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China to step up aid to Philippines amid controversy
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 14, 2013

US aircraft carrier arrives in Philippines: Navy
Manila (AFP) Nov 14, 2013 - The United States Navy said Thursday its aircraft carrier the USS George Washington had arrived in the Philippines to aid an emergency relief operation following Super Typhoon Haiyan.

It "will go to a position just off the eastern coast of Samar island in order to begin to assess the damage and provide logistical and emergency support to include medical and water supplies," the carrier's commander, Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, said.

The USS George Washington was one of eight American ships in the region as part of "Operation Damayan" -- Tagalog for "solidarity" -- Montgomery added in a statement emailed to journalists.

He said cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpen would join the carrier off stricken Samar while the cargo ship USNS Charles Drew was moving water supplies to Guiuan airfield, elsewhere on the central island.

Two ships were bringing emergency supplies to Tacloban, the devastated capital of Leyte province, while another was focusing on Ormoc, on Leyte island.

An eighth vessel was surveying conditions, Montgomery added.

"We have ships conducting a variety of missions," he said.

The carrier's arrival is expected to give the relief effort a much-needed boost, particularly as the US navy will bring its logistical know-how to bear on a chaotic situation that has left many without help almost a week after disaster struck.

Roads have been impassable and the aid that has arrived has been jammed at airports and in warehouses, its delivery complicated by a dicey security situation that has seen convoys attacked.

China said Thursday it would increase its aid to the typhoon-pummelled Philippines, after criticism of its initial modest response, but some Chinese web users called for no help at all.

The two countries are embroiled in a longstanding row over islands in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

Manila accuses Beijing of asserting its claims increasingly aggressively and says Chinese vessels have occupied the Scarborough Shoal, which it claims itself, since last year.

China -- which has enjoyed a years-long economic boom -- announced a $100,000 cash donation on Monday, with a matching one from the Chinese Red Cross, far less than other countries and a move that prompted criticism overseas.

The US magazine Time carried a report Wednesday under the headline "The world's second largest economy off-loads insultingly small change on a storm-battered Philippines".

"The Chinese government has been made to look mean-spirited in front of the world community," said the article.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday that the country decided "just days ago" to provide an additional 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) for relief efforts in the form of blankets, tents and other materials.

"There will be thousands of tents and tens of thousands of blankets," he told reporters at a regular briefing.

"We hope that these supplies will be delivered to the disaster-stricken areas as soon as possible to show our sympathies with the Philippines."

Typhoon Haiyan swept through the central islands of the Philippines on Friday, wreaking havoc across a large area.

Chinese media and Internet users -- many of whom are intensely nationalistic -- were divided on how the country should respond to the disaster.

"If (the Chinese government) was generous to the Philippines, it would hurt the Chinese people completely," wrote a user with the online handle Old Beijing on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Another user said: "I think what China has done was rational -- facts have long showed the wickedness of the Philippine regime. It will not be grateful even if we hand them much money. Instead, it could use the cash to buy weapons from the US to attack us."

Others argued that China was also a victim of the storm and had its own disaster relief needs at home.

The typhoon brushed three provinces and regions in south China this week, leaving at least 13 dead or missing and 252,000 people displaced, according to the latest official data.

Nevertheless some commentators warned that it was not in China's best interests to minimise its humanitarian aid to the Philippines.

"A country's status on the world stage does not only rely on its economic and military strength. It is also determined by how much soft power it can master, which includes its approach to humanitarianism," said a commentary in the state-run Global Times Thursday.

Qin also played down the online nationalist sentiment, saying that an "overwhelming majority" of Chinese people "understand and sympathise with the sufferings of the Philippines".


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