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Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath; A Glimmer of Progress in Iran; Imagine a World

Aired November 12, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight, my exclusive interview with the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino. He's a leader of a nation in shock and mourning right now. As every hour passes, more stories of human endurance and suffering emerge from the wake of supertyphoon Haiyan. Body bags are in high demand as more and more lifeless forms are found in waters, fields and littering the streets.

One of the biggest diasporas in the world, Filipinos working abroad are desperate for news of their families and friends. One woman would have heard this from her grieving husband in Tacloban.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I haven't found my father until now. There are six of them that couldn't be found. My child has been buried in that island. To the mother of my kids who's currently living in Virginia, I know that you'll watch this. Justin and Ella are gone. They are both dead.


AMANPOUR: And now the race is on to help the living. The government says some 2 million people need aid. But the U.N. says there are still severe shortages, five days into this disaster. And transportation across the debris-strewn landscape remains a major obstacle.

A storm surge of water up to 16 feet in some places had snapped fields of palm trees clean in half, trees that usually bend in high winds. Filipinos are now calling on the world's help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get international help to come here now, not tomorrow, now. This is really, really like bad, bad, worse than hell, worse than hell.


AMANPOUR: And the world is responding; $25 million from the United Nations alone and aid as well as medical teams from the U.S., the U.K., Japan and a host of other nations.

Eight hundred thousand have been made homeless. But as President Aquino told me, the death toll right now is 2,000.

This is one of the worst typhoons in recorded history and the president is in the eye of the storm when it comes to rescue and relief. He told me about the monumental challenges as he struggled to speech up delivery to the needy and increasingly frustrated Filipinos.


AMANPOUR: President Aquino, welcome to the program. And thank you for joining me in the midst of this incredible national disaster. I appreciate your time.


AMANPOUR: Can I ask you first, you have toured some of the worst hit areas. On a personal note, how has it affected you, what you've seen, and how do you manage to reassure your people who have gone through this supertyphoon after an earthquake, after a typhoon last year?

AQUINO: Well, I think, first of all, typhoons are not an unusual occurrence for the Philippines. We get visited by about 20 of them every year. But this year has been an exceptionally bad year, more than 20.

We have been able to demonstrate as a government and as a people collectively that we take care of each other. And the government's immediate response, I think, has been reassuring to the vast majority of our people.

Our ability to take care of our problems rather quickly, except in this particular case, the foundation of our efforts rely on the local government units. And unfortunately, two or three were simply overwhelmed by the degree of this typhoon that affected us.

But other than that, in other areas, there was preemptive evacuations, cooperation from the citizenry, which brought down the casualty figures from the other areas affected, except for this corridor in the Leyte and two Samar provinces.

AMANPOUR: It's obviously a huge emergency to get fresh food, water, to the worst hit areas. And we have seen some of the local officials, mayors, for instance, in the Tacloban area, have said that, you know, survivors are piling, are looking up into the heavens; the dead are piling up.

He says there's no local government functioning, those that they depend on, the police, the army, even the social workers of the government, all are victims themselves, even the police, the army, many of them are dead.

We've heard so many stories from our reporters about the slowness, the bottleneck of trying to get vital aid to the people.

How can you open those routes and that pipeline for disaster relief?

AQUINO: Again, our system says that the local government unit has to take care for the initial response. Unfortunately, for instance, in the case of Tacloban, our policemen there assigned are about 290, and only 20 of them were available when the -- when the disaster struck.

Employees of the city government have been -- have been also affected, have been tending to their own families and there have been very few who have been reporting for work.

Hence, the national government had to not just augment what the local government could do, but actually replace a lot of the personnel with personnel from other regions to take care of government vital functions.

What hampers the effort is that the typhoon wrought havoc on the power lines and also the communications facilities, giving us immense difficulty in identifying needs and thereby dispatching the necessary relief supplies and vital equipment.

So today we are -- and all of the national roads, understandable, have already been reopened. We're already working on the secondary roads. And most of the airports are about almost back to normal operating levels.

But still, the sheer number of people that were affected in these three provinces is quite daunting. We are -- we are tasked to provide something like 50,000 family food packs every two days.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, we've heard catastrophic death toll estimates. Some have said maybe 10,000 in the worst-hit areas in Tacloban alone. Your initial government estimates are about a couple of thousand dead.

Do you expect the death toll to go much higher?

What can you tell us about the number of dead?

AQUINO: Ten thousand I think is too much. And perhaps that was also brought about by -- how shall I put it -- being in the center of the destruction, being actually -- there was emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate, quoting both a police official and a local government official. They were too close to incident. They did not have basis for it.

Two thousand, the figure right now, I have is about 2,000. But this might still get higher. We're hoping to be able to contact something like 29 municipalities left, wherein we still have to establish their numbers, especially for the missing. But so far, 2,000, about 2,500 is the figure we're working on as far as deaths are concerned.

AMANPOUR: Are you getting enough aid internationally? Obviously the United States is sending an aircraft carrier; it's already deployed U.S. Marines there. You have a very close history, of course, with the United States.

Are you getting enough aid from your international allies and neighbors?

AQUINO: There are, at last count, I saw almost 22 countries have either pledged or have actually given us aid, and we are very thankful for this.

Amongst the first countries to respond was Germany, Japan, Indonesia, even countries who are -- we've had not extensive ties, like Hungary. So we are very appreciative of this, Canada, New Zealand were amongst the first also.

And as you said, an American carrier battle group, I understand, is coming over. There are desalination facilities and helicopters, as far as supply ships, that will greatly enhance our efforts to bring the necessary materials back to the areas most hard-hit.

AMANPOUR: And what about the -- you know, obviously people are desperate and they're raiding some stores. You can understand that. There are obviously also reports of some looting and outbreaks of some violence.

What is, in your assessment, the state of law and order?

AQUINO: Well, we have deployed an additional 2,000 personnel to these affected areas, to restore order. And, again, the problem is when the main government unit, which is the local government unit, who are acting as first responders, fail to respond appropriately, then there was that breakdown.

People were -- became desperate and that's why we are trying to fast- track the situation where national government takes over these local government functions so that order is restored and people are -- gain the confidence that their needs are being addressed and will be addressed fully.

AMANPOUR: It just so happens that there is one of those major climate change conferences taking place in Europe right now, in Warsaw, Copenhagen 19. And your Philippine climate negotiator made a really heartfelt plea for international help and basically lambasted the failure of the world to deal with climate change.

He said that he's done a lot of interviews; he talked to a lot of officials in the U.S. and the developed world, and they say they can't be held responsible, that they can't be morally obliged to do anything.

Now the Philippines is the most storm-wracked area in the world; we know that it's the third most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

What do you say to those negotiators who are sitting there in world capitals while your country is practically submerged?

AQUINO: Well, I think it's already an accepted reality for the Filipino community that global climate change is a reality and there should be no debate that it is happening. Areas are -- times when it should be raining suddenly become dry. The dry months suddenly become very, very wet.

For instance, since I've assumed office, practically every year, when we are supposed to be in the Christmas period already, where we never had typhoons, we have very, very strong and devastating typhoons like what happened last year.

We're, again, at the tail end. There -- our wet season is supposed to have been over and we have the supertyphoon. It wreaks havoc also on our planting season, wherein our farmers are getting hard-pressed to adjust to this global climate change.

And we all live on one planet. Either we come up with a solution that everybody adheres to and cooperates with, or let us be prepared to meet disasters, ever-increasing disasters on a global level.

In one of the international conferences that I attended, there was a South Pacific island that is already discussing moving their entire population because they -- what was -- I have -- I'm sorry; I don't remember exactly how much the level of water will increase, but it will completely inundate their country.

And they are actually now discussing where to move their people, if that eventuality happens.

So to the -- especially the most developed countries that are contributing immensely to the global warming, there has to be a sense of moral responsibility that what they wreak is playing havoc on the lives of so many others who are less capable of fending for themselves.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, you talk about a moral responsibility from the world.

Let me ask you about your responsibility as president. Clearly, I don't know whether you agree, but the way you respond and your government responds to this terrible devastation will probably define your presidency.

Many have talked about how much effort has gone in, how much reform you have done, how much work you've done against corruption.

But many people might end up judging you on how your government has responded.

What do you say to that?

AQUINO: I think you would ask all of the governors, for instance, of the areas that are -- have been saying that our making them aware of the dangers that were forthcoming from this typhoon enabled them to move their populations from danger areas into safer areas and thereby minimize casualties.

A lot of them, with exception of Leyte province, eastern and western Samar, have reported that practically one or two casualties or even zero casualties where in normally, when we have a typhoon, you will also have ships that were traveling that would have sunk, casualties in the hundreds, probably that merit too much attention.

So the knowledge, the geohazard mapping, the knowledge imparted to all of them has enabled them to really reduce the risk inherent with all of these disasters (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: When you look to the future and you know what kind of place your archipelago occupies, it is just storm buffeted over and over again.

Do you think this is going to get worse in the future? Do you envision worse storms, worse casualties? Or do you see that there might be a possibility of raising the game and raising the ability to react to this kind of thing?

AQUINO: Well, one would hope that it will not be worse than this. But at the same time, again, we're trying to plan our communities whereby they are more resilient to all of these ravages of nature. There is an ongoing program precisely to define all of these geohazard maps. There is some sort of an ecological reengaging whereby items, like planting mangroves, for instance, as defense against tsunamis.

Investments in the sciences, particularly our weather bureau, the Institute for Volcanology and other entities in government whereby they will provide us with the necessary knowledge so that we can minimize to the furthest extent the risks inherent in all of these natural disasters that, unfortunately, the Philippines finds itself in, not just for typhoons, but also being part of the Ring of Fire.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, finally, what is your most urgent and desperate need to deal with this disaster right now?

AQUINO: Well, right now I think the challenge for us after we -- after relief efforts will be to rebuild the houses of tens of thousands of families affected, quite a major outlay, and then construction has to be better to withstand the ravages of this climate change.

And also later in the mapping out of areas prone to storm surges, there still -- that, I think, is the next phase of the studies that we have to do to make our country more resilient to all of these natural disasters.

AMANPOUR: We wish you the best and we wish all the people in the Philippines the best at this terribly difficult time. Mr. President, thank you for joining me from Manila.

AQUINO: Yes. Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And so while the devastation in the Philippines has prompted a global response, did the world ignore a warning on the effects of climate change there just a year ago?

We heard from the Philippine negotiator, Naderev Sano, on this program yesterday, and just saw him in a clip just earlier.

And now we want to show you the emotional distress call he sent out after last year's deadly Typhoon Bopha hit the archipelago nation.


NADEREV SANO, U.N. PHILIPPINES DELEGATE: I am making an urgent appeal not as a negotiator, not as a leader of my delegation, but as a Filipino ." "I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by 7 billion people.


AMANPOUR: And Sano is now on hunger strike to protest the world's inaction on the climate question.

And after a break, another complex issue confronting world leaders, Iran's nuclear program. While political talks in Geneva may have taken a step back on another front, IAEA inspectors may have taken a big step forward. We'll follow those footprints when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And welcome back to the program. As the world rushes to help with a natural disaster in the Philippines, efforts to tackle a manmade crisis continue with Iran. Even as talks on the nuclear program there hit a stumbling block in Geneva this past weekend, there was a glimmer of progress on another front in Tehran.

And my guest tonight, Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, has just returned from there after signing a new oversight accord. It gives U.N. inspectors expanded access to sites like the heavy water reactor in Iraq, the very site that may have tripped up the Geneva negotiations at the weekend.

Now Mr. Amano is back at base in Vienna and he joins me from there.

Welcome; thank you for coming on the program.

Let me first start by asking you, after you had that signed framework agreement with the Iranians, can you tell me whether you think there's something new here?

Does this signify in your mind a new willingness by Iranian negotiators to cooperate with you?

YUKIYA AMANO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Yes, I think this is an important step. Iran and IAEA agree to cooperate to resolve all present and past issues and on the joint statement contains six practical measures.

So this is an important step, but it is a first step and much more is to be done.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Amano, you and predecessors have been to Iran many, many times to try to keep going with these inspections.

Do you think what you did in Tehran this last few days signifies a real political shift at the top? You feel a change in the way they're dealing with you now?

AMANO: Yes, and the atmosphere was different. The meeting was very constructive. But the important thing we thought, this joint statement includes the timeline of three months. The agreed measures will be implemented in three months, accounting from yesterday.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you specifically about the Iraq heavy water plant.

Why is it so important for you to be able to see there?

What are you looking for there?

And as you know, I ask you because certainly the French have said to have taken that very seriously and that was one of the reasons why we're told that they held up a signing of this deal in Geneva.

What is it about Iraq that worries you?

AMANO: The all related to enrichment activities are not allowed, according to the U.N. Security Council resolutions. And this heavy water production plant is related to the heavy water reactors. That is why we want to have access and get more information.

AMANPOUR: Is there a possibility that it could be used for -- as another route towards anyone who wanted to make weapon? That's what many people are worried about, that this could be a plutonium route to a weapon.

AMANO: It is pretty much hard to say. We are a particular organization and we are trying to find facts.

It was just agree to have access and information on this plant. But it should be implemented.

And do you feel that in the next three months, as you describe, you will be able to restore confidence in the world powers regarding Iran's intentions?

AMANO: This is a rolling process and step-by-step approach. What we are going to implement is only the first step and a lot more must be done.

So it is pretty much hard to say what can be done in three months' time. We will implement it but the judgment or implementation of all the process will take much more time.

AMANPOUR: And what it doesn't include is any mention of Parchin, which is a military site in Iran and inspectors and other governments have wanted you to be able to go there in terms of whether there had ever been any military application in terms of a nuclear program.

Why did you not talk about that?

Will you ever have access to Parchin?

AMANO: Well, certainly we have talked. But it was not included in the first step. But let me remind you that -- and the joint statement says that Iran and IAEA agreed to resolve all present and past issues. And I said in the first statement in Tehran that the issues that are not included in the first step will be addressed in the subsequent steps.

AMANPOUR: And very quickly, did they say anything to you about the talks in Geneva?

AMANO: Geneva's talk and IAEA step, IAEA talk, are independent, different and separate. We are focusing on verification and technical issues.

AMANPOUR: All right. Director General Yukiya Amano, thank you so much indeed for joining me.

AMANO: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And now after a break, a new wind is blowing across a land where nature and nuclear collided to devastating effects. A cautionary tale of building the future on shaky ground, when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the recent natural disasters in the Philippines might serve as a cautionary tale when it comes to any country's nuclear energy program.

Imagine a world where nuclear power has been replaced by the power of nature. This work Japan flipped the switch on a state-of-the-art windmill, the first of what could be dozens of wind-powered turbines, just a few miles off the coast of Fukushima. That was the location of this cutting- edge wind farm, both practical and symbolic.

Back in March of 2011, the one-two punch of an earthquake and tsunami eerily similar to what just happened in the Philippines struck the eastern coast of Japan, killing thousands and destroying the Fukushima nuclear power plant. A radioactive meltdown that'll be felt for years to come.

With all of its 50 nuclear reactors in shutdown pending safety inspections, Japan hopes to reassure its citizens and stake a claim to the future by turning to renewable sources like wind power, safely and quietly anchored offshore, which brings us back to Iran, where 90 percent of the country sits on various fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active nations on Earth.

And just this year a powerful earthquake struck close to that country's only nuclear power station. It escaped undamaged -- this time.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us as our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.