Thursday, 14 November 2013

Asian Help for the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

The recent typhoon that hit the Philippines has affected about thirteen million people. The international response has been quick and generous. For example, the US has sent the aircraft carrier George Washington and its escorts to help. The George Washington will triple the number of helicopters available to authorities and can produce 400,000 gallons of fresh water per day. (That's 1.5 million liters). Food and supplies can be moved from the US Marines' pre-positioned stores. The 1000-bed hospital ship USNS Mercy is being activated to go to the Philippines, too, although it will take a while to arrive. The US has also given twenty million dollars in relief money so far.

A British relief organization raised £13 million in 24 hours. The British government has dispatched two relatively nearby warships to help out. One of the ships is the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, whose helicopters could be especially helpful in distributing aid.

The Canadian government will match the $15 million dollars (Canadian) raised through charity on top of the $5 million in aid it has already committed. Australia is donating $30 million (Australian). South Korea is sending $5 million in aid and a team of relief workers. Japan is providing a thousand soldiers, three warships, several planes, and over ten million dollars of aid so far.

Even a company such as IKEA was able to offer more than $2 million.

With all of this, the government of China initially saw fit to offer only $100,000. With other sources of aid included, the total Chinese aid so far comes to less than $2 million. This puts the country in a sad light.

There are unfortunate tensions between China and the Philippines. (Such tensions, in fact, exist between China and almost every other country whose waters touch China's). The tensions, exacerbated by statements by Chinese government officials, have apparently created a hostile public opinion that sees no benefit and little virtue in giving much help to the Philippines. On the other hand, the Chinese government denies that these tensions are affecting its response to the disaster. That is hard to believe.

A person who wishes to insult a waiter does not refuse to leave a tip; he deliberately and noticeably undertips. Like a penny tip left on the table, China's minuscule aid represents an insult to its Philippine neighbours. A sad and self-defeating insult that will drive the Philippines closer to the United States than China would wish.
Update (20 Nov. 2013): China has announced that it is sending a 300-bed hospital ship, Red Cross workers, and a disaster relief team to the Philippines. The BBC report adds,
The announcement will be seen as an attempt by Beijing to repair the damage to the country's battered reputation, our correspondent says.
Meanwhile, British charities have raised £50 million for the Philippines in eight days of campaigning.

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