Signs of recovery appear a month after ‘Yolanda’ | Inquirer News

Signs of recovery appear a month after ‘Yolanda’

By: - Correspondent / @joeygabietaINQ
/ 02:26 AM December 09, 2013

Typhoon survivors get a haircut along the streets for P50 (about US$1) in Tacloban City on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. One month since Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan), signs of progress in this shattered Philippine city are mixed with reminders of the scale of the disaster and the challenges ahead: Bodies are still being uncovered from beneath the debris. AP PHOTO/AARON FAVILA

TACLOBAN CITY—The public market and commercial center are back in business. So are several restaurants, banks and remittance centers, gasoline stations, stores and groceries.

Water, public transportation and telecommunications services have returned.


A month after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) drastically changed the landscape of the once progressive city and other towns of Leyte province with practically all of their structures destroyed, signs of recovery are showing although the people and their leaders are still coping with tragedy.


Tacloban accounted for almost half of the total number of dead and missing across the Visayas. As of Dec. 5, national authorities placed the typhoon’s toll at 4,959 deaths and 1,761 still missing, while city officials estimated damage to property at P18.1 billion.

“It’s not time to mourn. We have to move on and we are thankful that we are receiving several help from others like the provincial government, international humanitarian groups and even local government units which sort of adopted us like Mandaluyong City,” said City Administator Tecson John Lim.


Mayor Alfred Romualdez said the city was raring to return to its economic state before Yolanda. However, he said power supply had yet to return to normal at the soonest possible time as a key component for recovery.

The city government is back at work, and markets are laden with fruits, pork, fish and bread. Shredded trees are sprouting new leaves. Above all, the sounds of a city getting back on its feet fill the air: The roar of trucks hauling debris, the scrape of shovel along pavement, the ping of hammer on nails.

In the main downtown area along Del Pilar, Zamora, Salazar, Burgos and Gomez streets, stalls sell toys, chargeable lamps, mobile phones, slippers, bottled water, vegetables and fruits. The shopping malls, which were heavily looted in the aftermath of the typhoon, have remained closed.

Sense of normalcy

Power supply has returned to the commercial area and vital installations, such as City Hall, provincial buildings and hospitals. Lim said 19 of the 26 government agencies in the city were now operating and about 15 percent of the city has electricity.

“Psychologically, there is a sense of normalcy,” he said.

Signs of progress in the shattered city are mixed with reminders of the scale of the disaster and the challenges ahead: Bodies are still being uncovered from beneath the debris.

Tens of thousands are living amid the ruins of their former lives, underneath shelters made from scavenged materials and handouts.

As masses of survivors are living amid rubble in rebuilt shanty homes, experts say rebuilding may take at least three years, and success will depend on good governance and access to funds.


Lim said the city government would need all the help it could get to implement a massive rehabilitation program, since the P18.1 billion needed to do so “is too much for the city to handle on its own.”

He said he hoped that the national government would help the city in its rehabilitation effort to allow a “new” Tacloban to emerge.

The city operates on a P800-million budget, half of which came from the national government in the form of internal revenue allotment (IRA).

According to the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 29 of Leyte’s 43 cities and municipalities were destroyed or heavily damaged, directly affecting 1.9 million people. Yolanda wiped out 58,536 houses and damaged 285,977 others.

Tacloban and the towns in the eastern seaboard of the province, including Palo, Tolosa, Tanauan, Dulag and Mayorga, bore the storm’s fury. Damaged were Ormoc City and the towns of Kananga, Sta. Fe, Tunga, San Miguel, Barugo, MacArthur, Dagami, Alangalang, Abuyog, Capoocan, Tabon-tabon, Javier, Jaro, Carigara, Villaba, Burauen, Albuera, Isabel, Merida, Mahaplag, Pastrana and Leyte.

“We are relying on the food being distributed by the government. But this is not a long-term kind of thing. And once this stopped … some of our people might resort to holdup or robbery,” Mayor Ernesto Martillo of Pastrana said.

Food security

Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said he was confident about the Leyteños capability to bounce back from this massive tragedy. The provincial government, he said, has sought intervention to revive its agriculture sector.

“I think … we are now a little bit okay. We are now in the stage of recovery although it might take us some years before we can say that we are fully recovered or rehabilitated,” Petilla said.

Outside of the cities, the government and relief workers are rushing to help tens of thousands of farmers who lost their livelihoods in the storm.

The next rice harvest must be planted this month, so urgent programs are underway to clear farms of debris, fix irrigation channels and get seeds out to remote areas.

“This is a huge issue for food security…. It’s going to be an enormous challenge to meet the deadline,” Ian Bray, a spokesman for international charity Oxfam, told Agence France-Presse.

Int’l response

The storm, one of the strongest to hit land on record, triggered an international response, led by the United States and UN agencies.

The Philippine government has joined them in paying for food-for-work and cash-for-work emergency employment for thousands who lost their livelihoods. The workers clean up the twisted houses, trees and others debris that still cover large parts of the city and receive about P500 a day.

On Friday, the World Bank approved $500 million in budget support that the Philippine government can use for short-term recovery and reconstruction. It is also providing technical assistance in designing housing, hospitals, schools and public facilities that can withstand supertyphoons, strong earthquakes and severe floods.

“A lot of people have received emergency assistance, but this is just the beginning,” Matthew Cochrane, a spokesman of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Tacloban, told Agence France-Presse.

Cochrane said one of the top priorities was building new homes and communities for roughly 500,000 families. But with the process expected to take up to five years and cost billions of pesos, many people have already left evacuation centers and started the rebuilding themselves, often using salvaged material.

Morning Mass

Hundreds of thousands of people will also need some form of help to address the mental trauma of living through what many in the mainly Christian country have likened to hell.

“In a disaster like this it’s not just about meeting the physical reconstruction needs, it’s about addressing the mental scars,” said International Federation of the Red Cross spokesman Patrick Fuller.

Church services on Sunday were part of that healing process, with survivors listening to sermons focused on hope and resilience.

“Whatever hardships and sufferings we have had, we should try to move on and forget and start all over again,” Fr. Isagani Petilos told a morning Mass at Tacloban’s Santo Niño Church, which still has missing windows and holes in its roof.

“We have to learn to accept what happened in our lives, and we can still hope that there’s a beautiful life ahead.”—With reports from Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon, AP and AFP



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