December 18, 2013 / 7:03 AM / 5 years ago

U.S. raises aid to $86 million for typhoon-ravaged Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - The United States will provide an additional $25 million in humanitarian aid to the Philippines for typhoon relief, raising to $86 million its assistance to its major ally, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Philippines' President Benigno Aquino shake hands at a dinner at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila December 17, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest ever to hit land, wiped out almost everything in its path when it crossed the central Philippines last month, killing at least 6,069 people, and leaving nearly 1,800 missing and 4 million with partially or totally damaged homes.

“It is really quite stunning, it looks like a war zone in every respect, and in many ways, for a lot of people, it is,” Kerry told reporters outside a tent city built by U.S. forces in Tacloban City, where about 86 percent of the dead were from.

“This is a devastation that is unlike anything I have seen at this kind of scale. It’s many tornadoes that I have seen in America wrapped into one,” said Kerry, who is in the Philippines for the first time as secretary of state.

Kerry arrived in the ravaged city on a small military aircraft and noted that the original Tacloban airport was built by U.S. forces after General Douglas MacArthur arrived in the same province of Leyte to lead the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese hands towards the end of World War Two.

Within days of the November 8 typhoon, the U.S. military sent about 50 ships and aircraft, including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and escort ships, to help distribute food, water and other supplies, and hundreds of soldiers to clear debris.

“It demonstrated the enduring partnership between two allies, not only in good times but in trying times as well,” Kerry said, adding that the United States was committed to supporting the Philippines.

President Benigno issued a new appeal for help on Wednesday as the government unveiled its reconstruction plan, estimated at 361 billion pesos ($8.2 billion). He promised corruption-free use of aid.

“Every dollar of funding assistance will be used in as efficient and lasting a manner as possible,” Aquino said.

The Philippines and the United States have been negotiating a new security agreement allowing wider and more prolonged access for the U.S. military in its former colony.

Kerry also said U.S. firms Citigroup, Coca Cola Co., and Procter and Gamble were helping with recovery efforts, with Coke and P&G helping shops repair and restock their shelves in typhoon-hit areas.

Additional reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Robert Birsel

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