Expat Filipinos in HK rally for typhoon victims, slam slow response

Expat Filipinos in HK rally for typhoon victims, slam slow response
People take part in a prayer service for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in Hong Kong on November 17, 2013, which slammed into eastern coastal areas of the Philippines on November 8.

HONG KONG - As the Philippines faces a mounting humanitarian crisis after typhoon Haiyan, Hong Kong's large expatriate Filipino community on Sunday mounted a major fund-raising and relief drive, while criticising the slow distribution of aid to victims.

Thousands of the city's estimated 160,000 Filipinos, many employed as domestic helpers, thronged into churches, downtown parks, sidewalks and malls on their day off in a major show of solidarity with devastated communities back home.

In Singapore, home to over 200,000 Filipinos, there was a flurry of grassroots donations for a nation facing an enormous rebuilding task after the powerful storm that killed 3,974 people and left 1,186 missing.

"We cannot concentrate on our work, especially when we talk to them and they complain that they are so hungry," said a helper named Fatima whose daughter had been involved in a fight for instant noodles in an evacuation centre near Boracay.

Anger also mounted towards what some see as a chaotic and slow response by the Philippines authorities to distribute supplies and water to survivors, with the number of people displaced by the catastrophe estimated at 4 million, up from 900,000 late last week.

At one Hong Kong vigil involving 150 Filipinos, some raised banners such as "Distribute relief goods NOW", or "BS Aquino - where's the relief??", referring to embattled Filipino president Benigno Aquino, whose popularity has been hit by what some see as weak and stumbling leadership over the disaster.

"It's an understatement when you say it (the relief effort) is slow," said Eman Villanueva, the head of United Filipinos, one of the largest Filipino groups in Hong Kong.

"When the response ... of the government (to) reach the affected areas is 4, 5, or 6 days after the typhoon, it's not just slow. It's a crime, it's a crime against the people."

Thousands of Filipinos gathered in Hong Kong's central business district, seeking aid donations and singing and praying for their compatriots. At St. Joseph's Church, one of numerous places of worship for local Filipinos on their single day off every week, tearful crowds lined the pews in a string of masses.

"You can see their feelings, their sorrow and frustration,"said Mary Marron, a domestic helper who volunteers at the church each Sunday, referring to several members of her congregation who had lost family or homes in the disaster.

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