11/14/2013, 00.00
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PIME superior in the Philippines Fr Gianni Re notes that not everything is negative, that reconstruction has already begun

Although there is no shortage of difficulties, aid is available albeit hard to distribute because of too few ferries that can reach all the affected islands. Some looters take food; others take televisions, washing machines and jeans. But in some areas, prevention worked. As the Church collects emergency aid and prepares for long-term action, parishes spared by the disaster help those affected by it.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Typhoon Haiyan has had both a negative and positive impact on the Filipino people. However, "Stressing the negative aspects, like looting and the obstacles to aid distribution, is unfair to those who are doing something under trying circumstances," Fr Gianni Re told AsiaNews.

From the capital, the PIME regional superior in the Philippines is in constant touch with missionaries and priests in the central Philippines, the area hit by Typhoon Haiyan, which left destruction along a 600 kilometres path, including more than 2,300 deaths.

"Concerns about corruption, looting and slow aid distribution have been voiced in the media. However, little is being said about parishes helping others rebuild, or that aid, which is available, is hard to deliver because the Philippines is an archipelago where it is not easy to move from one place to another."

Although many people looted because they were hungry and thirsty, under the country's laws, they cannot be prosecuted, the missionary explained. "Others however took advantage of the confusing situation, taking televisions, washing machines, jeans -."

Fr Gianni Re, a veteran missionary with 33 years in the Philippines, is confident that the situation will improve in the coming days. "The typhoon season seems over - the weather has improved, raising hope that links with the disaster area can be soon restored. In some areas, cut off for days, phone links have been restored. Aid has been collected, but unfortunately there are not enough means to deliver it to the affected islands.

"Before the typhoon, the Filipino government said it had three C130 planes, too few for the needs in food and water of hundreds of thousands of people."

Now, the arrival of the US aircraft carrier George Washington will make landing easier and allow the use of helicopters. Truckloads of aid are also waiting for ferries that are big enough for them to reach the islands of Leyte and Samar.

President Benigno Aquino has been criticised in the media for the inefficiency and disorganisation of the government's response. However, "We must understand," Fr Re said, "that under Filipino law, local authorities have primary responsibility. In some areas, they have done a good job; in others they haven't.  At Iloilo, Antique and other places, the police went around with loudspeakers warning of the pending emergency. They also moved, sometimes forcibly, people to secure buildings, stockpiling food and water. Elsewhere, people refused to leave their homes . . ."

"In any case," the clergyman noted, "no one expected such a violent typhoon, with winds up to 350 km per hour. When emergency crews reached devastated areas, they realised that the scale of the disaster was much greater than previously thought."

"Many parishes spared by the typhoon are twinning with affected ones," he added. "Some areas have had severe damage, such as Iloilo, which the media never mention. Now some parishes are helping locals with food, and water, as well as plastic sheets to put on houses that had the roof blown off".

Manila's auxiliary bishop, Mgr Broderick Pabillo, sent a group of experts to the affected areas to have a clear idea of the needs and coordinate aid of the Catholic Church.

The Filipino Church, said the prelate who chairs the Commission for Social Action, has also launched a campaign to collect emergency items (medicines, food, water, tents, etc...) and raise funds for reconstruction.

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