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.)