Just over a week ago super-typhoon Haiyan – one of the worst storms in recorded human history – swept over our good friend, the Philippines.
In numerical terms the sheer strength of this Category 5 Catastrophic storm – with gusts just under 400km/h - is beyond belief and compare.
Its impact more so, as it cut across nine regions, 44 provinces, 536 municipalities, 55 cities.
An area home to 50 million Filipinos – that’s just over half of the country’s 92m citizens.
Coron, Tacloban, Ormoc, Palo, Guiuan, Cebu. All major population centres that lay directly in the path of Haiyan or were gravely affected by it.
A combination of 310kmh winds and surging seas – with waves over 10 metres in height – levelled cities and turned scrub into barren land.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates over 11m Filipinos were directly affected by Haiyan.
Between 2,500 and 5,000 Filipinos have lost their lives.
Just under 13,000 are injured.
Nearly one million people are displaced.
Staggering numbers. Numbing pictures.
One of the more difficult sights over the weekend was that of emergency personnel from Tacloban forced to bury their friends.
Unidentified bodies lay atop each other in long, deep ditches. The only solace ahead of this undignified departure is provided by priests who read the last rites to these poor victims.
While Haiyan has quickly come and gone, people are now racing against the clock to save lives.
This is because victims who miraculously survived this onslaught are now literally dying from thirst. The hungry are becoming the sick.
In weakened states, survivors are unable to resist the disease that comes from exposed wounds, contaminated water and air borne infection, all worsened by humid conditions.
The focus is on providing clean water and food, combined with vital medical help.
Long term there is a need to rebuild the 250,000 ruined homes along with the roads, telecommunications and utilities that serviced them.
UN agencies have called for help to bring forward over $300m in assistance.
Many countries have stepped up: the US pledging $20 million, the UK $16 million, Japan and the United Arab Emirates $10 million.
I’m proud to see Australia make $30m of assistance available.
I congratulate the Australian Government for this assistance and re-state the Opposition Leader’s commitment to stand with the Government and signal that both sides of politics are joined to help our friends during this tragedy.
Through Australia’s assistance we will be able to meet serious nutrition, child health and protection needs.
Critical Australian know-how – doctors, nurses, paramedics, other medical specialists, and ADF logistic support staff – will make a difference.
Globally, non-government organisations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent, UNICEF, Save the Children are tending to the needs to Filipinos while collecting further assistance from countries across the planet.
Overseas, there have been some incredibly generous donations from the corporate sector – notably, the IKEA Foundation which has donated Euro 2 million to UNICEF. Almost double the contribution made by some governments.
Back home, companies such as BHP Billiton, ANZ, QBE Insurance and Optus and Telstra should all be congratulated for extending roughly $1m in support and assistance.
However, Australia’s corporate citizens can do much, much more.
I’d urge our other major corporations (especially those with business links in the region) to quickly make a contribution to a regional neighbour in need.
If you grew up in Blacktown, you grew up knowing a Filipino.
Around 10 per cent of the electorate I represent are Filipino-Australians who’ve become great residents, warm neighbours across the suburbs of Rooty Hill, Plumpton, Oakhurst through to Minchinbury.
While the Filipinos are normally recognised for their humour; it’s the other attributes they are known for that will help them most right now: their capacity for hard work, loyalty, love of family and a deep faith that fuels their strength.
Many Filipino-Australians I have spoken with are deeply concerned about the welfare of their Kababayans – country men and women. They’ve moved quickly to lend a hand. Filipino-Australian small businesses and community organisations are coordinating support and supplies.
On Saturday I visited a Rooty Hill small business run by Jas and Gil De Leon. They’ve turned their café into a collection point for canned food and bottled water – all to be shipped next week to the Philippines.
Filipino media such as Ang Kalatas, Ausinformer, Bayanihan News, the Philippine Community Herald, the Philippines Sentinel are providing desperately needed updates for the community. SBS Filipino Radio also ran a telethon last week to help raise funds for charity.
A range of fundraising events are being organised, including one on 30 November to be held at the Pabico Restaurant in Blacktown.
With the Member for McMahon (who was quick to second this motion), we’ll be involved in coordinating a similar event for 1 December to raise funds for use by NGOs.
Finally, through this resolution we now discuss, we wanted Australia’s Parliamentarians to have a chance to send well-wishes to our friends in the Philippines; to let them know that we are with them during this difficult time and in the days, months, years ahead.
And I finish with the most fitting of Tagalog words: “Mabuhay” (long live).