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21 November 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C—From a 13-year-old schoolgirl in Virginia who broke her piggy bank to donate her $100 in savings to a large evangelical group in North Carolina that dispatched a 747 with $5 million worth of relief goods, sympathy and support for typhoon victims in the Philippines is simply overwhelming.

“We are touched by the outpouring of sympathy and solidarity by our friends here in the United States,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most violent storms in recorded history, killed more than 4,000 people and affected around 10 million in its devastating rampage across the Central Philippines.

“Our people are deeply indebted to all those who came to our succor,” Ambassador Cuisia said, adding that the Philippine Consulates General in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Agana also reported the same outpouring of support from the American public.

The US Government was among the first to respond to the disaster with the release of more than $37 million in emergency assistance and the deployment of air and naval assets, including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, to support the Philippine Government’s relief efforts.

Ambassador Cuisia said that no less than President Obama himself has called on the American people to support the ongoing typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines. This is in addition to the resolutions of support for the Philippines that were approved by the US Senate and the House of Representatives.

Ambassador Cuisia also cited the critical role played by American doctors from the Mammoth Medical Missions and search and rescue specialists from Team Rubicon, both based in California, who were also among the first foreign volunteers to make it to Leyte.

According to the Ambassador, the timely deployment of the Mammoth and Team Rubicon volunteers, which was facilitated by the Philippine Embassy, helped saved a number of lives in the town of Tanauan, south of Tacloban, where they served under difficult conditions.

Ambassador Cuisia also cited Samaritan’s Purse, a North Carolina-based international relief agency headed by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, which flew in a 747 plane carrying approximately 100 metric tons of relief supplies with an estimated value of $5 million. The organization even purchased 10 trucks in the Philippines to help distribute their goods and will spend for the charter of local planes or helicopters for their work.

Ambassador Cuisia said Catholic churches across the US also responded to the call for assistance for the Philippines and offered their second collections to support the relief efforts for typhoon victims being undertaken by the Catholic Relief Services. The Baptist Church in the US is also raising funds for typhoon victims through its Baptist World Aid program.

Among the first to respond to the typhoon relief efforts was Asia-America Initiative (AAI) headed by Albert Santoli, which flew in 14,000 pounds of medicines and medical supplies for the Philippine Red Cross valued at more than $1 million.

Ambassador Cuisia said JP Morgan donated $1 million and a commitment to match funds raised by 12,000 employees at their shared services operations in the Philippines up to $250,000. Procter and Gamble donated $1.5 million worth of daily use products and 1 million sachets of water purifying products. It will also match the fundraising of its employees up to $100,000.

Other corporate donors include United Parcel Service, $1 million; General Electric, $750,000; Abott Laboratories, $450,000; Citigroup, $250,000; Caterpillar, $100,000; Medtronic, $100,000; and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Field LLP, $50,000.

Filipino-American organizations are also actively involved in fundraising and other activities to support the ongoing disaster relief efforts. Last week, Ambassador Cuisia gathered Filipino community leaders to discuss how the Embassy and the community could coordinate their efforts, including a huge benefit concert featuring popular artists with Filipino descent.

Bing Branigin, member of the Board of Governors of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, said the organization has been working with Filipino and other Asian-American organizations, including Feed the Hungry, in raising almost $5 million to support the relief efforts. At one-fundraiser in Virginia Beach, newly reelected State Delegate Ron Villanueva and other volunteers were able to raise $40,000 for typhoon victims.

The Migrant Heritage Commission, a Washington-based grassroots organization led by lawyer Arnedo Valera, also launched its Tulong Mula sa Puso, that seeks to help affected communities in other areas in the Central Visayas that were also devastated by Haiyan.

The World Bank-International Monetary Fund Filipino Association and the Filipino Young Professionals of DC have also launched their own fundraising initiatives for typhoon victims.

It is not only the big corporations and organizations that have responded.

Thirteen-year-old Ma. Renzie Enaje of the Kilmer Middle School in Vienna opened her piggy bank and donated $139 she collected from her weekly allowance for the relief efforts. Student organizations at William and Mary in Williamsburg, George Mason University in Farifax and the University of Maryland in College Park have also initiated their own fund-raising activities.

Ben James Ambalong, owner of Stimulating Media, a web design firm based in Maryland, took time out to help the Embassy develop the Bayanihan webpage (www.philippinesusa.org/haiyan) that provided information not only on developments in the affected areas in the Philippines but also on how the public could assist typhoon victims.

Devinka Puswella, a Sri Lankan-American who witnessed the devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, organized a relief drive at her daughter’s school in Howard County. She said relief items donated by students at Glenelg Country School filled up the school gym.

The Vietnamese-American, Taiwanese-American and Cambodian-American communities are also actively engaged in fundraising efforts for typhoon victims in the Philippines. The Vietnamese Embassy collected over $1,000 from its personnel and donated this to typhoon victims. ###