x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Filipinos pack up donations to flood victims of Washi

However organisers must turn away offerings of used clothing.

ABU DHABI // Filipinos in the UAE have begun packing up relief goods to send to flood victims a week after a tropical storm killed at least 1,100 people in the Philippines.

Volunteers gathered at the Philippine overseas labour office in Al Ghusais on Friday to sort and pack the donations.

While there were blankets, medicine and canned goods, most donations were of used clothing, which is subject to a Philippines import ban, and had to be turned away.

"There were boxes of used clothing but we had to set all of them aside," said Alan Bacason, the president of FilCom, which represents Filipino groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

The country prohibits the "commercial importation" of used clothing and rags "to safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation".

"We can't stop people from sending used clothing," Mr Bacason said. He suggested donors should instead send clothes directly to relatives in the Philippines, who could then send them on to flood-hit areas. A week after Tropical Storm Washi hit the Philippines, causing massive flooding in northern Mindanao, the death toll has risen to 1,100, while 1,079 remain missing.

In Abu Dhabi, many people also brought clothing to the embassy despite pleas not to from Bayanihan UAE, FilCom's counterpart in the capital. "We'll send the new ones including the blankets and towels," said its president, Bal Junio. "The old clothes may be donated to the Philippine overseas labour office."

Cornelio Nambatac, 39, an Abu Dhabi Government employee from Cagayan de Oro, said victims needed clothes, blankets and rubber slippers.

"I don't think they mind receiving used clothing," he said. "All their clothes and beddings are still filled with mud. Until now, they don't have tap water and electricity."

His three sisters, their husbands, four nieces and a nephew had to climb on to the roof of their two-storey home at 2am on December 17. On Christmas Eve, the family in Cagayan de Oro had a simple dinner to celebrate the occasion. "They felt a bit awkward," he said. "But the disaster should not dampen the Christmas spirit. Life must go on."

Instead of paying for an air ticket to celebrate Christmas and the New Year back home, Mr Nambatac chose to stay in the capital and send a large chunk of his savings this month.

Mr Junio said Bayanihan was donating Dh9,200 from its standing fund. It also collected about Dh2,000 at its Christmas bazaar on Friday.

Meanwhile, community members in Dubai are being encouraged to send monetary donations directly to the Philippine Red Cross and aid groups in the Philippines.

Mr Bacason said FilCom does not yet have a permit from the Dubai government to conduct fund-raisers in public but they are expecting one soon.

Nolan Dalapo's sister and two brothers' homes were badly damaged in the floods, and they lost all their belongings. The 46-year-old library and research assistant at Abu Dhabi University, who is from Cagayan de Oro, said clothing could go a long way for many of the flood victims. "Right after the storm, my nephews and nieces said they did not have anything - even underwear - to wear," he said. "We appreciate all this help."