Address to Tacloban field hospital

Speech

8 December 2013

Standing here precisely 4 weeks to the day when Typhoon Haiyan hit makes me feel very humble as I realised what our Australian team has been doing here in Tacloban and surrounding areas.

I want to acknowledge the presence here of a Minister from the Philippine government, Dinky. I am delighted that you are able to be here. It is so important for us in Australia to know that the Government is aware of what we are doing. I want to thank our Ambassador, Bill Tweddell, who has been a tower of strength and a source of advice to me throughout this period.

Australia is a great friend of the Philippines and when we heard the news about this devastating typhoon, the Australian government responded immediately by releasing supplies that were prepositioned because we knew that on the ground efforts were needed immediately. Over time, with the assistance of the Philippine government and ensuring that we were coordinating and prioritising the efforts, we were able to provide more humanitarian assistance.

Of note has been the AUSMAT team. It has been noticed not only in Australia but throughout the region and beyond that the Australian medical team is on the ground, is working hard and by the sound of it has seen about 3,000 people. That is an extraordinary effort and we want to thank the professionalism and the enthusiasm of our Australian humanitarian relief team including the doctors and nurses that are on the team today. Australia has so far provided about $30 million in humanitarian aid plus defence capability which includes the C130s, one of which brought me here today, and all in all including HMAS Tobruk with a hundred personnel aboard particularly engineers, there have been 500 Australian defence personnel here in the Philippines for the disaster relief.

We know that there is a long way to go, and just viewing the scale of the devastation underscores how long that road will be, but Australia will be there on the journey with the Philippines. And we will ensure that we continue to support you. I believe that there is more we could do immediately and so today I announce a further $10 million in humanitarian relief support from the Australian government. This is in addition to the $30 million we have provided. The $10 million will be broken up in:

  • $3 million to assist the United Nations Children’s Fund. This will be providing clean water, sanitation and also undertake urgent school rehabilitation. We need to get the children back to school.
  • $1 million to the UN Population Fund for health and hygiene support for women particularly pregnant and lactating women.
  • $2 million to the World Health Organisation to continue to provide emergency health care and help restore the public health system.
  • $3 million to Filipino non-government organisations to provide shelter and support livelihoods that are being restored; and
  • $1 million for transport, medical stores and other costs associated with the Australian field hospital in Tacloban.

So, in our support for the Filipino people, we say we stand with you, we understand that there is a long journey ahead, Australia and your friends would not let you down, and we wish you God speed. We hope that in the weeks and months and years to come, the Filipino people will be able to restore their lives and their communities. I know that the economy would have taken quite a hit from of what I have seen today. With the community effort underway where everybody is working together to rebuild the society; I am sure that the Philippines will be the great nation that we know it can be.

So thank you to everybody for the work you are doing. Australia is very proud of you and it has been my honor and my privilege to meet you all here as you carry out important work.

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