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President Benigno Aquino on Sunday visited Tacloban, the area hardest-hit by typhoon Haiyan. On Monday, the president declared a state of national calamity. Photo from www.president.gov.ph.

Operations of seaports and airports in central Philippines have started to normalize, days after a large swathe of the Visayas island grouping was devastated by super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda).

On November 11, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said all airports affected by the typhoon have resumed normal operations except in Tacloban, the hardest hit area where it is feared around 10,000 have died. At the height of the typhoon on Nov 8, the Tacloban airport terminal was totally damaged, including its communication, tower and radar equipment.

The airport is now partially open, but only for turbo prop flights on humanitarian mission ferrying relief supplies and equipment.

CAAP director general William K. Hotchkiss III said it will take weeks before Tacloban airport can accept bigger commercial aircraft.

“In as much as we wanted to bring back normal operations, the airport terminal itself was totally damaged and we are now building a temporary terminal to service the  needs of the passengers,” Hotchkiss said, adding that CAAP personnel on the ground are working double time to expedite normalization of operations.

On November 11, Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines and sister firm PAL Express announced they were operating commercial flights to Tacloban via Cebu. Cebu Pacific’s flights to Kalibo and Busuanga have also resumed.

All carriers airlifting donations and relief goods to Yolanda-stricken areas have been exempt from paying the usual CAAP fees and charges, CAAP said.

Seaport operations
Except for Tacloban and Ormoc, all ports along the path of the typhoon (Legazpi, Tagbilaran, Surigao, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, ports in Mindoro, Palawan and ports under the Cebu Port Authority [CPA]) have restarted operations as of Monday.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has partnered with the Philippine Chamber of Arrastre and Stevedoring Operators to provide manpower, including crane and other cargo-handling equipment operators, in highly-devastated areas.

PPA general manager Juan Sta. Ana assured that “all assistance to the public will be given. The management of the PPA as well as its mother agency the Department of Transportation and Communications… will continue to oversee measures on how to boost the delivery of relief goods to the devastated areas.”

On its Facebook page, CPA said all trips are operating on regular schedule since Nov. 9. However, Weesam and Trans-Asia passengers have been relocated to Terminal 2 in Pier 3 after Terminal 3 was declared unsafe. Terminal 3 sustained damages from another natural disaster, the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Cebu and Bohol last month.

Roberto Umali, president of Lorenzo Shipping Corp, told PortCalls in a text message, “Our operations are not really affected. But we are diverting one vessel to Tacloban, which is not in our ports of call, to deliver relief goods from Manila. We are checking if Tacloban is safe to berth at and what equipment/resources will be needed thereat. Otherwise we will discharge the relief goods in Cebu and deliver to Tacloban from there with the help of other shipping lines based in Cebu.”

In an emergency meeting on November 11, PPA’s Sta. Ana asked his legal team to come out with a resolution reducing, if not lifting, port costs for shipping lines and cargoes carrying aid to the distressed areas.

“I have already activated our emergency team to quickly come up with relief efforts commensurate to the measures undertaken by other government and private firms,” Sta. Ana said.

“Reducing or lifting port charges will greatly facilitate the delivery to these relief goods to the troubled regions, so, I am hoping that there would be no legal impediments in our desire to reduce port cost, even if it is for a limited period,” he stressed.

Logistics nightmare
In a text message to PortCalls, Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines president (SCMAP) Arnel Gamboa said, “No power, no communication, no transportation is a nightmare for logistics.”

The typhoon, reportedly the strongest on record, knocked out power and telecommunication lines and made many roads impassable. On Monday, President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity.

“We (SCMAP) don’t even have (a) status of employees. Most warehouses, if not totally devastated, have been ransacked by looters,” Gamboa said, adding that companies may now think twice before investing in the typhoon-hit region due to it being prone to calamities.

“We’re looking at a complete change in logistics landscape in Eastern Visayas even after the recovery which is (expected) in 1-2 months from now.”

Gamboa said, “Member companies (of SCMAP) are already moving to help through contributions with relief operations of the Philippine National Red Cross and other non-government organizations.”

Super typhoon Yolanda left the Philippine area of responsibility on November 10. Initial assessment in Regions IV-B, V, VI, and Caraga pointed to damages amounting to P296.506 million (P38.998 million in terms of infrastructure and P257.508 million in agriculture).

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