Philippines disaster, horror for millions of survivors

This video is called Super-Typhoon Haiyan Seen From International Space Station.

By Mike Head:

Millions face desperate plight in Philippines

14 November 2013

Nearly a week after Super Typhoon Haiyan—known locally as Typhoon Yolanda—smashed into the Philippines’ central islands last Friday, millions of predominantly poor people are still confronting devastation and destitution.

Even as the Philippine government declared that it had responded to the disaster “quite well,” shocking scenes were emerging of bodies left strewn across towns, desperate people killed while trying to grab bags of rice from a government warehouse, children begging on streets for food and water, and families living in makeshift huts.

The typhoon, which flattened entire towns, whipped up tsunami-like waves and knocked out roads, electricity and water supplies, is the Philippines’ worst disaster triggered by a typhoon or earthquake. With many remote areas still not accounted for, the death toll is almost certain to exceed the 5,791 people who perished in the 1976 quake and tsunami in the Moro Gulf.

President Benigno Aquino’s government, which is now downplaying the scale of the destruction, claims that the fatalities will fall well short of initial estimates of 10,000 deaths and puts the number of people affected at just over 8 million. But the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs says 11.3 million people are in need, lacking food, healthcare and access to education and livelihoods.

Eight people were crushed to death after typhoon survivors stormed a National Food Authority (NFA) rice warehouse in Alangalang, near the devastated city of Tacloban. Police and soldiers guarding the facility were overpowered by the crowd, who carted off more than 100,000 bags of rice, according to a spokesman for the NFA, the government’s rice trading agency. “One wall of our warehouses collapsed and eight people were crushed and killed instantly,” he told reporters.

From Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province, which bore the brunt of the typhoon, Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Stephen McDonell reported: “Emergency accommodation is nowhere to be seen and even the basics like food and medicine are still out of the reach of many.” This was despite the military, ordered in by Aquino, bringing the city “by and large under control.” McDonell added: “And then there are all these communities beyond Tacloban. People are walking into Tacloban from much more isolated, devastated areas, hoping for some help. What they’re finding is the remnants of the city that used to be there.”

Reports filtering in from remote areas indicate greater destruction. In Guiuan, on the easternmost coast of the Philippines, where the typhoon first struck, the mayor, Sheen Gonzales, told the Guardian: “We are 100 percent wiped out by Yolanda. It was like the end of the world.” Residents were living in flimsy shelters made from tarpaulins or corrugated iron blown off buildings.

Mark Biong, the mayor of another town, Giporlos, was waiting at the Guiuan airstrip in the hope of getting supplies. So far he had been given just 480 family packs for 6,000 affected households. “I can’t deliver that,” he said. “It will just create chaos if I bring that little food for my town. People will get angry about it.”

Guiuan resident Flora Paraskovich denounced the authorities. “How many typhoons have already hit the Philippines for you to learn what has to be done?… When another typhoon comes it will still be the same. Our next house will be made of concrete. But most families cannot afford to build those kinds of homes.”

The Aquino administration’s response combines callous indifference with political coverup and preoccupation with corporate interests. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said the government had performed “quite well,” while the Department of Tourism urged people to visit, saying the country was a “safe and fun” destination, including in typhoon-hit regions. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told an investment summit in Manila that the country had the fiscal ability to deal with the relief and rebuilding costs, because the government had cut the budget deficit to within 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Increasingly nakedly, for all their professions of humanitarian concern, the responses of the major global powers are determined by geo-political and military calculations, bound up with the US “pivot” to Asia to counter China’s rising influence. Aquino’s administration has functioned as one of Washington’s closest allies in this aggressive drive, escalating territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea and moving to grant the US military basing rights in the Philippines.

“US military footprint on Philippines could grow after typhoon Haiyan,” the Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday, highlighting the arrival of 2,000 US marines and the dispatch of a naval battle group led by the giant aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington. “The aftermath of typhoon Haiyan is showing Filipinos the benefits of a robust US military presence,” the newspaper commented. “That could help a US-Philippines military accord currently under discussion.”

David Arase, a professor of international politics at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center in China, told the newspaper: “Once the George Washington arrives and starts dispensing life-saving potable water, it’s going to be a huge photo op that reminds everybody in the region that the US is not just a traditional security ally, but a partner in nontraditional security crises as well.”

Likewise, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government in Japan, which the Obama administration has encouraged to re-militarise in order to counteract China, said it would send as many as 1,000 Self-Defense Forces (SDF) troops to the Philippines. The deployment will feature three warships, transport aircraft and helicopters, making it the biggest-ever SDF “relief mission” overseas.

Abe has strengthened military ties with Manila this year, including by supplying coast guard vessels. About 1,000 Japanese military personnel were sent to Aceh after the 2004 tsunami, and troops went to Haiti following its 2010 earthquake.

A debate has evidently broken out within the Chinese leadership, which has been derided in the Western media for donating just $100,000 to the typhoon relief operation, compared to its promise of $4.88 million to Pakistan’s earthquake disaster two months ago.

In an editorial, the state-controlled Global Times called for China not to be left behind in the Philippines emergency, despite Beijing’s territorial dispute with Manila: “China, as a responsible power, should participate in relief operations to assist a disaster-stricken neighboring country, no matter whether it’s friendly or not. China’s international image is of vital importance to its interests. If it snubs Manila this time, China will suffer great losses.”

In Australia, Rory Medcalf, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, a corporate thinktank, said the US military effort would be valuable for both Washington and Canberra at a time “when American power and purpose in Asia are being questioned” in the wake of President Obama’s inability to attend key Asia-Pacific summits because of the recent US government shutdown.

Medcalf said the US naval and Marine contingent would be “a reminder that the forward-deployed American military is still the first and fastest responder to contingencies of any kind.”

See also here.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) have published a report about the damage Typoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) did to farming. Here it is. See more here.

Communist rebels in the Philippines announced a ceasefire yesterday to help its astronomical rebuilding effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan: here.

8 thoughts on “Philippines disaster, horror for millions of survivors

  1. Let’s Take Advantage of Suffering Filipinos!

    By David Swanson

    November 14, 2013 “Information Clearing House – The same week in which a Washington Post columnist claimed that interracial marriage makes people gag, a USA Today columnist has proposed using the U.S. military to aid those suffering in the Philippines — as a backdoor means of getting the U.S. military back into a larger occupation of the Philippines.

    While the Philippines’ representative at the climate talks in Warsaw is fasting in protest of international inaction on the destruction of the earth’s climate, and the U.S. negotiator has effectively told him to go jump in a typhoon, the discussion in the U.S. media is of the supposed military benefits of using Filipinos’ suffering as an excuse to militarize their country.

    The author of the USA Today column makes no mention of the U.S. military’s history in the Philippines. This was, after all, the site of the first major modern U.S. war of foreign occupation, marked by long duration, and high and one-sided casualties. As in Iraq, some 4,000 U.S. troops died in the effort, but most of them from disease. The Philippines lost some 1.5 million men, women, and children out of a population of 6 to 7 million.

    The USA Today columnist makes no mention of Filipinos’ resistance to the U.S. military up through recent decades, or of President Obama’s ongoing efforts to put more troops back into the Philippines, disaster or no disaster.

    Instead, our benevolent militarist claims that budgets are tight in Washington — which is of course always going to be the case for a government spending upwards of $1 trillion a year on militarism.

    He claims that the United States “stations troops throughout the world in the hope of shaping the political environment so as to avoid sending them into combat” — a perspective that ignores the alternative of neither sending them into combat nor stationing them abroad.

    The terrorist attacks that the U.S. uses to justify its foreign wars are, according to U.S. officials, provoked by the over a million troops stationed in 177 countries, the drone strikes, and other such “preventive” measures.

    “[D]eploying military resources for disaster relief is a remarkably effective — and inexpensive — investment in the future. One of the largest such deployments in history, the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other assets following the Asian tsunami of 2004, is estimated to have cost $857 million. That’s roughly the price of three days’ operations in Afghanistan last year.”

    Or of 15,500 teachers in U.S. schools, or of enormous supplies of far more edible food than an aircraft carrier full of troops and weapons.

    Much of the world has long-since learned to fear U.S. Trojan horses. As I noted in War Is A Lie:

    “By 1961, the cops of the world were in Vietnam, but President Kennedy’s representatives there thought a lot more cops were needed and knew the public and the president would be resistant to sending them. For one thing, you couldn’t keep up your image as the cops of the world if you sent in a big force to prop up an unpopular regime. What to do? What to do? Ralph Stavins, coauthor of an extensive account of Vietnam War planning, recounts that General Maxwell Taylor and Walt W. Rostow, ‘. . . wondered how the United States could go to war while appearing to preserve the peace. While they were pondering this question, Vietnam was suddenly struck by a deluge. It was as if God had wrought a miracle. American soldiers, acting on humanitarian impulses, could be dispatched to save Vietnam not from the Viet Cong, but from the floods.'”

    What a blessing! And how well it helped to prevent warfare!

    Of course, today’s enlightened punditry means well. The thought of Southeast Asians marrying their daughters might make some of them gag, but philanthropy is philanthropy after all, even if we’d never stand for some other country stationing its military here on the excuse that it brought some food and medicine along. Here’s the USA Today:

    “The goodwill the tsunami relief brought the U.S. is incalculable. Nearly a decade later, the effort may rank as one of the most concrete reasons Southeast Asian nations trust the long-term U.S. commitment to a strategy of ‘Asian rebalancing’ The Obama administration recognizes the value of disaster relief. As the Pentagon attempts to shift more of its weight to the Asian Pacific region while balancing a shrinking budget, this could turn out to be one of the best decisions it could make.”

    But good will is dependent on not dominating people militarily and economically — yet that seems to be exactly the goal.

    What’s wrong with that, some might ask. The sneaky abuse of disaster relief might be thought to give aggressive war “prevention” an undeserved bad name were it not for the fact that nobody is threatening war on the United States and nobody is about to do so. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to one of our top veteran warmongers, via PopularResistance:

    “During a recent speech in Poland, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned fellow elitists that a worldwide ‘resistance’ movement to ‘external control’ driven by ‘populist activism’ is threatening to derail the move towards a new world order. Calling the notion that the 21st century is the American century a ‘shared delusion,’ Brzezinski stated that American domination was no longer possible because of an accelerating social change driven by ‘instant mass communications such as radio, television and the Internet,’ which have been cumulatively stimulating ‘a universal awakening of mass political consciousness.’ The former U.S. National Security Advisor added that this ‘rise in worldwide populist activism is proving inimical to external domination of the kind that prevailed in the age of colonialism and imperialism.'”

    If this master warmonger recognizes that the age of colonialism and imperialism is gone, how do millions of Americans still manage to bark out the Pavlovian response “What about the next Hitler?” whenever someone proposes ending war?

    The fact is that no governments are plotting to take over the United States. Old-fashioned imperialism and colonialism are as gone as 1940s clothing and music, not to mention Jim Crow, respectability for eugenics, established second-class status for women, the absence of environmentalism, children hiding under desks to protect themselves from nuclear bombs, teachers hitting children, cigarettes being good for you. The fact is that 75 years is a long, long time. In many ways we’ve moved on and never looked back.

    When it comes to war, however, just propose to end it, and 4 out of 5 dentists, or doctors, or teachers, or gardeners, or anybody else in the United States will say “What about the next Hitler?” Well, what about the dozens of misidentified next-Hitlers of the past 70 years? What about the possibility that within our own minds we’re dressing up war as disaster relief? Isn’t it just possible that after generations of clearly aggressive, destructive, and criminal wars we describe militarism as a response to the second-coming of Hitler because the truth wouldn’t sound as nice?

    David L. Swanson is an American activist, blogger and author.


  2. Pingback: Typhoon Haiyan and global warming | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Philippines typhoon disaster, insufficient governmental response | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: David Cameron, Philippines disaster and Bahrain dictatorship | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. one thing I could suggest since rainy season in the philippines is here again is that eveyy person should create their own emergency bag and also put a lighter on it for several purpose (may I suggest zippo lighter windproof)


  6. Pingback: Big Oil guilty in Philippines climate disasters | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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