Philippines aid furore: Foreign Aid stalled, say witnesses

  • US supplies have turned up on shelves of shops in the capital Manila
  • Equipment bought with UK donations have allegedly been locked up in warehouses
  • Rice and other food is being stockpiled and not given to needy
  • Charities express concern that not all donations are reaching disaster zone

Crucial aid sent from Britain and other countries to help the victims of typhoon-ravaged areas of the Philippines is being stockpiled by officials, witnesses claim.

US military food packets have reportedly turned up on the shelves of shops in affluent districts of the capital Manila – hundreds of miles from the disaster zone.

And shelter equipment purchased using British donations has been locked up in government warehouses and stockpiled alongside rice and other food intended for victims of last month’s catastrophe, The Mail on Sunday has been told.

A television news report shows much-needed supplies on sale in affluent parts of the capital Manila

Filipinos rush to get relief goods during a helicopter aid drop. Evidence that much-needed supplies are being stockpiled rather than being distributed to those in need

Last night, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – an umbrella group representing 14 UK charities – expressed concern about evidence that suggests not all the £60 million of aid given by Britain is reaching those most in need.

Alarming evidence of the thefts has been provided by expat Keb Darge, 56, who says he faces death threats for stopping local officials stealing aid in Eastern Samar, one of the worst-hit areas.

Mr Darge, a disc jockey originally from Scotland, said: ‘The aid isn’t getting through to where it’s needed. I’ve seen the deliveries arrive and I’ve seen them disappear.

‘Only a tiny percentage of the aid is getting through. The situation isn’t going to improve unless there’s an investigation. Someone needs to go and find out exactly what is happening. It is British aid coming in. Why give it to untrustworthy officials to steal? It is ludicrous.’

Mr Darge photographed supplies being locked up rather than distributed in Eastern Samar, where he used to live with his Filipino wife and their nine-year-old daughter. Now he has gone into hiding in Manila, fearing reprisals after receiving threats from the corrupt officials he has been trying to expose.

Charities have expressed concern about evidence that suggests not all the £60¿million of aid given by Britain is reaching those - such as residents of Tacloban (pictured) - that need it most

He said: ‘People have warned me to take these threats seriously. They’ve said, ‘‘Be careful, they will shoot you if you carry on.” I’m under threat. There’s a price on my head.’

Mr Darge’s wife, Edith, 33, lost 15 members of her family when the storm struck their village of Hernani. Since then the couple have offered shelter and fed families in their home, which is solidly built and powered by a generator. Mr Darge has also searched for missing friends and cleared bodies from flooded areas.

Television stations in the Philippines have supported Mr Darge’s claims, reporting that supplies have been diverted  to Manila. Aid packages have also apparently been auctioned online.

And Mr Darge’s allegations of corruption were backed up by a Japanese aid worker, Shiratori Koti, who said local administrators were diverting goods to their homes.

Mr Koti said: ‘There isn’t enough food getting through to people. We don’t have evidence but we believe it is being taken by officials.’

More than 5,000 people were killed and up to four million people displaced when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit on November 8. Pictured: The storm in Legaspi, Albay province

There are also concerns that supplies are simply being wasted. Mr Darge described finding 800 beef-burgers – apparently flown in from the US aircraft carrier George Washington – dumped by the roadside.

In Hernani, some residents have criticised the local mayor, Edgar Boco, in the wake of the crisis. One online contributor accused him of withholding aid and ‘distributing it to his preferred party-mafia circle’.

In a newspaper interview, Mr Boco admitted his officials were controlling distribution but said: ‘You can’t constantly give relief goods to the people. People will abuse the system. They will gorge themselves.’

A DEC spokesman said last night:  ‘I would be interested to find out what items are being sold and where.

‘There is always a risk of diversion and theft, but our member agencies have measures in place to stop this happening very early on. Our aid is carefully targeted and monitored.’

More than 5,000 people were killed and up to four million people displaced when Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines on November 8.

  • Since publication of an earlier version of this article we would like to make clear that we were reporting allegations that British aid was not getting through to typhoon victims in Eastern Samar, and was being stolen by officials. There was no evidence that British aid was being sold in Manila. The photograph of supplies in a Manila shop showed US military rations rather than relief aid.

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