U.S. General in Philippines Lashes Out at Claims of Lawlessness

Thousands more U.S. troops en route to regions cut off by Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan survivors ride motorbikes through the ruins of the destroyed town of Guiuan on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, in the Philippines. (David Guttenfelder/AP)
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The death toll continues to rise in the Philippines as international militaries and aid organizations fight against disease, exposure and other fatal effects on the island nation crippled by Typhoon Haiyan.

One of the top military commanders on the ground lashed out Friday at reports that lawlessness was overcoming relief operations. Media outlets such as the Guardian have reported gunshots, stabbings and ambushes in and around Tacloban, one of the hardest hit areas requiring the most support.

"This rumor continues to gain traction," said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, commander of the Third Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

 

[READ: Philippines Crisis Continues to Roil as More Troops Land]

"All I have seen is a steady stream of the Philippine army, the Philippine navy, the local police," he said of the security response. "All of these reports of the lawlessness and the security situation degrading, I think they have an agenda."

Kennedy said he could not determine accurately the levels of safety in more remote areas that security forces cannot yet access.

Crewmen from the USS George Washington load relief supplies for air drops to villages isolated by last week's super typhoon Haiyan at Tacloban City airport Friday in the Leyte province in central Philippines. (Bullit Marquez/AP)

"Where we have the ability to push security forces in, I think it would give you a good sense that things are pretty well in hand," he said. "The Philippine Army is moving out in force and securing these neighborhoods."

[PHOTOS: Philippines Desperate for Aid After Typhoon Haiyan]

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told CBS News that recent spates of looting have been brought under control and no incidents have occurred in the last two days.

"Our augmentation of the police and Philippine army was able to stop the problem of lawlessness," he told CBS.

A Filipino girl rests on top of a pedicab parked in front of toppled trees and poles left from Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban Friday in the Leyte province of central Philippines. (Aaron Favila/AP)

The USS George Washington and its carrier battle group reached the Philippines on Thursday, and are able to provide aircraft for supply deliveries and evacuations, and can produce roughly 100,000 gallons of drinkable water per day.

Roughly 1,000 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed in Japan will arrive in the Philippines on Friday to assist with the relief efforts. The unit is bringing with it engineering equipment such as backhoes and wreckers, aircraft as well as a variety of small boats. These will be roughly 10 times more efficient at reaching the outlying areas that need assistance the most.

[MORE: The Aftermath in the Philippines From Super Typhoon Haiyan Is Catastrophic]

Foreign doctors arrive to help people Wednesday in Tacloban in central Philippines. (Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

"This will be a huge enabling capability once they arrive," said Kennedy. "The beauty is the population is largely accessible by the sea."

Current estimates place the growing death toll at almost 4,000, though the Philippine government has said it cannot produce a true estimate until it has re-established contact with rural regions of the country.

President Barack Obama addressed the ongoing crisis at a press conference Thursday. He encouraged Americans to visit WhiteHouse.gov/Typhoon to learn about how they can help.

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