ASEAN Secretary-General visits the Philippines

Tacloban – The ASEAN Secretary-General arrived in Tacloban City on Friday where he personally conveyed the Association’s full solidarity with the Filipino people and to see how ASEAN can better support the Government and the people of the Philippines in its relief and long-term recovery efforts. “The devastation is massive but we know that the resilience of the people in this country is even greater. ASEAN will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippines in restoring hope and progress in these communities,” Minh said on his arrival in this typhoon-ravaged city.

In his capacity as ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator, Secretary-General Minh led a symbolic hand-over of the initial 2,000 ASEAN Family Kits from the AHA Centre to Philippines’ Secretary of Social Welfare and Development Dinky Soliman and Secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas who are the top government officials spearheading the relief operations in affected areas.

Each kit includes cooking supplies, clothing, sleeping, and hygiene supplies for a family of five. ASEAN also donated 2,000 rolls of tarpaulins. Other cabinet secretaries were on hand to witness the hand-over.

The Deputy Director of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Gen. Romeo Fajardo personally thanked Minh for ASEAN’s “very useful support.” According to Fajardo, the satellite phone that ASEAN set up before Haiyan’s arrival was the only phone that could communicate outside Tacloban on the day the storm hit. The first call was made by the Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin to talk to President Aquino. Meanwhile, the NDRRMC official informed Minh that so far 51% of debris has been cleared and many roads are now accessible.

Secretary-General Minh met and expressed his gratitude to humanitarian responders from ASEAN who are providing a range of support to the relief and recovery operations. He visited the field hospital put up by Malaysia at the airport as well as the portable water purifier now being used to supply clean water in the field. He also met the troops from Brunei who are providing critical logistical support. Further, Minh met with staff of the Office of Civil Defense in Tacloban who are now operating from a prefabricated office donated by ASEAN.

“I’m glad to know that there are systems in place to account for all contributions coming to the country,” Minh said after meeting with the Philippines’ head of internal audit at Tacloban Air Base.

While in Tacloban, the ASEAN contingent led by Minh met some of the affected families living in tents who told him that they need other survival items such as cooking and heating supplies and hygiene kits.

The ASEAN Chief was met at Tacloban Airport by a team from the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) which has been on the ground to coordinate ASEAN’s support to the Philippines in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan’s devastating impact. The AHA Centre will remain in close contact with the various focal points. Also on hand was a representative of the World Food Programme.

From Tacloban, Secretary-General Minh flew to Manila where he met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario. He briefed Del Rosario on ASEAN’s assistance thus far and told him “we have seen the destruction but we also saw some progress and we are aware that much effort will be needed towards recovery.” The Foreign Affairs Secretary thanked Minh for the Association’s support to the country.

Yesterday, Minh made his first attempt to fly to Tacloban but had to turn back to Cebu due to heavy clouds. Minh met with Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Commander of the Central Command based in Cebu who briefed him on their support to the ongoing relief operations. The Commander thanked Minh for ASEAN’s support and told him “I know the solidarity of ASEAN shines in times like these.”