Official denies report on rejected rescue team

A GOVERNMENT official on Thursday denied reports that Japan has rejected the Philippines’ request to send a search and rescue team in the quake and tsunami-hit nation.

“Those are unfounded claims. Japan has never blocked our request. They are now focusing their efforts to provide relief supplies to affected residents and that’s the area where we can help,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMMC) Executive Director Benito Ramos Jr. told Sun.Star.

Earlier, the government said it is bound to deploy a 28-man search and rescue team composed of soldiers and members of emergency response teams from different local government units.

It costs P14 million to send the contingent and the Philippines is ready to send another group of 40 people if Tokyo approves the country’s request. A six-man advance party arrived in Japan a week ago.

After expressing his condolences to Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura last week, President Benigno Aquino III said Japan is just concerned over the conditions that Filipino rescuers have to deal with once they arrive.

“They did mention that part of Japan has very few English speakers. If we send a team over there, they have to be self-sufficient, [bringing] items such as fuel, food, shelter. He (Katsura) did mention also that it is very cold in that part of Japan,” the President said.

Death toll from the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami is expected to hit 10,000 very soon, while 16,501 remain missing and 2,766 were injured as of Thursday.

Ramos said the Philippines will shift its focus on giving humanitarian aid to Japan in the form of relief supplies.

“The supplies are worth P1.3 million coming from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). These include food packs, cup noodles, bath towels, plastic mats, bottled water, and dust masks. These will be flown via Philippine Airlines (PAL) on Friday,” he added.

PAL announced that it is accepting disaster relief supplies for free transport to Japan on a space-available basis on any of its regular flights to the calamity-battered nation.

The flag carrier’s affiliate Asia Brewery, Inc. also sent 70,000 out of 700,000 bottles of distilled water it promised to donate last Tuesday to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Barazel Salazar, PAL’s country manager in Japan, said Tokyo authorities will handle the distribution to calamity-stricken areas in Northern Japan, whose residents are wary of radiation emitted by damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima.



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