BEIJING (AFP) – China was Wednesday sending an emergency response crew to the Philippines nearly two weeks after super typhoon Haiyan wreaked devastation, following staunch criticism over meagre help from the world’s second-largest economy.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters the first batch of 30 Chinese Red Cross relief workers was leaving for the Philippines on Wednesday, with a 51-strong emergency medical assistance team following “within the next few days”.
A naval hospital ship, the 14,000-ton, 300-bed “Peace Ark”, will also sail for the Philippines on Thursday to join the relief effort, Hong added, saying its dispatch “shows the good feelings of the Chinese people towards the Philippine people”.
Beijing is embroiled in a territorial row with Manila and its response comes after a torrent of criticism of its initial relatively small offer of assistance.
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, many of them in remote communities.
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.
The first of them arrived on Monday, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
China’s contribution falls far short of Japan’s $30 million, $20 million from the US and even the $2.7 million in relief aid Swedish furniture group Ikea gave the UN children’s agency Unicef through its charitable foundation.
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.
China was “ready to send relief workers to the disaster-hit areas for humanitarian medical assistance in the spirit of healing the wounded and rescuing the dying”, Hong said in an earlier statement.
At a briefing he also said 200 prefabricated homes, valued at 3.2 million yuan ($525,000), would be sent to the Philippines by China’s Soong Ching Ling Foundation.
Haiyan killed more than 4,000 people in the Philippines, and went on to hit China itself.