Uproar over aid theft

UK media report relief goods sold for profit
THE British newspaper The Daily Mail reported over the weekend that pilfered relief goods meant for the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda have found their way in stores in upscale neighborhoods of Metro Manila, causing an uproar among some international relief funding agencies.

The Mail said emergency aid sent from the United Kingdom to the Philippines “is being siphoned off and sold for profit by corrupt local officials.”

“Emergency supplies delivered by military helicopters have turned up on the shelves of shops in affluent districts of the capital Manila – hundreds of miles from the disaster zone,” the paper reported.

The report added that because of this problem, “the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – an umbrella group representing 14 UK charities – expressed concern about evidence that suggests not all the £60 million of aid given by Britain is reaching those most in need.”

But Malacanang on Monday said that based on the government’s Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) website, relief goods from the UK “have been channelled through both the UK government and other entities such as the United Nations, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations.”

“We are able to directly monitor only aid that is coursed though the Philippine government agencies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” said Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr.

Quoting a report from NDRRMC Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario, Coloma added that “relief and assistance have reached all of the 591 municipalities in 44 provinces covered by nine regions that were hit by typhoon Yolanda.”

“This is based on verified reports from municipal disaster risk reduction and management councils headed by mayors. Remote outlying barangays or villages have been reached by helicopters and small sea craft car-rying relief goods distributed by social workers and Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel,” Coloma added.

Coloma said there was “a need to verify further where exactly the alleged diversions occurred so that specific responsibility may be pinpointed.”

“These unverified reports are also circulated in the media where the allegations are being spread virally without benefit of validation or confirmation,” he said.

Coloma also called on those individuals who have specific knowledge of the the issue to come forward and give relevant information to the nearest DSWD or Public Information Agency office for proper action from law enforcement personnel.

The newspaper report quoted one foreigner married to a Filipina in Hernani, Eastern Samar, as saying local officials were “stealing aid in Eastern Samar.”

“The aid isn’t getting through to where it’s needed,” said Keb Darge from Scotland.

“I’ve seen the deliveries arrive and I’ve seen them disappear,” Darge said.

“Only a tiny percentage of the aid is getting through. The situation isn’t going to improve unless there’s an investigation. Someone needs to go and find out exactly what is happening. It is British aid coming

in. Why give it to untrustworthy officials to steal? It is ludicrous,” added Darge.

According to the report, Darge fled to Manila, fearing for his life after exposing the theft.

The United Nations is investigating the reports, the UN humanitarian chief said on Monday.

Valerie Amos, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said she had expected that aid had been delivered by helicopter to survivors in even the most remote outly-ing islands following the Nov. 8 disaster.

“Although we’ve got significant aid now coming in to the major centers, we still have a little bit of a worry that in a couple of the smaller islands that there may be needs there that we haven’t managed to meet yet,” she said.

“I’m still hearing worrying reports in the media — indeed I heard one this morning — where people said they hadn’t received any aid as yet, and we’re looking into that,” she said.

Typhoon Yolanda and its tsunami-like storm surge plowed through Tacloban and other coastal areas, leaving more than 5,700 dead and more than 1,700 missing throughout the region. About 4 million people were displaced.

Amos, in Australia for aid talks with the government, defended the Philippine government against criticisms that it was too slow to deliver aid to victims.

She said the Philippines responded to more than 20 typhoons a year and was well prepared for storms.

“But the scale and severity of this was something which none of us could have anticipated,” Amos said.

Also on Monday, President Benigno Aquino III said he would seek more aid when he meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week.

Aquino and Abe are expected to witness the signing of “exchanges of notes”, including a post-disaster standby loan worth about 10 billion yen ($100 million), foreign office spokesman Raul Hernandez said Monday.

“During the meeting the two leaders will discuss cooperation on disaster management and reconstruction” in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda),” Hernandez said.

Aquino was to leave for Japan on Thursday to join fellow Southeast Asian leaders in a commemorative summit with Japan, with post-typhoon rehabilitation expected to be among the regional issues on the table.

Last week, the United Nations’ refugee agency launched a fresh appeal for emergency aid from international donors, saying it needed $19.2 million, more than double the $8.2 million it had raised so far.

The Philippine government said it had received total foreign pledges of up to $484 million. Of that total, only $12.13 million has so far been received. With AFP


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