MASSIVE relief operations are under way in areas the central Philippines devastated by super typhoon Yolanda as airlines, shipping lines and the country’s conglomerates have joined government efforts to deliver basic needs for hundreds of thousands of people struggling to survive the post-disaster chaos.
As of 6pm last Friday, the death toll from Yolanda based on official count stood at 3,621, with 1,140 missing and 12,203 injured, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.
The NDRRMC said Yolanda has so far affected 1,962,898 families or 9,073,804 people in 9,303 villages in 44 provinces. Of these, 78,476 families or 380,552 people are staying in 1,028 evacuation centers.
As relief operations mount, the Cebu Port Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines waived port charges and other fees for vessels and aircraft carrying donations and relief goods.
The main port regulator, the Philippine Ports Authority, has yet to act. Staff said the PPA would draft a resolution to lift or cut port charges for ships carrying relief goods, but the plan is hanging in the air awaiting PPA general manager Juan C. Sta. Ana’s return from a trip abroad.
In a meeting, the Cebu Port Commission passed Board Resolution No. 238-2013 exempting from port charges for all donations intended for victims of the Oct 15 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and neighboring provinces, as well as victims of Yolanda, which struck the islands of Samar, Leyte, northern Cebu, Aklan, Palawan, and parts of Southern Luzon on Nov. 8.
The Department of Finance has assigned several of its divisions to work on rotation to ensure 24-hour staffing of its operations to receive and handle applications to facilitate exemptions from duties and/or taxes of shipments of donated goods.
The Bureau of Customs has likewise directed all Customs ports to create a one-stop shop (OSS) to expedite the processing and release of relief goods, articles and aid equipment. The OSS will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another DOF attached agency, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, said it will not impose donor’s tax on donations for the typhoon victims.
In his Twitter account, Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon said Customs bonded warehouse operator MIASCOR had waived its fees for imported donations. Biazon requested other customs bonded warehouse operators to waive their fees “at their discretion”.
Also, the NDRRMC activated an OSS to facilitate the acceptance of donations from the international community.
The Aboitiz Group pledged P200 million in calamity funds. The donation is so far the largest allocation of resources for beneficiaries in Tacloban and Ormoc cities, and Samar, Bohol, Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz and provinces in the Bicol region.
The SM Group, for its part, pledged P100 million.
Meanwhile, big commercial vessel operators have heeded the government’s call to help deliver relief goods to the stricken areas.
Members of the Philippine Liner Shipping Association and the Philippine Interisland Shipping Association have started to deploy dedicated vessels to carry relief goods not only to Tacloban and Ormoc but also to other areas such as Coron and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.
On Nov. 13, Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (formerly Sulpicio Lines) deployed one of its vessels carrying relief goods via Cebu from Manila.
On Nov.14, Lorenzo Shipping Corp., owned by the Magsaysay Transport and Logistics Corp. deployed a vessel to Cebu carrying relief goods for the Philippine National Red Cross, Philippine Business for Social Progress, and Department of Social Welfare and Development as well as other relief items for other non-government organizations. The ship is also carrying 15 TEUs of bottled drinking water from beverage giant Coca-Cola Bottlers Corp.
Another vessel of Span Asia on Nov 15 carried equipment such as payloaders, mobility support equipment, engineering equipment and additional manpower from the Philippine Navy for clearing and rehabilitation work in the devastated areas.
Oceanic Shipping Corp. was to deploy a ship from Manila to Ormoc, Coron and Puerto Princesa on Nov.16.
Other shipping lines have offered to transport relief. They are Gothong Southern Shipping Lines, Inc., Lapu-lapu Shipping Lines Corp., Lite Shipping Corp., Southern Pacific Transport Corp., Medallion Transport, George & Peter Lines, Inc., Asian Shipping Corp. while Asian Marine Transport Corp., E.B. Aznar Shipping Corp., Cokaliong Shipping Lines, Inc., Roble Shipping, Inc., and Trans Asia Shipping Lines, Inc.
Cebu port normal
In a phone conversation with PortCalls, CPA assistant general manager Yusop Uckung said operations at the Cebu port are normal, even if the hub is being used as a gateway for channeling relief goods to Tacloban. A command post was opened Nov. 14 by the Department of Transportation and Communications along with other government agencies to monitor and centralize the handling relief goods arriving at the port.
Tacloban airport has reopened to traffic but can only service Airbus A320s and smaller aircraft, the CAAP said.
Low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air mounted one daily Manila-Tacloban-Manila flight using its A320 aircraft on Nov. 14-15, and said it would continue to operate four humanitarian flights between Cebu and Tacloban using an ATR turboprop plane until Nov. 25.
Cebu Pacific on Nov. 15 waived all excess baggage fees in light of requests from passengers and volunteers who want to carry goods, supplies and equipment to aid the affected areas.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines flew eight medical and rescue teams, medicines and critical supplies to Tacloban on Nov. 12 in support of the Department of Health’s medical mission.
On Monday, a PAL humanitarian flight from Manila to Tacloban transported rescue and medical teams from the Metro Manila Development Authority and other government agencies.
International shipping giants also joined the relief effort. On Tuesday, Japanese container liner Mitsui OSK pledged to donate $30,000 for typhoon victims. On Thursday, AP Moller-Maersk, which said it has a large number of Filipino employees, mostly seamen, also stepped forward.
In an interview posted on Maersk’s website, group chief executive Nil S. Andersen said: “We will participate in the UN activities that are being initiated now with the logistic task force where we are one of the leading members and we will start working on getting transportation facilities, establish warehouses, all these things that can help to get to channel and make sure that they get aid to the right places as quickly as possible.”
CNC Lines, in conjunction with CMA CGM Philippines, has donated containers and free passage of emergency relief to the Philippines from throughout its network.
Global logistics provider UPS pledged $1 million, a mix of cash grant, in-kind transport movements and technical expertise to provide urgent relief, and strategic support.
Deutsche Post DHL sent the first batch of its Disaster Response Team members to Mactan-Cebu International Airport to set up a warehouse for sorting relief goods and to manage the logistics of inbound air or sea-borne relief goods and ensure their quick and constant flow to disaster areas.
Logistics provider Air 21 accepts donations and advises donors to drop off goods at the nearest Air 21 stores.
Other industry organizations like the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association and Chamber of Customs Brokers Inc. are also sending relief goods to typhoon victims. –– Roumina M. Pablo