Harsh Realities in Wake of Typhoon Haiyan
Image Credit: REUTERS/Edgar Su

Harsh Realities in Wake of Typhoon Haiyan


The aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest and most devastating cyclones in recorded history, has left the Philippines in a state of deep paralysis as it confronts a national calamity. Powerful winds reaching gusts of 300kph caused 16-foot waves to sweep through southern Philippine provinces on November 8, wiping out towns and leaving survivors in despair amidst flattened buildings, felled trees and corpses strewn along roadsides.

The official toll is now 3,976 dead, although that number is expected to rise. Approximately 2 million people are in need of food and have been displaced. Total damages from the disaster are estimated at more than $200 million.

Situated in a region prone to severe winds, floods and storm surges, the Philippines is no stranger to typhoons. But the overwhelming scale of destruction left behind by Haiyan has forced the nation to confront some hard truths about its shaky political and socioeconomic infrastructure.

It’s been a little over a week since the typhoon made landfall, and the international community has flooded the Philippines with millions of dollars in relief goods, humanitarian aid and logistical services. There’s some aid in Tacloban – one of the worst-hit cities and the primary focus of relief efforts – but it is a race against the clock to reach many outlying towns and smaller municipalities that have been equally devastated and are in urgent need of aid. Thousands of survivors in remote parts of Samar, Leyte and nearby provinces wait desperately for food, water and medicines, as well as body bags to collect the decomposing dead.

Manila’s overall response to the disaster has been alarmingly slow and ill-coordinated. Of course, physical barriers are everywhere. Damaged roads made inaccessible by debris hamper relief efforts and isolated towns with no water, electricity or means of communication are left to fend for themselves. Consequently, relief is not reaching those in need fast enough, and so for the survivors the task of finding food and shelter remains a constant struggle. Unverified reports of looting, murder and rape have also emerged from some parts of Tacloban as residents attempt to flee the city.

While a stunned Philippine government struggles to come to terms with the magnitude of destruction and chaos, patience is wearing thin as many begin to question its performance in addressing the needs of its people during this time of crisis. International media scrutiny has been ratcheted up after CNN remarked on the government’s slow, disorganized and inefficient relief efforts, perceived shortcomings which the Philippine government has not fully denied.

Disillusioned Filipino netizens flock to Facebook, Twitter and social news network Rappler with furious commentaries every hour, while others try to counter with reminders that the Aquino government is doing all it can given the magnitude of widespread destruction.

Yet the government’s delayed and ill-coordinated response before and after the typhoon is a symptom of a more hazardous illness, one decades in the making. The typhoon arrived just as the entire country was embroiled in one of its most shocking political scandals to date: the alleged misuse of public funds by prominent members of Congress amounting to $586 million over the past six years. These pork barrel funds were meant for local development projects such as the construction of roads, health centers, and other public works in underdeveloped areas. But the lack of proper auditing controls and regulations has cost the country billions of pesos lost in “ghost projects”: non-existent NGOs and sham public programs allowing politicians to pocket public monies under the guise of doing good.

November 23, 2013 at 10:07

@Guy Johnson, I agree. That’s why native American Indians, numbered in the tens of millions before the founding of the USA, have practically disappeared.

November 22, 2013 at 02:25

@a_canadian_observer, I can’t care less whether you are OK with my comment or not. I only care about the truth.

Guy Johnson
November 21, 2013 at 23:46

This sounds very similar to the USA government as far as the corruption and stealing. But the USA is far more prepared for killing off the survivors and thus eliminating the discontented.

Tyler Lee
November 21, 2013 at 08:57

Funny! it’s the govt officials at various level in the Philippines who should pay more taxes from the huge bribes they’ve gotten from the chinese business community there. It’s double taxation for the Chinese Business Community if they have to pay it to both the govt officials & the govt.

November 21, 2013 at 06:24

@Keys: If you stopped right after finishing your first sentence, then I would have been OK with you. The rest of your comment is just pure garbage.

November 20, 2013 at 17:34

The corrupt, incompetent government of the Philippines should get its acts together and start doing something to curb senseless population growth and improve the economy. STOP grabbing islands in the South China Sea from others. The current government can’t even rule half of the country properly. And it yet it still wants to claim more territories and fight China, Taiwan, Vietnam? I know the US is behind all this, but the Philippines govt should act like a sovereign govt, not a US colony.

November 19, 2013 at 10:51

1. " Even before the typhoon hit, one look at poverty-stricken regions in the Philippines such as Tacloban only seems to underscore the contention that just a fraction of the public money has been used to help those who need it most."

Years later, after much demand for accountability, the auditing of funds from international donors for Typhoon Haiyan will be carried out and the findings will inevitably be…

60% for General & Administrative expenses for Government officials in Manila and to corrupted police and military unaffected by the typhoon.

25% for Travelling & Miscellaneous expenses for the pork barrel politicians for turning up at affected areas crying crocodile tears.

5% Other Fees

10% for the victims

2. " In March this year President Aquino expressed shock at the “incredibly low” to zero taxes being paid by certain members of the Chinese-Filipino business community, …"

Philippines' pork barrel politicians will predictably then blame the debacle of misused Typhoon Haiyan's funds on the Chinese-Filipino business community.

It will immediately be followed by President Aquino and Foreign Affairs Chief Del Rosario and Defence chief Voltaire Gazmin (The Political Trinity) whipping up nationalistic feelings against China over some God forsaken shoals and rocks to distract the attention of Filipinos over the misused funds.

3.  " But political corruption spanning decades has led to misplaced priorities which have compromised the possibility of a stronger socioeconomic structure today. "

Misplaced priorities ??  How true !!  

The great political trinity of Aquino, Del Rosario & Gazmin placed their priorities on and spent precious time sqabbling over some God forsaken shoals and rocks, including ultimately the commitment of US$billions on weapons procurement; instead of on the preparation, years before, for natural disasters for the poor and needy outside of metropolitan Manila.

Philippines..oh Philippines !

December 10, 2013 at 03:59

Alas, I can only agree on your first contention. It is true that Filipino Chinese paid the lowest taxes even though they mostly own most of the small and medium business in the Philippines. Not to mention the big businessmen, Gokongwei, Tan, Sy, etc.

The decades are referring to our past Presidents especially Marcos, Erap, and GMA.

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