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Philippine flood effort delayed by red tape

Ramona Ruiz

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ABU DHABI // Ten days after a third typhoon hit the Philippines, bureaucratic hold-ups mean the fund-raising efforts of Filipino groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates have yet to begin.

Meanwhile, their compatriots in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, led by Bayanihan UAE, the umbrella organisation of 68 Filipino groups, has already sent more than Dh17,000 of aid to the country where hundreds were killed by flooding.

Bal Junio, the president of Bayanihan UAE, said the group had asked donors to give cash, rather than boxes of goods. "It's easier and we don't need to spend money on shipment costs," he said.

But FilCom, Bayanihan's counterpart in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, is still waiting for approval for a fund-raising campaign.

Fund-raising needs to be cleared by the Philippine Consulate, and then approved by the Red Crescent Authority (RCA). However, when FilCom sent its request to the RCA - approved and stamped by the consul general, Benito Valeriano - it was told it had to be on a government-issued form.

FilCom asked Mr Valeriano to sign the correct form, but he said he needed approval from Manila first. Alan Bacason, the FilCom president, emailed the foreign affairs department in Manila on October 7 to ask it to clear Mr Valeriano to sign the government form. That approval remains pending - and so a proper request has yet to be put to the RCA.

Once it is, Mr Bacason believes the Red Crescent approval would take "a day or two". "This will only happen once we receive an authorisation from Manila," he said.

Filipinos have begun to express their impatience at the delay. "Why is it taking so long?" said Myrna Rebulanan-Anderson, the head of the Lightform International Photographers Guild in Dubai.

"Three typhoons swept across the country but we haven't started our fund-raising campaign."

Dubai Filipinos who want to help can send money directly to the Philippine Red Cross or to Philippine TV stations such as GMA-7 and ABS-CBN.

Aguman Kapampangan, a Dubai group with 100 members, sent 30,000 pesos (Dh2,600) from its emergency fund to the Philippine Red Cross.

"We felt the need to act quickly to sustain the many flood victims forced out of their homes," said Angel Timbol, the group's president. "At least nine towns in the province of Pampanga are still flooded."

On October 9, five Filipino organisations shipped 13 boxes of relief, weighing a combined total of 200 kilograms, to GMA-7 and ABS-CBN, according to Wafa Kasimieh, a Dubai government employee who led the initiative.

Mrs Kasimieh won the Presidential Banaag Award in December last year, which recognises the contributions of Filipinos overseas to communities in their home country and abroad.

"This is one of my projects after winning a presidential award last year," she said. "We were able to collect brand new blankets, towels, rubber slippers and canned goods for those badly affected by the three typhoons."

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