ASEAN Joint Disaster Relief Centre Underway: Minister

(14 November) Citing the failure of ASEAN nations to respond more robustly to the recent typhoon disaster in the Philippines, the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs said the effort to establish a joint disaster relief centre focused on assisting fellow ASEAN members is underway.


Mr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul made the comments after he attended the 8th Thai-Indonesian Joint Commission (JC) in Bangkok with his Indonesian counterpart, Mr. Marty M. Natalegawa, earlier this morning.
The meeting was intended for the representatives of Thailand and Indonesia to work on the agreed terms in their 7th Joint Commission in 2010, in which they signed five Memorandum of Understandings.
This year, the commission has discussed issues concerning trans-border crime suppression, terroristm, internet crimes, investments, fisheries, educations and agricultural goods. 
The two nations also exchanged their perspectives on regional issues involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the development of the joint economic framework between Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
After the meeting, Mr. Surapong told our correspondent that the two nations have planned for periodic meetings for further improvements. They have also bilaterally discussed a possibility for a joint disaster relief agency focused solely on helping ASEAN nation in need, following the catastrophic damage Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) has caused in the Philippines.  
Mr. Surapong added that he was aware of the scales of aid efforts sent to the Philippines by Western nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom which have surpassed efforts by regional countries such as Thailand. 
The framework for the ASEAN disaster relief centre will be completed before the upcoming ASEAN Summit next year, the minister said.
"The disaster relief organisation does not have to be based in any country", Mr. Surapong explained, "But it must be able to gather supports from all ASEAN members and deliver them to the nation in need as soon as possible.”
In the meantime, the Thai government will donate its first batch of donation money of $200,000 (?6,000,000) in cash to the Philippines, in accordance with a suggestion made by the United Nation (UN), according to Mr. Chutithorn Khongsak, Director-General of the International Trade Department. 
“Next week, the Cabinet will consider the delivery of other relief packages to the Philippines, and the Royal Air Force has offered to transport relief aids on their C-130 aircrafts” said the International Trade Director-General.
He added, “The Philippines is urgently short of food, hence Thailand – under the joint effort by ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea – will supply 5,000 tonnes of rice, as well as instant foods, drinking water, medicines and other items to the affected areas.”
Thailand, in coordination with UN’s World Food Programme (UNWFP), has also arranged its 6 months schedule to support the Philippines. Reportedly, the Kingdom will dispatch food in the plan’s first two months before supplying aids for further reconstruction.
Meanwhile, ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA), which is based in Jakarta, will coordinate the efforts conducted by ASEAN and the Philippines to assess how the support can be delivered to the country in the most convenient manner.

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