A year after Yolanda, what has government done?


First of two parts

Our three C130’s are all fully mission capable and can respond when needed. Also on standby are 32 planes and helicopters from our Air Force. The navy has also positioned 20 vessels in Cebu, Bicol, Cavite, and Zamboanga. Relief goods have been prepositioned in the areas we expect to be affected.
— President Benigno Aquino 3rd on November 7, 2013, a day before Yolanda

You would expect perhaps a feeding center to be set up five days after the storm. We haven’t seen that, certainly storm. We haven’t seen that, certainly not in this area [Tacloban airport]. … Where is the bigger relief effort? I’m not exactly clear. This is the airport in Tacloban, and you’d think if you’d see it anywhere, this would be the main staging ground.
— CNN’s Anderson Cooper reporting in Tacloban on November 14, 2013

The glaring disparity between President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s claims of government preparedness two days before Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan hit the Visayas on November 9, and the report by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about woefully inadequate Tacloban relief five days after is among several reasons why it may be hard to take at face value Palace pronouncements onYolanda recovery.

Another is the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s decision to stop tallying disaster fatalities above 6,300 — over 2 1/2 times Aquino’s gross premature 2,500 estimate. Many believe the NDRRMC sought to avoid a far bigger difference between the presidential and the real body counts.

A third source of doubt is the seeming paucity of video and pictures of new homes, repaired bridges and roads, new fishing boats, hectares of renewed cultivation, and other rebuilding work, even in government reports. Nor is there much data on how much was accomplished in each area and against total needs.

Take the July 28 recap by former senator Panfilo Lacson’s Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson. OPARR reused five times in the 16-page summary the same five pictures of new apartments, bancas, a globe and books given to students, construction scaffolding, and a pottery workshop.

There were no photos of the 13 health facilities reportedly rehabilitated, or the 52 km of farm-to-market roads repaired. Also unpictured are 267 transitional houses where 4,267 families transferred as of June, or some of 361 midwife volunteers deployed.

Assessment would also need location information and total needs for each item. Aquino said 12.2 million food packets have been distributed over the past year. But how many were needed for the 14.9 million Filipinos affected by Yolanda?

Planning and implementing recovery
So how has recovery gone so far? First, a bit of good news. The Lacson plan came in more than a year earlier than the Aceh tsunami strategy. Nearly two years after Indian Ocean tidal waves laid waste to the Indonesian province on Sumatra island in December 2004, the World Bank said there was still no long-term rehab program. With calamity expertise gained over the following decade, Philippine and international agencies have halved recovery planning time.

But let’s not get all puffed up. Casualties and devastatation in the 800 km between Samar and Palawan was far less than along the same length of Aceh’s coast, where 168,000 people died. For one thing, Yolanda gave weeks of warning, while giant waves struck Sumatra just hours after being unleashed by an undersea quake 160 km away.

Two other caveats. If a seasoned disaster manager like former senator Richard Gordon, longtime chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), were put in charge, he or she would have finished the plan earlier than August. Moreover, President Aquino took three months to approve it.

But planning was the easy part. Getting the displaced back in homes and at work is far more difficult. The main government resource for Yolanda relief and recovery efforts is: http://www.gov.ph/crisis-response/updates-typhoon-yolanda/. It included data from OPARR’s update on recovery operations this month.

With nearly half a million homes destroyed and 520,000 damaged, the government plans to provide 205,000 shelters. Only 3,000 units will be finished this year, with another 117,000 supposed to be up by March. PNRC has a more realistic pace: more than 6,000 shelters built one year after Yolanda, plus 40,000 homes by early 2016.

COA, media and NGOs should validate other accomplishments reported by OPARR:

26 km national roads completed; 9 km ongoing
57.69 km farm-to-market roads; 185.63 km ongoing
158.5 km bridges; 887.2 km ongoing
2 flood control structures; 35 ongoing
101 newly constructed classrooms; 1,095 ongoing
833 renovated classrooms
370 hectares of irrigation facilities; 1,200 has. ongoing
18 irrigation systems; 16 ongoing
2 potable water systems, plus 5 ongoing
14 rehabilitated seaports; 8 ongoing
28 airports (including facilities), plus 7 ongoing
29 public markets; 59 ongoing
33 cooperatives with power restored 100%
124 health facilities in hospitals and clinics; 101 ongoing

To properly assess accomplishments, total requirements for each, as well as their locations should be detailed. And let us not fudge gaps, as NDRRMC did with the Yolanda dead.

The last part on Thursday will cover the government’s disaster risk reduction and response initiatives nationwide, including key COA assessments. Can the Philippines finally end our status as the most disaster-prone major nation in the world?

(Ric Saludo was secretary general of the Special National Public Reconstruction Commission tasked with recovery planning for the 2009 Ondoy and Pepeng calamity.)


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  1. The Yolanda experience is a black eye to the leadership and the government of our country. Billions have been poured in with no concrete result to help alleviate the suffering of the victims. We are too busy making master plans while people struggle on their daily existence. Billions of pesos in taxes squeezed from us are not seen to improve our lives and hopelessly absent during calamities. We would rather bury food by the truck loads after letting it rot. The victims continue to suffer under incompetent and indifferent so called leaders…my heart bleeds for those victims. Those in charge will get their just reward like the story of the rich man and Lazarus in the bible. It’s a shame.

  2. Regarding Yolanda, this article is a throwback almost 18 years ago, broadcast via high frequency thru terrestrial radio service, received by Filipino radio officers engaged in international shipping trade using simplex telex over radio and read by many Filipino seafarers around the world. My vessel then was VLCC Bergenisa passing Caribbean sea on the way to US gulf from Saudi Arabia, 09 Sep 1996.

    Kanina nabalitaan naming na binisita na naman ng bagyo (maring) and Pinas. Marami na naman siguro ang nasalanta, lalo na dito sa norte ng Luzon kung saan ang bagyo ay dumaan. Ilang bahay na naman kaya ang natumba, at ilang pamilya na naman ang nagdanas ng hirap, gutom, lamig, agam agam, takot at pag alala dahil dito.

    Taon taon ganito na lang ito sa atin mula pa sa umpisa ng kasaysayan ng Pilipinas. Talaga bang hindi tayo nag karoon ng leksyon, na tuwing panahon ng bagyo ay natutumba ang bahay ng mga mahirap.Kung ganoon ang mga may kaya sa buhay ay exempted sa takot at kaba sa pinsala ng bagyo dahil ang mga bahay nila ay yari sa bakal at semento? Kaya, bakit hindi ginawa sa semento ang mga tirahan ng mga mahihirap. Kung inumpisahan pa ng gobyerno ito mula pa noon sana nalutas na ang problema na iyon. Dahil kung semento ang bahay ay hindi naman ito kinakain ng anay at halos walang gastos maintainance. iyon sana ang social housing, mga gusaling maraming palapag, mataas at ligtas sa ihip ng malakas na hangin, tipid sa lupa, at walang kaba o takot man kung dumating ang bagyo at ang lupa ay magagamit pa iyon sa ibang pakinabang katulad ng pagtatanim sa ating kakainin, parke na maraming punong kahoy para tayo ay may sapat na oxygen para sa ating paghinga, pasyalan ng mga tao at paglaruan ng mga bata. Ang mga building na ito ay pag aari ng pamahalaan at kung paupahan sa mga mamayan ng mura ay malaking tulong din sa revenue ng gobyerno. Hindi katulad sa ngayon na ini encourage ng gobyerno ang privatization, ang mga lupa para sa sakahan ay nagiging subdivision.

  3. location is important. rate of rehabilitation in areas not as devastated as tacloban will skew public perception/appreciation of PNoy’s rehab failures….

  4. Vicente Penetrante on

    Living in paradise is precarious living because we have urbanized paradise. We are situated in the Ring of Fire and Typhoon Belt. Whatever nature destroys, it rebuilds more beautiful. The cities that we build are often destroyed by nature, too. It is apt to us to rebuild more beautiful, too.

  5. If we are the most disaster prone major nation in the world, then we have not learned from any of our disasters. All we have shown the world is that our national government is incompetent.

  6. Since Saludo is a part of Binay’s payroll, what else is new about these politicians. Romualdez wants the government to hand him the hundreds of millions of pesos to him so he can pocket them. Poor Leytenos. You are always at the mercy of the corrupt politicians. Its about time for you Leytenos to wake up and see for yourselves who are really helping you. Why are the LEFTISTS being provided by the Romuladezes trucks to transport them to make a rally? Asa Lacson said that it is Mayor Romualdez who is sabotaging the rehabilitation of Tacloban.