Photo credits from Philippine Daily Inquirer
Photo credits from Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines– United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said they stood firm in its commitment to help the Philippines as it lays out a long-term plan to rebuild typhoon-battered areas.

Ban visited the country to show solidarity with the Filipinos and was deeply moved and inspired by his visit Saturday to Tacloban City, one of the hardest-hit by the typhoon.

“I was very impressed on the strong resilience of the people. The villages are coming slowly to normalcy. People are more motivated. Many people, citizens wearing safety helmet were clearly helping, whatever they could do they would do,” he stressed.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosari Del Rosario said Ban’s visit to the country demonstrated the UN’s firm commitment to help Yolanda victims.

“Throughout this tragedy, the United Nations has been steadfast in its support for the Filipino people in the devastated areas, as demonstrated by the very quick response of the UN and humanitarian country teams in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon and the UN flash appeal,” Del Rosario stated.

Likewise, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Ban’s visit in Tacloban was a testament to the UN commitment to help the country and emphasizes the concern of the United Nations and other international bodies for all the people in all devastated areas.

However, the Philippine government said it would need $8.17 billion over four years for a massive rebuilding effort as Yolanda inflicted $12.9 billion in damage and left 4.4 million people homeless.

“Therefore, the UN and country teams and all agencies will work very closely to help this long-term recovery and reconstruction plan be realized as soon as possible,” Ban said.

The UN is raising $791 million for a yearlong recovery plan while the he Philippine government has separately launched an $8.17 billion reconstruction drive over four years.

British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said that the UN chief’s visit was important to retain international and domestic focus on recovery from the typhoon before attention moves on.

More aid needed

Ban met with key ambassadors stationed in Manila at the end of his three-day visit and urged donor countries to provide more aid in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the central Philippines in Nov. 8.

Ban noted that the UN had so far achieved only 30 percent of the $791 million aid to boost relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

“We must not allow this to be another forgotten crisis,” Ban announced at a joint press conference.

He expressed hope that may his visit typhoon-battered Philippines would inspire the international community to keep focused on this crisis.

However, the UN leader acknowledged some bottlenecks in relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon owing to logistical challenges in reaching remote areas impacted by the typhoon.

Ban joined the Philippine government in thanking the armed forces of 25 nations that helped overcome logistical hurdles in delivering humanitarian assistance to typhoon-hit areas.

“There has been excellent cooperation between the United Nations and its partners and the Philippines authorities at every level. Aid deliveries have been scaled up significantly,” he said.

Two days before Christmas, however, more than 100,000 Yolanda survivors are still staying in evacuation centers and most of them may spend their holiday there.

“A majority of them (evacuees) may still be inside evacuation centers by Christmas. The construction of shelters is not yet completed,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesman Maj. Rey Balido said.

“But the government is continuously providing them relief. The government is continuously extending assistance to them,” Balidoadded.

NDRRMC’s data showed that 101,527 people or 20,924 families are still housed in 381 evacuation centers, while 3,993,753 people or 869,971 families are receiving assistance outside evacuation centers.