Typhoon Haiyan

Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark's on 'friendship' mission to Philippines

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 9:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 November, 2013, 5:00pm

The head of a Chinese aid mission to the Philippines says the crew of a hospital ship will try to contribute "new friendship".

Rear Admiral Shen Hao, deputy chief of staff of the East China Sea fleet and commander of the mission, was speaking as the Peace Ark, a 300-bed floating navy medical facility, set sail rom a PLA base on Zhoushan island, off Zhejiang province to help typhoon victims.

It is expected to take three or four days to reach the Philippines, which is embroiled in a territorial row with China.

"With our efforts, we will make great contributions to the relationship between the Chinese people and the Philippine people," Shen said. "We will do our utmost to make contributions to the Philippine side."

Foreign media were given unprecedented access to the navy base as Beijing promotes its aid effort.

The deployment of the ship, which was featured on the front page of the state-run Global Times newspaper yesterday, comes as Beijing seeks to counter international criticism of its relief effort.

After initially giving only US$100,000, Beijing has lifted its aid over the past two weeks, contributing US$1.6 million worth of tents, blankets and other supplies. Other Chinese organisations are also contributing, and a first crew of relief workers left on Wednesday, the foreign ministry said, with more following.

By contrast, Japan has contributed US$30 million to the Philippines, and the US has provided US$37 million and deployed 50 ships and aircraft.

Medical personnel in blue camouflage uniforms waved from the Peace Ark's deck as it pulled away from port.

One sailor's wife clutched a Chinese flag and said: "I'm proud of my husband. It's OK for the ship to go to the Philippines despite the state of relations."

About 5,500 people are dead or missing after Super Typhoon Haiyan, which affected more than 13 million people, of whom 4.4 million are now homeless.