The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

November 15, 2013 (2:00 PM)

“…I have no words for soldiers at the (Tacloban) airport! They ignored us! Almost four days with no food and water. We were like beggars, asking for mercy, as we asked for little water just so we can wet our lips… The soldiers just stared at us and laughed at us…” – translated to English, excerpt of Yolanda survivor’s status posted on facebook (see screenshot of fb status that went viral this week, below)

The role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is shifting. The institution’s leaders have to realize that people in Eastern Visayas look up to them for compassion, empathy, and love. As the soldiers become increasingly visible to the public post-Yolanda, so does the scrutiny. People not only expect them to act out of duty, they are expected to operate with their hearts too – heroes, protectors, and defenders of the Filipino people.

The AFP better realize this shift in their image fast… before it’s too late.  Uniformed men and women need to be sensitive as they closely interact with survivors in the Visayas.  The behavior of one soldier can either build or destroy the nation’s confidence in the mission and vision it stands for. Care for the people and the AFP gets trust and cooperation. Break their hearts and they earn indifference and contempt.

Here is a disillusioned citizen sharing her fury online:

a status on facebook that went viral this week

a status on facebook that went viral this week

A translation of the full statement in English:

Thank you LORD for saving us! We owe you everything!

I have no words for soldiers at the airport! They ignored us! Almost four days with no food and water. We were like beggars, asking for mercy, as we asked for little water just so we can wet our lips… The soldiers just stared at us and laughed at us. The soldiers they sent to Tacloban – I do know the purpose why they are there because they ARE NOT HELPING! Airplanes go to Tacloban just to deliver the goods, and not to rescue us. We had to ask for mercy just to get a ride. And if you think about, it was the US AIR FORCE that helped us. PHILIPPINE AIR FORCE HAD NO CARE FOR US! I do not even know where the relief goods go.  I am thankful for the woman from Red Cross; she found ways to help us leave.

Thank you to those who helped and thought about us, prayed for us. Thank you, thank you.

LIFE CONTINUES!

Like individuals and institutions currently working on relief and rebuilding efforts in Eastern Visayas, the AFP is also under a microscope. How they perform in the next months will define their public image. Will this crisis make their reputation? We will have to wait and see.

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

November 15, 2013 (8:00 AM)

Below are images showing a satellite view of Magsaysay Boulevard, Del Pilar and Jones streets.

Credits for photos go to ABC

Before Yolanda: Leyte Park Hotel/UP Botanical

Capture

The images do not cover the area where my family’s apartment once stood, but we did live two blocks from UP Botanical campus –  a few steps from the Cancabato Bay coastline. If you check google maps, it will show you that our home (Private Road, Tacloban City) was less than a kilometer away from the bay. Despite the proximity of our location to the bay -obviously a storm surge zone – our household did not receive any advice requiring household members to evacuate.

After Yolanda: Leyte Park/UP Botanical

Yolanda aftermath
Yolanda aftermath

Every nation that is vulnerable to landfalling tropical cyclones (i.e. hurricanes and typhoons) has a responsibility to:

1) Educate its people about the dangers of storm surge

2) Effectively relay timely, accurate storm forecasts, including understandable and place-specific storm surge information

3) Designate safe shelter- that can withstand category 5 winds – outside of the surge (inundation) zone

Nations may also choose to build dikes, levees, and sea walls to deal with the problem.

Of course, these measures are easier said than done and are highly dependent on a given country’s government and its resources.

 Read: Typhoon and hurricane storm surge disasters are unacceptable

Philippines was expecting Yolanda. We had almost a week’s lead time to prepare yet we were unable to make appropriate actions that would have prevented the loss of more than two thousand lives. Local government officials argued that they were “prepared for Yolanda but its strength was overwhelming.” I say that this sounds a lot like “I studied… but the exam was just really hard,” or “I had noble intentions to serve in public office… but the system was just too dirty, I was sucked in.” 

Let’s be honest. Taclobanons were not prepared, because if we were, everyone would have moved out of Tacloban before the typhoon had hit and devastated the city. The facts remain – people did not know what a storm surge was, people did not know how a category 5 typhoon was different from other cyclones, and the government was not able to identify shelters outside surge zone that could have withstood the strong winds (people even drowned in evacuation centers).

What went wrong? I could think of a few reasons.

  • With cyclones visiting the Philippines 19-20 times a year, we overestimated our ability to withstand a typhoon (LGU officials and constituents alike)
  • Desensitized to typhoons, we had underestimated the strength of Yolanda – a proactive effort to educate people about storm surge could have made a difference
  • LGU officials lacked understanding and possibly appropriate advice on the risks presented by typhoon Yolanda (walk the talk: high-ranking officials themselves had not evacuated to a safer site when their houses were located on a beach)
  • Slow, weak, and disorganized relief and recovery operations from the national government and its agencies

Map view

Map showing Leyte Park Hotel, part of UP Tacloban College - Botanical campus  and Leyte Park Campus, Reg. 8 Capitol Building
Map showing Leyte Park Hotel, part of UP Tacloban College – Botanical campus and Leyte Park Campus, Leyte Provincial Capitol Building

Why it’s important to look back

Read: Remembering typhoon Ruping (a survivor from Cebu reminisces his life in after super typhoon Ruping hit the city in 1990, killing more than 700 people and causing 10-B pesos of damages)

We cannot keep on making the same mistakes. Yolanda was not the Philippines’ first encounter with a category 5 typhoon. In 1990, Cebu was hit by typhoon Ruping (international name: Mike) leaving Philippines with ten billion worth of damage and a death toll of 748. This experience from 23 years ago could have provided us with insights on how to best handle the disaster pre- and post -Yolanda. But as we all see, both our local and national governments were starting from scratch, flailing as they handled Yolanda – from local government unit (LGU) preparations to national and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) decisions. 

NDRRMC undersecretary admits to being unprepared:

“We have a concrete system (on typhoon preparedness and response). Ang hindi lang natin napaghandaan ay ‘yung ganitong magnitude. Napakalaki (What we were not prepared for was the magnitude. Too huge.),” Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario said in a televised interview with reporters on Thursday.

Once Tacloban stabilizes, I hope that we all find time to look back and reflect on our experiences; our government and its institutions – in designing better policies in risk and disaster management; and the people – taking ownership in assessing safety and security risks.

“What we need now are words of encouragement. We don’t want to finger-point. We don’t want to name blame on anybody…. The worst is over. We survived the most powerful typhoon in the world,” says Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez on an interview with Jessica Soho.

We do not need to play the blame game, officials are right, but this does not mean we get a free pass as if nothing had happened. We need to sit down and discuss what went wrong and what could have been done better. Failures are learning opportunities and the Yolanda incident is one course our leaders can’t ignore.

Watch: Pres. Noynoy Aquino points at the local government units for the bottleneck in relief operations.

 We can not always offer weak excuses and cry “but we are a developing nation” in covering up failure. If we do this right, we could frame a strategy comparable to the adeptness Japan demonstrated in relief and rebuilding efforts after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. Effectiveness does not always have to boil down to money and resources; leadership and political will are strong success factors too. 

For more before-and-after photos of Tacloban, click here.

Also read:

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Tacloban – another round of deaths predicted if relief ops not facilitated effectively in next days

Municipalities outside Tacloban… Yolanda aftermath (Eastern Visayas)

Tacloban – Another round of deaths predicted if relief ops not facilitated effectively in next days

November 14, 2013 (11:30 AM)

We need the national and local governments to ACT FAST. We do not want a second round of deaths because of hunger, dehydration, diseases, and violence.

Relief goods are not reaching many people in the downtown area or in other parts of the city.

Hazel

Politicians still trying to win elections. Government officials are strategically prioritizing political supporters.

Mancao

Philippine military presence very weak. 

Andersen

TAhana 

Today NDRRMC Usec. Eduardo del Rosario announced that they are mobilizing additional soldiers and police force. The same group of 2,000 persons will be tapped to help in relief goods distribution and clearing initiatives. Soldiers and police are expected to “mutli-task” says del Rosario while the rest of the force are on standby waiting for orders if NDRRMC assesses that more people is needed.

Also read:

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

UPVTC students can cross-register to other campuses, memo signed by UP president

Before and after pictures: downtown Tacloban (satellite view), impact of Yolanda unexpected

Municipalities outside Tacloban… Yolanda aftermath (Eastern Visayas)

UPVTC students affected by Yolanda can cross-register to other campuses, memo signed by UP president

University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College (UPVTC) students affected by Yolanda can cross-register to other campuses with colleges temporarily waiving requirements that would cause a delay.

Posted on November 13, 2013 by upweb_wordpress in Announcements

Posted on November 13, 2013 by upweb_wordpress in Announcements

Visit the UP Announcements page.

Also read:

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Before and after pictures: downtown Tacloban (satellite view), impact of Yolanda unexpected

Municipalities outside Tacloban… Yolanda aftermath (Eastern Visayas)

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

November 14, 2013 (9:00 AM)

Tacloban has received the largest media coverage in the Philippines after Yolanda/Haiyan. What we do not know is that other parts of Eastern Visayas has also been badly hit.

Guiuan, Eastern Samar, a community of 47,000 to 50,000 people, incurred 100% damage on its infrastructures, according to the municipality mayor, Christopher Gonzales. Since communication lines were down, no one, not the government or the military, knew about the impact of damage on the province until 2 days after the typhoon. Stories heard from Tacloban – hunger, thirst, fear of epidemic from dead bodies, looting, armed people and groups, violence – mirrored in Guiuan.

Photos courtesy of CNN

G131111122404-01-aerials-1111-horizontal-gallery

This aerial photo shows the devastation on Victory Island off of the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar province, central Philippines on November 11, 2013, four days after devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the country.  Philippines rescue workers struggled to bring aid to famished and destitute survivors on November 11 after the super typhoon that may have killed more than 10,000 people, in what is feared to be the country’s worst natural disaster.  AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

guiuan 2

This aerial shot shows destroyed houses on Victory Island off of the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar province, central Philippines on November 11, 2013, four days after devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the country.  Philippines rescue workers struggled to bring aid to famished and destitute survivors on November 11 after the super typhoon that may have killed more than 10,000 people, in what is feared to be the country’s worst natural disaster.  AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBETED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

Please read an article from CNN for more details.

Here is an SMS shared on facebook, a call for help. The sender is from Sulat, Eastern Samar. On his text message, he reported that they had zero casualties (whether he meant his family or his municipality is unclear) and had urged Mylene, the recipient of the SMS to inform authorities about neighboring municipality, Guiuan which according to his message was hit worse than Tacloban.

“…I’m here at Northern Samar so I can send a message that we have zero casualties. Guiuan Eastern Samar was hit worse than Tacloban. There was one island where everyone died. This does not appear in the news…

NDRRMC is frustrating. Their report is erroneous, maybe they are covering up the truth. There were too many dead people. The figure, ten thousand, is only for Tacloban. Eastern Samar has thousands too….”

guiuan 2

To-date, no official report has been released yet on the extent of the damage in Guiuan.

Also read:

Municipalities outside Tacloban… Yolanda aftermath (Eastern Visayas)

Before and after pictures: downtown Tacloban (satellite view), impact of Yolanda unexpected

Tacloban unsafe inspite of what media says, other provinces now desperate for help, families fleeing to safe

Tacloban-bound vehicles had to turn back due to reports of shooting

Tacloban-bound vehicles had to turn back due to reports of shooting

November 13, 2013 (7:30 PM)

People intending to enter Tacloban via Ormoc and Eastern Samar routes had to turn back earlier today. Drivers rushed to safety after the military and an armed group (assumed to be leftist rebels, National People’s Army) shot at each other.

Carigara (Ormoc route)

“…There’s shooting, battle in Carigara. We’re rushing back to Ormoc to take cover. Please tell the media to help our town. NPAs may have heard some relief goods were coming – I don’t know. They may have come for us….”

02

Catbalogan (Samar route)

“PHOEB, sorry child. God knows I really tried to get to your mother, but I failed. Soldiers and criminals and NPA (a rebel group) were shooting each other this morning. People and vehicles could not go through, I only managed to reach Catbalogan. Sorry, anak.”

01

Phoebe, 25, was very frustrated with this turn of events. Enting C., Phoebe’s uncle, was supposed to extract her parents from San Jose, Tacloban. But due to the skirmish, Enting C. was not able to proceed with his trip. Phoebe’s parents had to stay another night in Tacloban.

Phoebe would like to call for stronger presence from the military.

Confirmation

Authorities assert that these reports were baseless and false information intended to mislead and scare people.

People in Tacloban and families monitoring news outside Tacloban do not know what to believe anymore, but it seems unlikely that the people we know would maliciously want to incite fear and panic.


Also read:

Tacloban unsafe inspite of what media says, other provinces now desperate for help, families fleeing to safe

Municipalities outside Tacloban… Yolanda aftermath (Eastern Visayas)

IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS for packing and distribution of relief goods

Exodus to Samar: Heavy traffic in San Juanico Bridge, some already stuck for more than 6 hours

Tacloban unsafe inspite of what media says, other provinces now desperate for help, families fleeing to safety

November 13, 2013 (11:00 AM)

There is a gap between what is seen on TV and what is felt on ground by survivors still stranded in Eastern Visayas. The media reports that peace and order is slowly being restored in Tacloban City, yet conversations from people online, stories from families (including mine) with loved ones stuck in Eastern Visayas, tell us that order in Tacloban is on thin ice.

We do not have enough troops deployed in Eastern Visayas, with help from the international community, only on its way. The military and police forces deployed in Tacloban can only cover only a few areas. Based on exchanges with survivors already out of Tacloban, they are concentrated in (1) Downtown area, a mix of residential and commercial space (2) the airport where hundreds of people have flocked to seek refuge and await transport via military C-130 planes. Subdivisions receive protection through roving teams to guard against security risks (looting and home invasion) during the evenings. Outside these areas, people are vulnerable. Highways are unprotected; people in vehicles and on foot have to be ready to tackle looters that are sometimes traveling in pack.

In neighboring municipalities, danger is more felt, with minimal or no military/police presence. Unrest has increased as people resort to desperate measures. In Jaro, and Alang-alang, Leyte, for example, 30 kilometers (around an hour ride) from Tacloban, not only stores were ransacked, but also palay bodegas (rice storage). In Samar, there are rumors of rebel groups emerging out in the open, taking advantage of weakened police and military power over the territory.

Status in Jaro, Leyte (as of Nov 12)

Status in Jaro, Leyte (as of Nov 12)

if the need for relief goods and security are not met soon, we can expect people to become more agitated, desperate, violent in other provinces too.

Also read:

Municipalities outside Tacloban… Yolanda aftermath (Eastern Visayas)

Exodus to Samar: Heavy traffic in San Juanico Bridge, some already stuck for more than 6 hours

IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS for packing and distribution of relief goods

 

Municipalities outside Tacloban… Yolanda aftermath (Eastern Visayas)

November 12, 2013 (7:30 PM)

Barugo, Catbalogan, Jaro, Naval, Tanauan, So. Leyte

(alphabetical; sorted by municipality)

Barugo, Leyte

Extensive damage on residential areas – church and convent included. Minimal casualties. Most pressing issue – food shortage.

Barugo

Catbalogan, Samar

Cases of looting/hold-up’s at San Juanico Bridge area reported. Looters are said to travel in pack and on vehicles.Palo Catbalogan 1

Jaro, Leyte

No casualties. Minimal damage. Passable roads. Food shortage prompts people to head to Ormoc and Cebu to find relief or buy food. People not aware of the extent of the damage caused by Yolanda. No relief goods received from local government.

Jaro Jaro 2

Naval, Biliran

Damaged properties, dead bodies seen on streets, people scavenging for basic necessities, and at times, aggression to attain needs.

Poor cell reception. Signal found at Caibiran.

Biliran update

Tanauan, a thousand people killed – DZMM

Southern Leyte, Zero Casualty – DZMM

Earlier:

IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS for packing and distribution of relief goods

Exodus to Samar: Heavy traffic in San Juanico Bridge, some already stuck for more than 6 hours

Home invasion in Kristina Heights, Tacloban City

IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS for packing and distribution of relief goods

November 12, 2013 (10:15 AM)

Let’s make sure we’re providing the right goods for Yolanda/Haiyan survivors:

DO NOT PACK ANYTHING THAT REQUIRES WATER OR COOKING. Survivors do not have electricity or gas stoves to cook items like rice and noodles. They need bread, ready-to-eat goods, and canned goods that can be opened without a can opener.

Do provide the following needs:

  1. MEDICINE.  Survivors need basic medicine (biogesic, bioflu, robitussin, mefenamic acid), antiseptics, bandages, and antibiotics.
  2. BOTTLED WATER. There is no water supply in Tacloban. 
  3. MILK (FOR INFANTS). Babies need formulas.
  4. CANDLES, MATCHES, FLASHLIGHTS. Electricity is still down.
  5. CLOTHES and FOOTWEAR.
  6. TOYS/COLORING BOOKS/CRAYONS. To distract little children from trauma and difficulties.

I think sending prepaid SIM cards for both Globe and SMART maybe helpful, and if I’m being completely idealistic, cheap phones (myphone dual sim can be bought at 800 pesos) with fully-charged batteries. I am unable to contact my siblings because they might not have a phone. I’m pretty sure this is not an isolated case. Leave a message if there’s anything else you think should be added here.

relief

I am working with the following groups for relief operations: University of the Philippines – Tau Omega Mu, University of the Philippines – Bulig Isko, and  Far Eastern Univeristy – Medicine Student Council (Community Source Responsibility). Please send me a message at https://www.facebook.com/tiffchn for inquiries. Alternatively, you can always coordinate with the Philippine Red Cross if you prefer working with formal organizations.

Other tips:

Tips in choosing relief goods for Yolanda survivors (shared by Cacay Moras on facebook, originally posted by Jude Bacalso)

shared by Cacay Moras on facebook, originally posted by Jude Bacalso

Exodus to Samar: Heavy traffic in San Juanico Bridge, some already stuck for more than 6 hours

November 12, 2013 (1:45 AM)

People from Tacloban are flocking to the direction of Samar.

According to Johnson Manabat of DZMM Radyo Patrol 46, families are traveling on foot, vehicles, and motorcycles. Reasons for exodus: search for food, electricity, gas, shelter, and others are just passing through with the intention to reach other parts of Eastern Visayas or possibly trying to leave Tacloban. People are determined to cross the bridge in spite of rain, cold weather, and heavy traffic.

The bridge is now a one-way road with vehicles and people moving towards Samar. Samarnons help our fellow Visayans, at the same time, beware of looters.