Singaporeans trio reach out to survivors personally

The joint Singapore-Philippine relief mission included (from left) Mr Sergio Diasana, Mr Alfred Yip, Mr Julian Tan, Lt-Commander Erwin King-eo and Mr Stephen Cheong.

Three Singaporean men journeyed personally to the Philippines to deliver relief supplies, with some places still not getting enough relief aid, after Typhoon Haiyan flattened several communities more than a fortnight ago.

Last Wednesday, Mr Julian Tan, 40, Mr Alfred Yip, 38, and Mr Stephen Cheong, 50, headed to Manila where they purchased relief goods including some 60,000 bottles of water, 13,500 hygiene kits, 1,200 mattresses, 2,000 pieces of underwear and medication, which cost close to 4 million pesos (S$114,000).

On Monday, they dropped off the relief goods in Guiuan, Eastern Samar province, with the help of the Philippine Air Force, after having donated some of their supplies in Tacloban city, Leyte province, on Saturday. Guiuan, the first town hit by the super typhoon on Nov 8, had been reported to be not getting enough help.

The relief mission, which the men dubbed "No boundaries", went smoothly where others have faced bottlenecks, perhaps because they had tied up with Filipinos from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1999.

Mr Tan, who led the Singapore operation, which involved transporting the relief supplies via sea, land and air, had approached his Filipino business associate, Mr Sergio Diasana, for assistance. He wanted to cut red tape and reach out directly to the survivors.

Mr Tan and Mr Diasana, 36, both run security businesses in their respective countries.

Mr Diasana was trained in the PMA and would be able to get his former classmates, who had joined the navy and air force, to help with the logistics, said Mr Tan. He explained: "Sergio assisted me during my relief mission to Davao after the earthquake last December. We purchased all the relief goods from Manila, and Sergio got his friends from the army, air force and navy, to help with the logistics in the distribution. The logistics cost was zero. All the donation funds collected went straight to the victims.

"We wanted to do the same for this mission."

With Mr Diasana's help, the team was able to tap the transport network of the air force, army and navy. Lieutenant-Commander Erwin King-eo, 37, of the navy and one of Mr Diasana's classmates, was roped in. He said: "We had been talking about going on a mission too and we were targeting to raise 100,000 pesos among ourselves. So when Sergio proposed the idea of a joint mission with the Singapore team, we were convinced to work together."

Lt-Commander King-eo then got another former classmate, Major Lorvina Lamug Pa, 39, who is now in the army, to join in.

Meanwhile, Mr Yip, who is Mr Tan's business partner, wanted to help when he heard about the trip. Mr Yip asked his uncle, Mr Cheong, an assignment photographer for National Geographic, to join them.

The Singapore trio raised $105,000 (3.7 million pesos) and, together with the Philippine team, they raised close to 4 million pesos in total.

The Straits Times met the six-man team last Friday in Ormoc, where they had travelled to from Manila, and went with them to Tacloban in a van the following day. The team spent the next two nights sleeping on the concrete steps of a stadium with a leaking roof in Tacloban, before travelling to Guiuan on Monday.

Said Mr Yip: "It rained so heavily on our first night in Tacloban. I couldn't sleep and it was so cold. I was thinking of all those people suffering out there without a place to sleep."

joycel@sph.com.sg


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