With the devastation that it brought to 44 provinces in the Visayas, Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan) proves to be one of the most destructive calamities that ever hit the Philippines.
More than the physical damages and lives lost, Yolanda has also raised political, socio-cultural, humanitarian and environmental issues that were mere issues without appropriate actions before.
But thanks to the outpouring help from different sectors here and across the globe, affected communities are now rebuilding their lives.
However for Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP), the road to recuperation seems to be taking a lot longer than it should.
According to CCCP-Eastern Visayas coordinator Roy Ribo, Southern Leyte and Eastern Samar, which are the most affected areas, still have a long way to go. The extent of damages, 72.4 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively, is unequivocal to the situation of the people’s living situation, livelihood and security.
Trauma still looms over the victims. Women and children in bunkhouses also remain in the vulnerable situation. The areas’ livelihood is not doing so well either as the productivity of the farm lands and fisheries, their main sources of livelihood, have dwindled down dramatically after Yolanda struck.
Relief are winding down, some of them rotting and being wasted because of poor dissemination strategies. Roads have been cleared of debris but not the farm lands, while mangroves have been severely damaged. Worst, peace and order also suffer a breakdown.
This the general outlook now in terms of development four months after Yolanda, and despite the government efforts in the affected areas, progress still lacks.
But the road to development of the Yolanda-stricken areas hasn’t been totally washed down by the storm surges that hit the lands. Despite the arduous and slow recovery of the affected areas, they are moving forward.
The hand extended by the local and international humanitarian sectors has created a big change in the Yolanda-stricken communities. One of the affected communities by the super typhoon that has shown a great deal of progress over the four months is the municipality of McArthur in Leyte, a sponsored area of Alyansa Tigil Mina.
ATM, in partnership with Christian Aid, Visayas State University (VSU), Irish Aid and FORGE, conducted relief operations for more than 7,500 families in Leyte, covering the towns of MacArthur, Dulag, Mayorga and Tolosa. Another 500 families were reached in three barangays in the town of Loreto, Dinagat Island province. Relief assistance came in the forms of food and non-food items, and hygiene kits.
Currently, ATM and its partners are doing their early recovery efforts, introducing and implementing various means of sustainable livelihood that just not focuses on financial aid but also pro-active community involvement and biodiversity depending on the needs and available resources of the community.
The municipality of MacArthur, Leyte has long been connected with ATM as the organization has supported the municipality in its anti-mining stand. In response to the humanitarian needs of McArthur and the other typhoon-affected areas, ATM has organized a relief operation which started on November 22, 2013, to address the immediate needs of the communities. Currently, ATM is on its recovery phase as it gears towards a more sustainable and proactive means of development for the people of MacArthur and other affected municipalities and baranggays.
ATM, also a member of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, is firm on its ground that the devastation in most of the Yolanda-stricken areas was exacerbated by the effects of large-scale mining in the communities. Mining that requires deforestation, among other environmental monstrosities, puts communities in a vulnerable position against flooding and soil erosion, a stand that Dr. Esteban Godilano, a resident scientist of CCCP strongly shares.
According to Dr. Godilano, the flooding and landslides, is just a part of a bigger disaster that mining poses in times of natural calamities such as typhoons and storm surges. The mine tailings and the lethal toxic wastes from the mines can be easily washed down to the farm lands, streams, rivers and other terrains and bodies of water. Watersheds could be contaminated and from there, the rest is history. This was one of the cries of ATM when it held its “Mining Hell Week” last March 10 to 14.
“Climate change is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that we should just stand here and watch as the situation aggravates because of irresponsible and profit-centric intentions.
The issue surpasses the irreversible disastrous effects of mining that is happening now, we are talking about the future and a more terrible threat that mining poses that by then might really be too late to prevent” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.
Indeed, the victims of Yolanda, many whose fates are still unknown, need a hand to rebuild their lives and their communities. At this point however, the donated physical commodities can only do so much until they run out.
So a call for a more sustainable rehabilitation and faster development is the credo of ATM and its partner organizations.
Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.
Haribon Foundation is one of the convenors of ATM.