By Victoria Cavaliere and Dana Feldman
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Filipinos across the United States rallied to support aid efforts for their Pacific island homeland on Monday as rescue workers an ocean away struggled to reach remote areas of the country that was ravaged by a deadly typhoon.
Many Filipino-Americans expressed appreciation for early efforts by the U.S. government to respond to Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 10,000 people and left 600,000 homeless.
The U.S. government provided immediate support that included 55 tons of food, $100,000 for water and sanitation support and the deployment of 90 Marines and sailors, but some Filipino-Americans expressed concerns that foreign aid could be diverted by corrupt local officials.
In the New York City borough of Queens, where many businesses along a 15-block thoroughfare dubbed “Little Manila” were planning charitable efforts for typhoon victims, the manager of Payag, a Filipino restaurant, said its weekly fundraisers for victims of last month’s deadly earthquake in the Philippines were being expanded to assist typhoon survivors.
“We started these events on November 1 not realizing soon after another calamity would occur,” restaurant manager Peter Obac said. “So now it’s for earthquake and typhoon victims.”
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Anne Beryl Corotan, a New York-based campaign coordinator for the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, said her organization was working to send advance teams to the hard-hit areas of Samar and Leyte.
Reflecting sentiments common in the Filipino-American community, Corotan applauded U.S. government relief efforts but said she hoped American officials would closely monitor disbursement of the aid.
“I would like to ensure that my taxes are going to appropriate provision of social services and not for militarization, corruption and only to those who are powerful, landlords and big business owners,” she said.
Philippines president Benigno Aquino came to office on a good governance and anti-corruption platform, but corruption remains endemic in the Southeast Asia nation.
FOOD AND MEDICINE DONATIONS
Efforts among Filipino-Americans to assist with typhoon relief extended across the country.
In San Francisco, the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged Filipino youth, stayed open overnight on Sunday to accept donations of food and medicine for victims of the typhoon.
The center collected about 700 pounds of canned food and medical supplies, said executive director Rudy Asercion, a third generation Filipino-American.
Asercion said the supplies would be shipped this week to Cebu, where Catholic church-affiliated volunteers would distribute them to typhoon victims in hard-hit places like the city of Tacloban.
Maria Hellen Barber De La Vega, consul general for the Philippines in Los Angeles, said that church and volunteer-based relief efforts in southern California were well under way, including $10,000 raised over the weekend in part by a 5 kilometer fundraising walk on Sunday.
But she said the needs in the affected areas of central Philippines were nearly overwhelming.
“Right now we need medicines for cold and fever, food and water, but we really need treatment for bones. Many were caught in trees and hurt by flying debris,” she said. “The problem is access.”
Efforts to help extended beyond the Filipino expatriate community.
At the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops assembly in Baltimore on Monday, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, chairman of the board of directors of U.S-based Catholic Relief Services, urged his colleagues to take up a “second collection” from churches for relief efforts in the Philippines and Vietnam.
“We hope you can send those collections as soon as possible because the crisis is so imminent.”
Also speaking at the assembly, CRS President Carolyn Woo said her group had pledged $20 million in typhoon aid that it has not yet raised.
“It’s important for people to be buying supplies,” she said, adding that her group hoped to help 100,000 affected families.
Philippines Airlines (PAL) also lent a hand, saying in a statement that it was offering space on its planes to ship certain aid supplies to the country free of charge.