Via USAID – @theOFDA as of November 18, 2013:
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Via USAID – @theOFDA as of November 18, 2013:
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– Domani Spero
Via the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) made its first landfall in the early morning of 8 November in Guiuan, Eastern Samar province with maximum sustained winds of 235 km/h and wind gusts at 275 km/h. Haiyan made subsequent landfalls in Tolosa south of Tacloban City, Leyte province, Daanbantayan and Bantayan Island, Cebu province, Conception, Iloilo province and Busuanga, Palawan province. Communication and power lines are down in the most affected areas. Access has been limited due to damaged roads, fallen trees and debris which continue to hamper the humanitarian relief operations. On 9 November, the Government accepted the UN offer of international assistance. The Humanitarian Country Team and the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team were deployed to Tacloban City and Iloilo City to support rapid needs assessment, support coordination and re-establish communication networks.”
The Philippines is a country with over 7,000 islands, and a population of over 98 million. The fear that the number of casualties will grow as affected areas are able to re-establish communication with the mainland is justified.
According to the State Department there are an estimated four million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States, and more than 300,000 U.S. citizens residing in the Philippines. An estimated 600,000 Americans also visit the Philippines each year. As of FY2012, our bilateral trade with the Philippines fast-growing economy was $17 billion. Until early 1990s, the Philippines hosted U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in the Luzon island.
On November 11, Secretary Kerry released the following statement (excerpt):
As we commemorate Veterans Day here at home, the State Department is working with Team Rubicon to deploy a team of incredible, courageous American veterans to the Philippines and all the areas damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Just as they did after Hurricane Sandy, these veterans will be using the skills they learned in uniform to help others recover from this terrible storm.
The State Department also is cooperating with the Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund established by The mGive Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit organization, to coordinate donations via mobile phones to benefit victims of the typhoon.
I want to assure the people of the Philippines and the many Americans of Filipino heritage that we are working as hard as possible to provide essential assistance to help the Philippine people and their government recover from this tragedy.
On the same day, the Pentagon announced that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and other U.S. Navy ships to make best speed for the Republic of the Philippines. They are expected to be on station within 48-72 hours. These ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies, and medical care in support of the ongoing efforts in the Philippines.
The aircraft carrier, which carries 5,000 Sailors and more than 80 aircraft, is currently in Hong Kong for a port visit. The crew is being recalled early from shore leave and the ship is expected to be underway later this evening.
In company with the carrier will be the cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Cowpens (CG 63), and the destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89). The supply ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10) is already underway and will rendezvous with the group as they get closer. USS Lassen (DDG 82) got underway yesterday for the region. Embarked on board USS George Washington, is Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5).
CVW-5 is a collection of aircraft designed to perform various functions including disaster relief and includes the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 flying the MH-60S Seahawk; and the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77 flying the MH-60R Seahawk.
Active links added above. Also on November 11, USAID announced a $20 million humanitarian assistance to the Philippines:
In response to the storm, the United States Government announced today $20 million in humanitarian assistance, including emergency food aid and critical relief supplies–like shelter materials and hygiene kits–for disaster-affected areas. These supplies will not only provide life-saving care in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but will also help prevent illness and death from waterborne and communicable diseases. A shipment is already on its way with enough plastic sheeting, soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, and sanitary supplies to help 10,000 families. Another shipment of the same size will follow closely behind. We are also sending 55 metric tons of food, including highly nutritious bars and paste–containing a day’s worth of calories–to nourish approximately 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for roughly 4 to 5 days.
To read more about the USG assistance, click here.
Welfare and Whereabouts of U.S. Citizens in the Philippines
If you are concerned about the welfare or whereabouts of an American citizen in the Philippines, here are some useful contact numbers:
If you are in the United States, you may call the Department of State’s Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) toll-free hotline at (888) 407-4747 during the hours 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday. The Department of State has activated the Typhoon Haiyan Response Call Center to handle inquiries about US citizens who may be present in the Philippines. You may contact the Call Center at 888-407-4747 if calling from within the U.S. or 202-501-4444 if calling from any other location.
At all other times, call the duty officer twenty-four hours a day at 202-647-4000.
Donation Information (per state.gov)
U.S. wireless subscribers can text AID to 80108 to give a $10 donation to the mGive Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund.
Donations will be collected from the U.S. wireless carriers by the mGive Foundation, a 501c3 public charity that empowers text donation campaigns across 60 U.S. wireless carriers–providing access to 99 percent of all mobile phone users. Donations made to mGive will be distributed to relief organizations supporting Philippine Typhoon response and recovery. For more information visit, www.mgive.org.
The $10 donation will go to The mGive Foundation’s Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund. Charges will appear on the donor’s wireless bill or be deducted from the prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Donors must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate.
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– Domani Spero
On November 5, 2013, the U.S. Senate confirmed by unanimous vote Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr. as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Indonesia.
President Obama announced Ambassador Blake’s nomination on July 30, 2013. At that time, the WH released the following brief bio:
Ambassador Robert Blake, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career-Minister, is Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs. Previously, he served as Ambassador to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives from 2006 to 2009. Prior to that, Ambassador Blake served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India from 2003 to 2006. Previous domestic assignments include: Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs from 2001 to 2003, Deputy Executive Secretary from 2000 to 2001, and the Turkey Desk Officer from 1998 to 2000. Overseas assignments include: Head of the Political Section at the U.S. Embassy Tunis, Tunisia from 1995 to 1998 and Economic Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, Algeria from 1993 to 1994. He received a B.A. from Harvard College and an M.A. from John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Ambassador Blake is the son of retired Ambassador Robert O. Blake. Indonesia will be his second ambassadorial posting. He succeeds Scot Marciel who became Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the EAP Bureau in August 2013, after serving for three years as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of those posts in the Foreign Service where very few political appointees dare to go. In fact, since the 1960, the WH has made 17 ambassadorial appointments to Jakarta. Of those appointments, only one was a political appointee, Paul D. Wolfowitz who served as ambassador there from 1986-1989.
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– By Domani Spero
The cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia lent to hyperventilating descriptions about the president’s “Asia Pivot” — “falters,” “in shambles,” “goes pffft,” “in jeopardy” and such.
Well, frankly, not sure where that is going. But we could certainly imagine the political hay that would have been expended over POTUS trip to Asia during a government shutdown.
In any case, Secretary Kerry took the trip instead.
Dear Congress, this is what happened to America in Bali, Indonesia.
So you’re not allowed to make fun of that shirt or any other shirts, kapish?
We actually think that purple batik suits him well. Had they asked him to put on a gray one, he would have worn it too, even if he would have looked wash out in it. Because he’s our top diplomat. Yes, diplomats are known to wear (and eat) things that their compatriots often find strange or weird. (See Round-Up: Headgears in the Foreign Service).
These are way tamer in comparison to what President Bush had to wear during his tenure.
Anyhow, we understand that Australia continues to host annual six-month training deployments of US Marines to its base in the Northern Territory. Australia’s Courier News reports today that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised the necessary infrastructure will be put in place to accommodate the expected presence of a 1000 U.S. Marines set to train there next year. The government is preparing to construct additional accommodations at two bases in Darwin.
So there’s that.
Then we heard that we are helping the Philippines develop Oyster Bay, a postcard-perfect cove on Palawan Island into a port for naval frigates and eventually for American warships? All, of course, overlooking the disputed South China Sea. But given all that’s happening in Washington, D.C….
No wonder Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the later’s 61st birthday “quaffing vodka and wolfing down cake”:
“It was 11:00 pm. I offered our Chinese friends to raise a shot of vodka,” Mr Putin said, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS.
“They did not refuse, so we did just that.” As for the cake: “We wolfed it down successfully”. Needless to say, Mr Putin described his meeting with Mr Xi as “very warm” and “friendly”.
We can’t say if Secretary Kerry was in attendance for that “quaffing” and “wolfing” event.
Meanwhile, back in Foggy Bottom: The East Asia Pacific bureau has six deputy assistant secretaries, twice as many as in 2004, and a deputy assistant secretary-level U.S. senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. State/OIG reports that “the bureau needs to streamline front office staffing” — top heavy structure for the second smallest regional bureau in the house needs fixing. Why? Because as in other bureaus, “the proliferation of DASes has diminished the role of office directors and reduced responsibility at every level.” Also this:
The administration’s rebalance toward Asia has not been matched by additional financial or human resources. A Congressional Research Service memorandum notes that “[new] initiatives have not, however, been accompanied by a significant increase in the State Department or USAID’s programmatic resources devoted to East Asia.” Foreign assistance to the region in FY 2013 is 19 percent below the FY 2010 peak. U.S. military resources for the region have increased, but sequestration may impact future plans.
Folks, somewhere, some heads of state are laughing their heads off.
– By Domani Spero
This weekend Brazilian diplomat Eduardo Saboia, the charge d’affaires of the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia reportedly smuggled Roger Pinto, a Bolivian senator and opponent of President Evo Morales out of the country using an embassy car escorted by Brazilian Marines. According to Al Jazeera, the escorted embassy car traveled from La Paz to the southwestern Brazilian city of Corumba, a drive of some 22 hours. Today, UK’s Independent newspaper reported the resignation of Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota. Apparently, the smuggling of the senator from La Paz to Brasilia was not approved by either country. It also reported that Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has accepted Mr Patriota’s resignation but immediately appointed him as head of Brazil’s UN delegation. The head of Brazil’s UN delegation Luiz Alberto Figueiredo has now been appointed the new foreign minister.Via Al Jazeera:
Eduardo Saboia, the Brazilian charge d’affaires in La Paz, revealed earlier on Monday that he helped Roger Pinto, a Bolivian senator, escape to Brazil after he was holed up for 15 months in Brasilia’s embassy in the Bolivian capital despite having been granted asylum.
Pinto, an opponent of Bolivian President Evo Morales, made his escape Friday in an embassy car escorted by Brazilian marines, driving 22 hours to the southwestern Brazilian city of Corumba, 1,600km from La Paz.
“I chose life. I chose to protect a person, a persecuted politician, like [Brazilian] President Dilma [Rousseff] was persecuted,” Saboia told Globo television on his arrival in Brasilia, where he was recalled for consultations.
He said he made the personal decision to help Pinto escape “because there was an imminent threat to the life and dignity of the senator.”
Saboia said Pinto was suffering from depression and was contemplating suicide.
The Bolivian government views Pinto as a fugitive from justice after he was accused of corruption, for which he was sentenced to a year in prison.
He sought refuge at the Brazilian embassy last year, claiming to be a victim of political persecution after he denounced alleged cases of corruption and alleged links between authorities and drug traffickers.
His case strained relations between La Paz and Brasilia. Morales last year said Brazil’s decision to grant Pinto asylum was “a mistake”.
In La Paz, David Choquehuanca, Bolivian foreign minister, expressed “deep concern over the transgression of the principle of reciprocity and international courtesy”.
Read in full: Brazil’s top diplomat quits over Bolivia row.
We’re waiting for Bolivian President Morales to announce soon that he will close the Brazilian embassy in La Paz. Because of the yanquis. Wait, wait — still trying to connect the dots; it’s there somewhere. It looks like diplomat Eduardo Saboia shared a toast with Secretary Kerry. Oh, my lord, what were they whispering about?
– By Domani Spero
Of the 98 incidents that involved U.S. citizens and interests, 91 are believed to have resulted from intentional targeting of Americans. Via Political Violence Against Americans – 2012: