China finally dispatches rescuers to Philippines after aid criticism

AFP-JIJI

China was Wednesday sending an emergency response crew to the Philippines nearly two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan wreaked devastation, following criticism over meager assistance from the world’s second-largest economy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that the first batch of Chinese Red Cross relief workers were to depart for the Philippines on Wednesday, and an additional team will be dispatched “within the next few days.”

The Philippines and international aid agencies are now largely focused on getting food, water, medicines and other badly needed supplies to hundreds of thousands of survivors.

China’s response comes after a torrent of criticism of the meager assistance initially offered by Beijing, which is embroiled in a territorial row with Manila.

The Chinese government, which disputes sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea with the Philippines, at first contributed just $100,000 in disaster aid in the wake of Haiyan, but last Thursday added an additional $1.6 million in supplies such as tents and blankets.

China’s contribution falls far short of Japan’s $30 million — and even the $2.7 million in relief aid Swedish furniture group Ikea gave the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.

The move provoked widespread criticism overseas, but many Chinese Internet users, some of whom are intensely nationalistic, questioned whether Beijing should give any aid at all.