh Hoa to Phu Yen provinces prior to the storm's arrival. Its flood and storm control agency reported two deaths and more than 120 damaged houses in Qung Ninh province, but the assessment is ongoing. "Even while facing its own situation, Vietnam has pledged its support to its fellow ASEAN member state, the Philippines," ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh said.
Mobilising the public
Apart from government-organized relief efforts, the Indonesian public and civil society have also reacted swiftly to respond to the tragedy that devastated their neighboring country.
Insan Nurrohman, a spokesman for the charity group Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) Care for Humanity, said they are co-ordinating relief efforts with the Cebu chapter of the Indonesian Students Association (PPI).
"Our team leader from Jakarta has met with the PIP volunteers, and they have mapped out the situation there to identify some of the untouched affected areas,” Insan told Khabar on November 14th.
The ACT team has been preparing ready-to-eat or instant food packages, and it is heading to Ormoc City and Bantayan Island to distribute the packages to the survivors.
"We prepare the food and procure the logistics locally or in the nearest area that is not devastated by the disaster to enliven and aid the local economy. It has always been our policy to do so as part of our relief efforts," he said.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) has been in close co-ordination with its Philippines' counterpart since the typhoon made landfall, said Anggun Permana Siddiq, a spokesman for PMI.
"We are sending a total of 50 personnel to the Philippines, including a medical team that consists of three doctors, six nurses, and two pharmacists, and a water and sanitation team of six personnel. They will be leaving on November 20th," he said.
Anggun added that the PMI has sent 50 tonnes of goods and logistics -- including 2,000 blankets, 2,000 hygiene kits, and 1,000 family tents -- to help the affected people.
"We are sending the goods by sea, and we expect the ship to arrive in a week," he said.
The PMI team is expected to stay for three to four weeks during the emergency aftermath phase.
"They may stay longer for the recovery phase, but it depends on what is required on the ground. We may send another team with different technical specifications to assist during the recovery efforts," Anggun said.