Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wiped a third of the Philippines’ rice-growing areas, the United Nations (UN) food agency said on Tuesday, as it called for “urgent assistance” to farmers who need to sow new seeds.
“Regions most severely affected by the typhoon account for one-third of the total rice production in the country,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement.
“Hundreds of thousands of farmers in the Philippines whose crops were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan need urgent assistance to sow new seeds before the end of the current planting season,” it said.
The main-season harvest was well under way in the central Philippines when the typhoon hit, which also “badly disrupting” ongoing planting for the secondary season, the FAO said.
The Rome-based agency added: “There is concern that many storage facilities may have been destroyed, along with their contents.”
Dominique Burgeon, head of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, said in the statement: “If we want to avoid entire regions of the country having to rely on food aid, we need to act now to help vulnerable families to plant or replant by late December.”
The agency plans to supply seeds for rice and maize as well as tools, fertilizer and irrigation equipment, it said.
“Families will also receive vegetable seeds to help bridge the gap before the next harvest,” it added.
Some 13 million people were affected by the typhoon that also claimed at least 4,000 lives.
Four million people were displaced, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.
An estimated 2.5 million are in need of food aid.
Valerie Amos, undersecretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination of the United Nations, said relief operations in hard-hit Tacloban City have “scaled up substantially” but the needs of victims are still “immense.”
“Today was very different. People are making every effort to rebuild their lives and the early signs of entrepreneurialism are all there, with women cooking and selling food, others removing debris or providing other support in the community,” she said after visiting the city for the second time.
“Every day, aid efforts garner pace with the systems getting through to more people,” she said.
But Amos admitted that relief groups have not reached thousands of people in remote areas.
To date, some 1.1 million people have been provided with food aid. This is out of the 2.5 million people who require food assistance.
Amos said reaching out to 1.1 million people is not normal for a crisis that has lasted for almost two weeks, but she noted that the Philippine government had distributed 837,900 food packs in the affected areas.
Some 500,000 homes have been destroyed while the need for emergency shelter and basic protection for women and children remains.
Some 3.2 million women and 4.6 million children are also in need of psychological support and protection against violence, trafficking and exploitation.
Amos expressed her confidence that the Philippines will overcome the crisis because of the outpouring of aid from other countries and organizations.
The UN appealed for $301 million and has so far raised $193 million for the victims.
“And while we increase our immediate response efforts, we are also looking to the future, helping people restore their livelihoods. The government, I’m sure, will be doing a post disaster needs assessment to frame longer term rehabilitation efforts,” the UN official said.
Amos said she continues “to be struck by the resilience and spirit of the Filipino people.”
“Everywhere I visited, I saw families determined to rebuild their lives under the most difficult conditions. I would like to assure them and the Philippine government that the United Nations and international community continue to stand with them,” she said.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is working on a blueprint that will enable government agencies to work together in the reconstruction and restoration of typhoon-ravaged areas.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the unified assessment, which will come out in December, will be the basis for the rebuilding efforts. The plan will also identify short term and medium term priority projects of the government that can be considered in drafting the national budgets for 2014 and 2015, which can also be aided by donor assistance and the private sector.
“We need to act quickly but we also need to determine the right sequence of actions so we can address both immediate and longer-term needs,” Balisacan said.
According to Banco de Oro, the economy may slow down to three percent to four percent for the fourth quarter of 2013 because of the effects of Yolanda.
Jose Noel Mendoza, BDO senior vice president, said the projected growth is significantly weaker than the first three quarters.
NEDA trimmed its Gross Domestic Product estimate for the fourth quarter to 4.1 percent.
NEDA said that full-year GDP growth could range from 6.5 percent to 7 percent, slower than its earlier forecast of 7.3 percent.
Despite the lower projected growth, BDO sees full year GDP growth for 2013 at 7 percent.
Mendoza said next year’s GDP will still be close to a 6.5 percent as rehabilitation efforts ramp up.
“Usually when there’s a disaster, it has a one-shot effect, meaning growth will be cut near term, but with the rehabilitation efforts going into 2014, we are going to see the economy bouncing back at stronger level,” he told reporters.
Mendoza predicted inflation rising to about 3.5 percent next year, from 2.9 percent this year because of higher energy costs.
“Part of the power generating capability of the companies has been affected by the typhoon. In order to address that gap, the power generating companies or distributors will have to rely on the more expensive bunker fuel,” he said.
The bank’s inflation forecast was well within the 3-percent to 5-percent target band of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) this year until 2014.
Malacañang said Tacloban City is slowly returning to normalcy as banks and businesses reopen.
“Today, the Development Bank of the Philippines is set to resume operations, while counter transactions will also commence in the banks that are scheduled to open,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“Two major commercial establishments in the city, the Robinson’s and Gaisano supermarkets, are also set to open today. It is reported that a hardware store and an agri-supply store have also opened,” he said.
The Department Public Works Highways (DPWH) identified the towns of Palo, Maasin, Basey, Marabut, and Guiuan as possible areas where bunkhouses for typhoon survivors could be built, Lacierda said.
“Relief was delivered to 32 of the 40 municipalities of Leyte; the other eight towns, which are serviced by the Ormoc hub, were not able to collect their food packages, despite being informed of the availability of relief. Secretary (Mar) Roxas explained that some local government officials from these towns did not have the means to collect and deliver relief items to their communities,” Lacierda said.
The humanitarian assistance official of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is in the country to personally convey the 10-member bloc’s solidarity with the Philippines.
“We have been informing and mobilizing support from the Member States and will continue to facilitate Asean’s response to this calamity in order to assist the Philippines in its relief and recovery efforts,” Secretary General Le Luong Minh said on his arrival in Manila on Wednesday.
Minh will brief officials on Asean’s response to the emergency and recovery efforts in typhoon-hit areas. He will also fly to Tacloban to visit affected communities there.
A team of humanitarian response specialists from Asean has been in the Philippines since Yolanda struck.
To date, Asean member states have provided an estimated $10 million in financial aid to the Philippines.