x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Filipinos rally to help storm victims

Filipino expatriates have rallied to help their compatriots in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ketsana.

Employees at the International Modern Hospital pack clothing to be donated to victims of flooding.
Employees at the International Modern Hospital pack clothing to be donated to victims of flooding.

ABU DHABI // Filipino expatriates have rallied to help their compatriots in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ketsana, which has killed at least 240 people amid the worst flooding to hit Manila and nearby provinces in four decades. The tropical storm dropped more than a normal month's rain on Manila on Saturday before moving away towards Vietnam and strengthening into a typhoon.

Flooding has displaced 450,000 people, and nearly as many were yesterday reported to be living in makeshift shelters, with tens of thousands having lost all their possessions. Maria Teresa Palinga, 46, a private tutor in Al Ain for 19 years, said her family home in the Santa Ana quarter of Manila had been inundated and that the family had lost everything. "My 74-year-old mother cried because I have worked hard for several years here in Al Ain to build a nice home and purchase all our belongings, but we just lost them all to the flood," she said. "But we're all relieved that everyone is safe."

Her sister-in-law was at home with the couple's six-month-old baby when the tropical storm struck. "Since our house was flooded, they sought shelter at one of our neighbour's homes before help arrived," Ms Palinga said. Cora Tiamzon, 45, an export executive in Dubai, said her aunt, uncle and her brothers' families had been severely affected by the storm. "My aunt's home in Marikina was badly hit as the water reached their roof," she said. "All their belongings were swept by the flood.

"They did not have any clothes, blankets and a place to stay, so they're all in our three-storey house, which is also in Marikina." Merlita Encelan, 48, a divisions co-ordinator at a trading company in Dubai, said the whole village where her sister, brother, nieces and nephews live in Cainta, in the province of Rizal, was submerged. "I am sending money and packing two boxes of clothes, food and other stuff for their immediate assistance. My sister was supposed to return to Dubai but had to rebook her flight last Saturday because the water had reached chest-deep," she said.

Ernesto Refugio, the vice chairman of the board of trustees of Filex UAE, a foundation established last year to provide financial assistance to Filipinos in great financial need, said representatives of various Filipino organisations in Abu Dhabi met at the country's embassy on Monday night to discuss fund-raising. "Consul General Noel Servigon encouraged each organisation to individually remit cash donations and report them to the embassy," he said.

"Donations in kind will also be expected, but we still need to determine the immediate needs of the typhoon victims." Cash donations may be remitted to the National Disaster Co-ordinating Council, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Philippine National Red Cross, he said. Mr Refugio said Filipino expatriates had yet to reactivate a committee that assisted victims of Typhoon Frank last year. "Each organisation will have to conduct their own fund-raising activity and report this to the embassy."

Robert Ramos, the overall chairman of the Filipino community organising committee in Dubai and the northern Emirates, said there were more than 70 Filipino organisations in the UAE and that each was being urged to make a donation. "Even a small amount will make a big difference to our countrymen," he said. Mr Ramos, who is also a representative of the National Association of Mapua Alumni, said representatives of various groups were scheduled to meet last night at the Philippine consulate in Al Ghusais.

They were to discuss cash donations and the logistics of sending medicines, food, blankets and clothes to the Philippines. It was agreed that each organisation would send its cash donations to the Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development through the Land Bank of the Philippines, using account number 3122-101-184. All remittances would be documented, and information on all cash donations would be provided to the Philippine consulate in Dubai. Albert Alba, a member of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association, was designated as the contact person for cash contributions from the group.

Another member, Arnold Cereno, is in charge of relief goods to be sent to the Philippines. rruiz@thenational.ae