Int’l aid cluster activated as PH braces for ‘Ompong’

MANILA As the country braces for Typhoon Ompong, the government has activated the Philippine International Assistance Cluster (PIHAC), which is expected to make the call for humanitarian aid from foreign states and organizations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), on Thursday said all systems and protocols for international humanitarian assistance have been put in place.

During a command conference at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano relayed the update to President Rodrigo Duterte.

"The cluster, which the DFA heads, has been activated. If and when the determination is made that we are (in) need of international assistance, we shall make the call for assistance," he said.

The PIHAC operations come in three phases: the pre, during and post-disaster.

During the disaster phase, the cluster will orchestrate operations of the online humanitarian assistance registry in coordination with other government agencies.

Cayetano said the registry that will be used "will match the needs of the localities and the desired donation of the international community."

As of this posting, signal No. 1 has been hoisted over at least 39 areas as Typhoon Ompong moves toward the northern part of the country.

"Ompong" is expected to make landfall in the Cagayan-Isabela area early morning on Saturday.

In terms of assistance to departing overseas Filipino workers (OFW), Cayetano assured that the DFA is willing to release financial aid from the PHP1-billion assistance-to-nationals fund.

"If there are OFWs who will be stranded in the ports and only have an exact amount for allowance, the cluster of DFA will be willing to help them and it's within the guidelines of the PHP1 billion that you allotted for the OFWs," he told President Duterte.

He assured that the agency is coordinating well with the Department of Labor and Employment in extending assistance that would be needed.

"We have some (regional) consular offices Mr. President, but most probably we will coordinate with the airport and the seaport officials but we will find a way to give them (OFWs) the money," he said.

Meanwhile, the Save the Children Fund, a London-based international organization, is in the process of deploying a five-member emergency team to Santiago, Luzon, ahead of the storm's arrival.

Alberto Muyot, Save the Children Philippines CEO, said the group has pre-positioned relief items across the country, including thousands of household, hygiene and back-to-school kits.

We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Once the storm passes, our team will work with local authorities and other aid agencies to assess the scale of devastation caused by the typhoon, and determine the needs of those affected, Muyot said.

Save the Children has a long history of responding to typhoons and other disasters in the Philippines, and our team stands ready to respond once again. Depending on the extent of the damage, a major humanitarian response may be required," he added.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System issued a "red alert" for the storm on Wednesday, warning that more than 42 million people could be affected across the Philippines and southern China.

The Philippine government has also issued its highest level of alert. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency