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Envoy hails typhoon aid to Philippines

By Zhang Yunbi in Cebu, the Philippines | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-23 07:35

Decision will improve local attitudes toward Beijing, ambassador says

China's decision to send three medical teams to the typhoon-hit Philippines is in line with its policy of good-neighborly diplomacy and will improve local people's attitudes toward Beijing, the top Chinese envoy to the country said on Friday.

The death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck on Nov 8, stands at more than 4,000, which is unprecedented, while reaction worldwide is "also making history", said Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing.

"With the operations of the Chinese teams ongoing, we believe there will be more resonance and positive feedback from the local community," Ma said.

"A growing number of Filipinos are changing their stereotype of China in their minds and are saying 'thanks'," she said.

Tensions between the two countries have flared since the Philippines attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen near China's Huangyan Island in April 2012, over which Manila claimed sovereignty.

But Beijing's decision to send a Red Cross team, a government emergency response rescue team and the Peace Ark naval medical ship to the Philippines "marks a remarkable chapter in China's history of post-disaster assistance overseas", Ma said.

The 300-bed Peace Ark, which has eight operating rooms, sailed from a navy port in Zhejiang province on Thursday and is expected to arrive at its destination in the Philippines on Saturday.

"This will be the first medical ship to arrive in the Philippines and we are looking forward to it playing a bigger role in boosting medicare," Ma said.

The ambassador saw off the 18 members in the first group of the Red Cross Society of China international rescue team who left for Tacloban, the worst-hit area. They were expected to reach their destination early on Saturday.

Leyte province, of which Tacloban is the capital, accounts for about 75 percent of the death toll, CNN reported.

Amanda McClelland, health coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the Chinese team is needed at a time when the focus of rescue work has shifted from surgery to public health.

"The situation is difficult. There is a lack of food, and markets are not operating yet, but ... things are starting to improve," she said.

The majority of cases requiring surgery have been attended to and public health problems are centered on diarrhea and other diseases related to environmental sanitation, she said.

Amy Salamania, a 31-year-old shopkeeper in Cebu, said "thank you so much" when told that the Chinese team will be stationed in Tacloban.

"In the aftermath of the typhoon, people are longing for food and shelter," she said.

Some Western media reports described China's humanitarian aid to the Philippines as an "international political show".

But Li Guoqiang, a researcher in Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China's aid stems purely from humanitarian considerations. The aid, despite maritime disputes between the two nations, shows that China is broad-minded and has a strong sense of responsibility as a regional and global power, Li said.

Zhang Fan and Qin Jize in Beijing contributed to this story.


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