(Posted December 6, 2013)

Henry Escuadro, associate professor of mathematics at Juniata College

Henry Escuadro, associate professor of mathematics at Juniata College

"The worst is over," said Interior Secretary of the Philippines Manuel Rojas, at a Manila news conference last week, refereeing to the current situation at the Philippines. The Haiyan Typhoon, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, destroyed the life of thousands of people in the last two weeks. The Earnest Visayas Region is the most affected in the Philippines. Over 5,000 people have died and an estimated 1,500 people are still missing. Haiyan is considered as the "deadliest natural disaster in the country's history," according to the BBC. Many countries and corporations around the world have helped Philippines with multimillion dollar donations and different resources.

Henry Escuadro, associate professor of mathematics at Juniata College and a Filipino, and his wife, Joie Escuadro, talk about the current situation from their home in the Philippines.

Q: What is the current situation in the Philippines?

A: As reported in the news, the damage wrought by typhoon Haiyan (locally known as typhoon Yolanda) is huge. It will take a long time before the provinces in the Visayas region can fully recover. As of last I have read, there have been more than 4,000 casualties recorded and it is estimated that about 10 million people (roughly 10 percent of the country's population) are going to be affected.

Relief operations are ongoing and have been for about two weeks now. Many Filipinos and visitors alike have gone to volunteer and the process is going more smoothly now. People were flown out of the severely affected areas but some local government units have become operational in the past few days. In particular, the city hall of Tacloban (in the hardest-hit area) is now open. The Department of Social Welfare and Development have also turned over the relief operations to some of the local government units. Relief goods are starting to reach the more remote areas as well.

Some relief operation sites are winding down their operations at the end of the week. But there should be some agencies where help and donations can be coursed through even after this week, as the rehabilitation of the places affected is a long-term process.

Q: How has the world reacted to this disaster?

A: I believe that the world reacted to the disaster in a very positive way. Many countries helped, sending not just monetary donations and goods, but manpower, as well. On a personal note, we have received numerous emails of concern and friends who prayed for us and for every Filipino affected by Yolanda.

Q: What is the best way to help Philippines now? What the world can do?

A: Donations, in money and in kindness, would always be welcome and can be directed through the Red Cross and the UN. But a major thing that the world can do, especially the more developed countries, would be to share their manpower, knowledge, and resources to help the displaced people pick up the pieces and start their lives all over again. This includes building houses/buildings and infrastructure that would provide people with livelihood.

Q: What resources does the Filipino government have to help the people of the country affected by the disaster?

A: Aside from funds in its budget and the donations it has received, the Philippine government has at its disposal means to transport goods to affected people such as planes, cargo ships, and trucks. It took some days before operations were put in place because standard operating procedures during times of calamities call for the local governments to be the first responders. As mentioned above, the relief operations are going more smoothly now. But a lot of things still need to be done and any help that could be extended to augment the resources that we have will go a long way.

Katherine Tobar, Juniata Online Journalist.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.