Monday, April 21, 2014

Typhoon Yolanda

by Antonio C. Antonio
November 18, 2013

Author’s Note:  The following article became the subject of an on-line discussion on Typhoon Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda).

The recent events, which affected some 11 million Filipinos (a disturbing percentage of about 10% of our entire population) is truly very alarming.  It really will be worth our time discussing and exchanging views on this.  

What can we really do to prevent or avoid disasters like Yolanda from happening again?  The question may seem overwhelming, isn’t it?  Weather systems, in Filipino religious culture, are “acts of God” and man cannot do anything to prevent them… especially Yolanda, which has been considered to be the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall.  Yolanda is a 1st World problem which unfortunately happened to a 3rd World country.  Our government (both national and local), obviously ill-prepared and ill-equipped to cope with such a disaster, was initially overwhelmed, shocked and paralyzed.  The United States, with all its wealth and power, also failed to stop Typhoon Katrina which registered 230 KPH winds… Yolanda was over 250 KPH.  If governments (our own and other countries) cannot stop typhoons, what can ordinary people like us do to stop natural calamities?  Nothing.

Disaster prevention is the business of the Gods… a task beyond the capabilities of mere mortals like us.  But a lot could be done in terms of disaster preparedness and risk reduction.  Mitigation might no longer be the prime strategy since Global Warming and Climate Change are already upon us.  Our government seems to have charted a good roadmap in dealing with disasters… the three Rs --- (a) rescue, (b) relief, and (c) rehabilitation.  Disasters (floods, earthquake, [now] storm surge, etc.) are here to stay and all we can do is to perhaps adapt to them.

Adaptation should be the centerpiece of the rehabilitation aspect of the roadmap in disaster scenarios.  In the case of the Eastern Visayan islands which were the hellpath of Yolanda, it would be wise to make a geohazard assessment of the area.  In this regard, please allow me to focus on Tacloban, Leyte since it the city which is often mentioned in most news coverage and has been the benchmark in assessing Yolanda’s destructive power.

Please see this link --- --- for the flood hazard map of Tacloban City, Leyte.  (My apologies… I could not find a “storm surge” map and a flood map was the best I could come up with.)  Although a topographic map should be the best tool to determine the low-lying areas in Tacloban City, a flood map could also serve our purpose.  The flood map clearly indicates that the high risk areas in Tacloban City are located on the south-southeastern part of the city bordering the mighty Pacific Ocean.  With Samar Island on the far northeastern part of Tacloban City, it is plain to see how a storm surge coming from the east became possible.  Judging from the numerous photos and television footages of the city taken after Yolanda, this part of Tacloban City is relatively flat.  Unfortunately, this area of the city is where majority of its population is located.

With this in the background, I could recommend the following methodology as an adaption measure:

1.     The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shall identify the low-lying and high risk areas in Tacloban City.

2.     The City Council shall declare (through ordinances) these low-lying and high risk areas (especially those where flooding occurred during Yolanda) as “no build zones”.

3.     The DENR shall identify relocation sites for those whose properties are included in the “no build zone.”  The relocation sites should be within or as close to Tacloban City… preferably public land that are alienable and disposable (A & D).  The Register of Deeds shall help in identifying the legal landowners in the “no build zone.”  This will exclude informal settlers… another housing program could be designed for them… perhaps a low-cost communal-type housing in the same relocation site.

4.     Landowners in the “no build zone” shall be offered the same land area in the relocation site.  This will be some kind of “land swapping” arrangement with no cash involved.

5.     The United Architects of the Philippines could be involved in the planning of these new communities in the relocation areas… complete with public markets, parks, recreational facilities and other necessary facilities.

6.     The business sector should also be encouraged to set-up business ventures next or near these relocation sites to provide gainful employment for these new communities.

The biggest problem in plans and programs like this is where to get the financial resources to implement them.  With the kind of support and aid being pledged and actually given by the international community (which could be in the billions of dollars) plus throw-in PDAF, DAP and the Malampaya funds (which were just being stolen before anyway), funding may perhaps not be a problem.  A more serious concern is the priorities and attitude of some of our government officials (who, even at times of disaster, are often engaged in campaigning rather than committing themselves to simple tasks like repacking relief goods.)
It is said that there is an opportunity in every calamity.  A project/program proposal along this line will now allow us the opportunity to build better and environmentally sound communities in Tacloban City. 

But how will this work?... when we  are just confined to our computers and on-line discussions?  Dr. Consuelo De Luna-Habito of UPOU, made us aware (in the on-line course “Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics”) that we have different circles of influence:
  1. Our immediate family;
  2. Our relatives and close friends;
  3. Our classmates, co-workers and business associates; and,
  4. Our peripheral acquaintances. 

 And these circles of influence have their own circles of influence too.  Several ripples in a still pond could eventually agitate the entire pond.  If we are “noisy” enough about what we want to see happen, somehow-sometime-somewhere, this will eventually get to someone who could actually make it happen.

No one has a monopoly of bright ideas.  Individually, our ideas may even be considered mundane and insignificant.  But collectively, we could come up with a thesis and an anti-thesis then agree on a synthesis to adapt to this problem.  My dear friends, your opinions are most needed too…

Just my little thoughts…



Vladymir Rivera (November 18, 2013):  “Thanks, Anton, for sharing your thoughts.  The first thing I felt compelled to react to was what you wrote as "disaster prevention is the business of the Gods".  You must have been focusing on Tacloban so much that you've missed how the people in other areas, for example in Tulang Diyot island off Cebu, managed to prevent disaster (i.e. zero casualty) by being prepared and organised.  They left the island before Super Typhoon Yolanda struck. Sure, their houses were flattened too, but having no casualty where thousands died in other areas is of paramount accomplishment here.  Tacloban is a different story.  The disastrous outcome is compounded by its topography and population and structural density, on top of the fact that Yolanda's strength was unprecedented in recent history.  It's easy to recommend what to do.  As they say, everyone becomes an expert in a post-disaster situation.  I'm sure there's an overflow of ideas and proposals right now about what should have been done, what needs to be done, how, why.  However, I feel that a more fundamental task is to offer a good and grounded assessment of what happened, how it happened, why it happened that way in that area and differently in another area, to contribute in enriching a fuller understanding of the (impacts of this) disaster.  At face value, I find it hard to square up the policy actions and recommendations that you've identified with the background that you've provided.  First of, why might mitigation "no longer be the prime strategy", or that adaptation "should be the centerpiece of rehabilitation" in disaster scenarios?  Wasn't this one of the main lessons of Yolanda's aftermath?  That one cannot chose how to be prepared; instead you have to be prepared at all levels, in all aspects.  At the same time, it can even be argued that perhaps relocation, especially in the context of storm surges, would be more meaningful than adaptation as a centerpiece of rehabilitation.  I don't know.  What I do know is that the scale and depth of Yolanda's aftermath very much reflects the state of environmental  degradation and ecological destruction, and how disproportionate the benefits and impacts of natural resource exploitation accrue to public good and safety.  My two cents.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 18, 2013):  “Hi, Vlad…  Your “two cents” and my “little thoughts” are exactly what this exercise is about.  Throwing our raw ideas into a pool of ideas (no matter how diverse or complimentary) until we can all discern what is ideal.  Who knows… other people might even come up with radically different ideas and, perhaps, even totally disagree with both of us.  This is getting to be exciting, isn’t it?  God bless you and stay well…”

Elizabeth Villazar (November 19, 2013):  “Hello everybody, I agree that we can’t avoid or prevent this kind of phenomenon (development of cyclone) but I think we CAN at least control its frequency of developing and its intensity.  As our diplomat Mr. Yeb Sano (Philippine UN delegation) pointed out during the opening of UN Climate Summit in Warsaw, global warming is the cause of typhoon Haiyan.  I was so touched with his speech and as an employee of an automotive manufacturing company, I am more obliged to intensify our programs to prevent or at least mitigate the effects of global warming.  I am also teaching my children, relatives and friends to practice environment-friendly activities that will lessen the emission of green house gases (GHG) to the atmosphere.  As these GHG accumulate in our atmosphere, oceans such as the Pacific and Atlantic tend to warm.  Warmer waters increase the rate of evaporation which then leads to the formation of low pressure area (it was also explained by Mang Tani – resident meteorologist of GMA7).  This is the time a depression normally forms which turns into typhoon/ cyclone.  Kindly add more about my initial understanding of the formation of typhoons.  Kindly refer also to the links I provided for your awareness as I have limited time to further my discussion on this.  Nevertheless, we need to act now to address the current environmental situation we are in.  No matter how small the action may be, it will always help in some way.  If we act now, we could at least mitigate the adverse effects in the future.  We don't have to be in a particular place and time to do our share in shaping the future of our environment.

Elizabeth Villezar (November 19, 2013):  “Good day to all, In addition to my previous post, being one of the Filipinos who in times of difficulty tried to bring comfort to our fellowmen in whatever way we can, relief participation is the immediate action we can do as of this moment for the victims of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).  Although this act is reactive at least we can still reach out to them.  As we've learned from our previous courses, in addressing environmental issues, we must be proactive in dealing with those.  Scientists may still be reluctant or slow to detail the real causes of the calamities that we are experiencing nowadays but at least we have ideas on how to act accordingly.  With this little information, I hope that someday we'll be able to make a difference in shaping our environment by learning more and sharing what we've learned to those who are in need and together we can do it.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 19, 2013):  “Hi, Beth… Your (two) posts are highly appreciated.  Your ideas are very positive and proactive.  This is exactly what we need in times of disaster.  Your pro-environment stance, your desire to find ways “to make a difference in shaping our environment” and your willingness to share your knowledge is truly admirable.  Thank you for sharing your ideas.  God bless you and stay well…”

Victor Virgo (November 19, 2013):  “Thanks Sir Anton, I think we cannot prevent natural phenomenon like typhoon since our nature has its own cycle, and defence mechanism that happens continuously throughout the life of earth.  However, I believe that if we care enough for our natural resources we can still reduce the risk or may lessen the damage to properties and casualties that can be brought by these natural calamities.  For example, if there is still large areas of forest cover maybe it can block and diminish the speed wind of typhoon Yolanda.  But then again, if we look at what happened few days before the typhoon entered the PAR the national government warned the people about the strength and the distance of the typhoon and I think the best solution is to leave the area but it is impossible to transport all the people of Samar in a safer island. Since Samar is facing the Pacific Ocean, we have to expect that it is prone to strong typhoon and maybe to more devastating calamities like tsunami.  If that the case, I think we have to focus in the design and structure of buildings and houses, maybe a full cemented roofing and or have a basement for hurricane protection.  In rebuilding the Samar Island, designers and contractors, have to study building failures and information to prevent similar catastrophes because many of the lessons learned from failures have led to establishment of safety rules in building codes.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 19, 2013):  “Hi, Vic…  I’m glad you mentioned “tsunami.”  News has it that people have been sufficiently warned days before Yolanda made landfall.  But what people were made aware of was the possibility of a “storm surge” which is an unfamiliar term… something they have never experienced before or even heard or know about.  Do you think it would have been more effective if “tsunami” was used?... a term people are more familiar with?  You and I know that “tsunami” would be a wrong term but, considering the situation, a little disinformation could (perhaps) been more effective.  I agree that the some degree of revisions in our building codes should be done to cope with 300 KPH winds.  Thanks and stay well…”

Victor Virgo (November 21, 2013):  “Thanks! It is better to inform the people about the difference of tsunami and storm surge.  Our country I think is near to the Pacific ring of fire therefore, there is a possibility of tsunami since tsunami is a large destructive ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake.  However, the two phenomena are devastating so I think we need to be always prepared.  We need to be vigilant in protecting our environment especially in promoting the importance of upland and aquatic ecosystem.”

Elizabeth Villezar (November 21, 2013):  “Hello po, I just want to clarify something, Sir Vic. The Philippine is not just near but actually within the Pacific Ring of Fire.  Kindly refer to the attached image I provided herein.  Regards, Source:

Alyssa Erika Louis Agaban (November 21, 2013):  “I believe the occurrence of disasters like this is beyond our control.  And sadly their magnitude will get stronger.  However, what we can do is start preparing.  DISASTER PREPAREDNESS will soon be the next big thing in the coming years.  Since nature made us understand her power, people will start taking DISASTER PREPAREDNESS seriously. We need to start planning how to create a disaster-resilient Philippines.  According to the head of the Philippine delegation Lucille Sering said that “climate change is not something that we should be flirting with.  For us and for other poorer countries, this is real.  People should now be taught how to PREPARE and how TO ADAPT.  But they have to be educated. EDUCATION is a key to our survival.”

Alyssa Erika Louis Agaban (November 21, 2013):  “Sharing with you this VALUABLE study made by WWF and BPI Foundation for climate change vulnerabilities on several cities** in the country, interestingly including Tacloban, just two months before Yolanda struck the city.  The study predicted a super typhoon coming to Tacloban 2021, sadly this came 8 years earlier than expected.  Phases covered the cities of Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Dagupan, Iloilo, Laoag and Zamboanga from 2011 to 2012. The cities of Angeles, Batangas, Naga and Tacloban were assessed for 2013.  Comprehensive data is publicly made available by WWF here  We have yet to wait for the completion of the 2013 assessment - which includes Tacloban.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 21, 2013):  “Hi, Chai... Thank you for the valuable info that you shared with us.  It is really tough to predict weather systems.  I agree that nothing beats PREPAREDNESS.  And education could play a critical role in increasing the level of knowledge and awareness amongst us.  Hoping that the assessment be completed soonest so we can all learn from the experts.  Again, thanks and stay well...”

Liza Marie Cabungcal (November 21, 2013):  “Thanks, Anton, for your courage to initiate this forum.  Independent of the culture of the country, the storm surge is a natural event beyond our control.  But yes, we are and could be in control of our response before, during and after.  What happened before Yolanda was that the response in the form of disaster preparedness, using our material/logistical/ technological resources did not match the intensity and extent of the natural event.  It was very enlightening to know that the natural event was foreseen to happen in 2021.  However, it was beyond anybody's imagination what it really was.  I think that the three sectors - government, private and people's organization - have to meet in view of what had happened.  I don't know if we are a bit allergic to mention the NGOs in this forum because of the recent political event.  Based on what we read and have seen in the news and on my personal experience, there are several NGOs which provided laudable prompt response after the disaster to make up for the "prudence" of the national government in determining what to do to help the victims.  I think there is a principle of subsidiarity that must be followed during this time of crisis.  While it is true that the bigger entity (national government) should not overpower the smaller entity (LGU) in areas within their competence, in this case of Yolanda, the bigger entity should already come into the picture to supply what is needed since the smaller entity was seriously incapacitated. What could we do?  Let us continue racking our brains for possible solutions.  I agree with Anton's proposal to establish 'no-build zones' but, as always, the stakeholders have to be consulted considering the sentimental value of the place.  The other option is to construct buildings which could withstand a 300+ kph wind...  I wonder how much that building will cost.  Anyway, we also learned in Landscape Ecology that our approach has to be both multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary.  There is a need for more interactions for brighter ideas.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 21, 2013):  “Hi, Liza... To be perfectly honest, I had second thoughts about opening the discussion forum…  I'm aware of my limitations and was also nervous and afraid of coming up with sloppy arguments too.  I agree that the squabbling between the three actors in governance (national government, LGU and NGOs) did more damage than good to the rescue and relief efforts.  Just my little thoughts again... do you think that it's time to create a national agency to specifically manage disasters (especially their aftermath)?  Not that the NDRRMC failed its mandate but, perhaps, an agency with more authority and coordinating powers over other government agencies in times of calamity.  Just an additional point to consider... Thanks and stay well...”

Eduviges Gibas (November 21, 2013): “Hi Anton, I agree with your suggestions.  Sharing some more information…  In fact detailed geohazard (flooding and landslide) mapping with a scale map of 10:000 is an on-going project of the MGB-DENR including the assessment of relocation sites since 2011.  After Yolanda, I also had this crazy idea stated in my officemates “probably why not do also the storm surge (prediction) mapping on coastal areas”.  Indeed, Vlad, Vic, Elizabeth, Anton and Alyssa notes are all worthy words of encouragement, inspiration, valuable information, knowledge and lesson to ponder and consider.  Education is very much needed at all levels when it comes to uncontrollable situations/conditions like super typhoons.  Though much have been done and shared by concerned people, units and offices regarding disaster risk reduction, management, preparedness, etc.  Still human efforts are being tested by calamities/natural phenomena, just like the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Regions 6 and 7 and Region 8 super typhoon.  Results are the best lessons of how far the efforts and initiatives had been done so far.  Sabi nga ng isang information material “sa panahon kung ang bagyo ay papasok sa Pilipinas ang mga lugar  sa baybayin ay pinag-iingat sa posibleng coastal flooding at storm surge”......” ang storm surge ay  ang malalaking alon na umaabot ang taas hanggang 10 metro dahil sa bugso ng hangin dulot ng bagyo”.  I would in fact agree with Anton, that probably it could have been said that a “tsunami-like” may happen in the onslaught of Yolanda just to increase pressure on awareness... on coastal community... for people to move out and prepare... the rest is part of the history now... and recent information circulating in social and mass media made mentioned that such similar events happened in 1897 and 1912 in parts of Leyte and Samar.  “Storm surge” – according to some colleagues/friends is known as” daluyong”... I just heard of it...”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 21, 2013):  “Hi, Edu... I'm very pleased to know that the DENR-MGB has already initiated geohazard mapping.  It, perhaps, will not be a bad idea to thrown in "storm surge" as another item in the study since efforts are already being made on floods and landslides anyway.  There is very limited awareness on "storm surges" and after Yolanda, it's, perhaps, the right time to conduct an information campaign on this (especially to coastal communities) The DENR could make this happen. Thanks, Edu, for sharing your insights.  Stay well...”

Zaldy Lumaan (November 21, 2013):  “Hello Sir Anton,  Typhoons like Yolanda is natural phenomenon, as what we have seen and heard in the television and read in the newspapers, it was really a disaster.  No one can avoid this if it struck one place. Natural phenomenon cannot be avoided but effects of disasters can be minimized.  With or without predictions as to where it will hit or have its landfall, the people should always be prepared, then disasters can be minimized.  We have enough laws and policies as guidance on what to follow especially on land use.  If only no one live along coastlines, near river banks and flood prone areas and other disaster prone areas, we will not be counting thousands of lost lives in times of typhoon or storm surges.  The Philippines already know that several storms pass every year in its territories but still people insist to live in above-mentioned areas.  Reason always is that they will be dislocated to their source of livelihood.  What the government can do is to educate these people and strictly impose the laws and policies for this.  It is better to be proactive than reactive.  Storms cannot be stopped unless it is human made, is there a such thing?  It is only in the movies.  What we can do is pray to God that these disastrous events like typhoon Yolanda will not happen again.  Only God can stop it.  Everybody will take action for the good of all of us.  The knowledge we can acquire from our discussion can somehow help people understand the consequences if people will insist on what they want.  This will be our task.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 21, 2013):  “Hi, Zaldy... Man-made storms is a brilliant idea... because if they are made by man, they could most certainly be unmade (and, therefore, prevented) by man, isn't it?  But sadly, you and I know that this happens only in movies.  Hopefully, in the future, man can be more technically advanced and have the ability to prevent calamities.  We all share your concern over the loss of lives because of Yolanda.  I agree that, we could do our part in evangelizing on the ill effects of environmental degradation.  Thanks and stay well...”

Clarence Faith Escote (November 22, 2013):  “Thanks for sharing this info.  It seems that these vast areas susceptible to floods are also crowded with both commercial and residential houses.  In other words, it is like a "disaster-prone area" already in the first place.  Oftentimes, we underestimate natural calamities such as these.  We tend to neglect details (flood susceptibility map) such as these when everything is fine.  The devastating effect of this natural phenomenon could have been prevented if we have responded proactively and cautiously in all areas of defense, safety and governance.  It's like a thief in the night, you won't know when they'll come but you can proactively protect yourself, family and properties by planning ahead and strategizing your defense in terms of materials, design etc.  I think that it teaches us to be proactive and equip ourselves with knowledge and to turn it into practical use.  We must continue to inform, promote, and initiate sustainable environment management.  I feel for them not just because my co-employees at our plant site in Leyte were affected but I personally witnessed the aftermath Reming brought in my hometown.  We were lax and did not really take the super typhoon seriously because we usually encounter storms each year.  However, those whose home located a stone-throw away from the rivers and seas where the one who got devastated plus those who lives near the danger zones of Mayon Volcano.  Learning from that sad experience, our LGU spear-headed by Gov. Salceda created the Climate Change Academy and institutionalized Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) to handle disasters.  Prevention is always better than cure.  We must think and act proactively.  References:

Jose Francisco Reyes (November 22, 2013):  “Hi Sir Anton! I would like to comment that Man-made storms are a possibility, however, the instance and occurrence is not as immediate as it is seen in movies.  Let's say that the due to the increase in the temperature of the planet, or the warming up of the environment causes a drastic increase in the formation of storms and typhoons.  The warming up of the environment are caused by the increasing use of fossil fuels such as oil and coal.  Suffice to say, man indirectly caused the strengthening of typhoons.  I would like to suggest the review of policies and regulations regarding land use and management in typhoon prone areas.  The government, both national and local government units, should educate settlers of prone areas regarding their status and role in the area.”

Liza Marie Cabungcal (November 25, 2013):  “Hi Anton! I don't know yet what to answer.  I still have to educate myself regarding the competencies of the existing national agencies.  Just the same, this is a matter to be explored.  What a challenging task ahead of us!”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 25, 2013):  “Hi, Liza...  It's a challenging task indeed... challenging but not impossible.  Anyway, I have some bit of good news for you.  Today, the President ordered the DENR to study and identify "no build" zones along critical coastal communities and areas.  I'm very pleased that he even used the same term... "No Build Zones".  If we really want to get things done, we really have to be "noisy" about what we want to see happen. Thank you and stay well...”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 25, 2013):  “Hi, Chingco... I initially thought you were privy to top secret information of man's capability to make typhoons.  You got me all excited with your first sentence.  Anyway, I agree that typhoons and their strength and frequency are caused by global warming... and that land use policies will have to be reviewed.  Thanks and stay well...”

Hazel Henrisha Chua (November 26, 2013):  “I completely agree with this point.  After Yolanda hit, so many news outlets then clarified what "storm surge" was. It was a little too late, considering the people who heard the warnings before the storm didn't really understand what it was.  "Tsunami" isn't the right term for it, but it's a term that a lot of people understand after what happened in Indonesia.  I think they should've just mentioned tsunami every time they talked about the storm surge, because they're basically the same in terms of occurrence.  They differ in how they were originated, if my understanding is correct.  At the point of calamity, what matters most is that people understand your warnings.  Terminology is not that big a deal. All I can say is this realization was a little too late.”

Hazel Henrisha Chua (November 26, 2013):  “I think this was a valuable study.  But the thing about predictions is that not all of them come true.  As in this case, not all are accurate either.   When what is predicted does come true, people dig through archives and insist that they were right.  But when they're wrong, they keep mum and let it pass.  Unfortunately, if people followed and took heed of all predictions and warnings published by agencies all over the world, then we'd be overwhelmed with occurrences that might or might not happen.  That said, I do think that studies like these should be heeded as a precaution.  With the possibility of such calamities happening, we should have been better prepared.  But for a country that's plagued with corruption and poverty, what could we have done better?”

Hazel Henrisha Chua (November 26, 2013):  “Thanks for posting the map. Can I ask when this was prepared? And if so, why didn't officials in these localities take heed of this?”

Anna Rossini Parcero (November 26, 2013):  “There are 2 courses of action to take - the proactive and the reactive one.  Being proactive means checking the typhoon/disaster readiness of an area.  A zoning map exists in every municipality.  Experts have long identified zones that must be preserved for ecological reasons and zones that may be used for agricultural, residential, commercial and other purposes.  Is the zoning map of your community still relevant? It makes sense to review and update these zoning maps.  On the other hand, being reactive applies after a disaster has taken place.  Immediately one feels moved to provide assistance to those affected.  Alongside this altruism however abound reactions to the effect of  "should've been", "could've been", "would've been".  In the case of Tacloban, we now see its dire vulnerability.  Some can't help but comment that the local government should've been more prepared.  If the people had taken measures to fortify their homes and infrastructures, these would not have been destroyed.  Had they known that their constructions materials were not strong enough to withstand super typhoons, they would have used sturdier materials.  Had sturdier materials been available and affordable, they would have considered buying those instead in their constructions.  Like any other natural disasters, the Yolanda experience is not a case of "gods gone mad". We already saw it coming.  PAGASA, with its technology, had announced the extents of the incoming typhoon.  The super typhoon is not the root cause, but a manifestation of what many communities fall short of.  There are social, economic and political deficiencies involved.  As MENRM students, we should embody what the second M stands for - Management.  Management entails effectively bringing together interrelated groups towards a greater goal.  Yolanda could have easily come and gone without leaving behind a wreckage, had there been a stronger set of hands managing a community's resources.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 26, 2013):  “Hi, Anna... I could feel your frustration and I share them too.  What happened to us with Yolanda is a bitter lesson... the magnitude of which is really beyond us.  As I've mentioned, Yolanda is a 1st World problem landing on the lap of a 3rd World country.  We could have been is a more pathetic situation if the more progressive countries did not respond to our immediate needs.  But now that this has happened to us, I agree with you that we should seriously look into what caused this bitter lesson.  Your inputs on reviewing our zoning policies, building/infrastructure standards, disaster preparedness, etc. are very good.  They should form part of an effort to increase the overall awareness level on environmental matters... especially disaster risk reduction.  For our part, we should continue evangelizing, making noise and making "kulit" to everyone about this.  We still can make a difference.  Thanks and stay well…”

Hazel Henrisha Chua (November 26, 2013):  “Anton, this is a very informative and well-researched post.  I would agree with what you said with regards to disaster prevention.  I think that's a misnomer of sorts, because it begs the question: can disasters really be prevented?  As you discussed, more often than not, it isn't.  If we could shoot lasers or find some sort of technology that would divert or perhaps dissipate tropical depressions in the oceans as they are forming, then we wouldn't have to deal with typhoons in the first place.  But this technology is absent, impossible even, and so we can only prepare for these disasters, as they come.  It seems like such a helpless stand to take, but we really don't have a choice.  In this case, there are many fingers that have been pointed (our President included), but there's no point in blaming because that doesn't reconstruct houses or bring people back to life.  What we can do at this point is learn from what happened.  Going through your suggestions, I would agree that typhoon-prone areas should be studied and residential areas should be re-assessed.  Places that are at risk of being submerged during the storm surge should be marked off as being unsuitable for people to live.  It's better to err on the side of caution rather than the opposite.  The unfortunate thing is that in the Philippines, most proposals are often heavily politicized.  So while I am hopeful that changes will happen from the ground up after this great tragedy, at the same time I also feel a sense of helplessness because there is only so much that we can do.

Hazel Henrisha Chua (November 26, 2013):  “The modes of action you recommended are definitely interesting, and they do give rise to hope that we can create enough noise to actually make a difference.  Here's to hoping --- and to taking action.”

Antonio C. Antonio (November 26, 2013):  “Hi, Hazel... Thank you so much for the positive comments and additional information you shared.  I'm glad you mentioned "taking action."  Our "making enough noise" strategy will not be enough without "taking action" as you said.  Last Monday (November 18, 2013) when I wrote this report, I invented the term "no build zone" just to describe the areas where structures (commercial or residential) should no longer be built.  After posting the discussion topic, I also prepared a one-page brief and made ten copies of it.  For some strange coincidence, I had meetings with a former senator and a cabinet secretary (hindi ko na lang babangitin ang mga pangalan nila baka kasi ayaw nila) Wednesday and Friday last week.   In these separate meetings, Yolanda (being the big news of the week) was also discussed.  I took the opportunity to hand them copies of the brief.  And lo and behold, last Monday (November 25, 2013) the President directed the DENR to study and identify "no build zones" among coastal areas on the eastern seaboard.  I find it amazing that the term I just invented was the same term used by the President.  Whether or not it was my brief that prompted the President to do what he did is no longer important... what is more important is that "action" is being taken by people who could make things happen.  With this in the background, I would like to say again that if we are passionate enough with what we want to see happen and make enough noise and "take action" too (as you said)... trust me, Hazel, we could make a difference.”

Hazel Henrisha Chua (November 27, 2013):  “Wow, Anton!  This is really impressive!  I think it's great that you were in a position to be in contact with people who can really get people moving, given their position in the government and relevant government agencies.  This can really inspire people to take action.  This goes to show that even small actions can become big with persistence and with a little bit of luck!”

Vladymir Rivera (November 27, 2013):  “My last post on this topic...  What I find intriguing in this thread is how seemingly top-down our thinking about disaster prevention, and how oblivious we seem to be of the socio-economic context of the Yolanda disaster.  One thing that really caught my interest was how many of us here are using the word "educate" in an innocently condescending tone.  What makes you think those people devastated by Yolanda are uneducated?  And what kind of "education" are we talking about here?  About disaster prevention?  About typhoon?  I would bet that those who have been living in the coastal areas, many of them artisanal fishers, who were victims of Yolanda know more about mangroves or of coastal ecosystem than many of us here.  They understand disaster more than many of us city dwellers.  I was surprised that not a single soul has tried to debunk the rubbish that "had we used the word tsunami rather than storm surge we would have less casualty."  I expect Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, a city councilor in Tacloban City, to say that.  But for many people to espouse such idea is beyond me.  Why is it that most literatures are saying that the poor are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change?  Because they are.  They have little means, zero options.  I'm sure those people we wanted to "educate" know what a typhoon signal # 4 means: it is disastrous.  Tsunami or storm surge, the fact is that they are too poor to have the means to move to another town or island.  The local government couldn't help them.  It was not because they didn't know the danger.  They do, but they have nowhere to go.  And they have nothing except that little shack by the side of the sea.  We are seeing them only as victims of Yolanda but not as perpetual economic refugees marginalised by long years of inequality in these provinces controlled by a few elites.  We see them being killed massively by a super typhoon, but not by poverty which hounded them since time immemorial.”

Hazel Henrisha Chua (November 29, 2013):  “Anton, I think this is a laudable endeavor.  It's great that you're using your position to spread awareness.  Every little bit helps.”

Hazel Henrisha Chua (December 2, 2013):  “I think I've seen some links being posted on social networks about how Typhoon Haiyan was apparently man-made.  There was even a YouTube video explaining why it was man-made, I think.  However, I don't subscribe to the idea and many others have refuted the claims made by the person in the video.  I don't think that the typhoon was man-made, as in, by the US military.  It is man-made in the sense that global warming could have had an impact, and that phenomenon is certainly caused by man's actions.”

Prof. Renato Folledo, Jr. (December 3, 2013):  “When I left PH in 2005, I was also a believer of the human-induced climate change after attending the lectures of my IPCC-member colleagues in UPLB.  However, after reading more balanced articles about it (pro and con anthropogenic factors to climate change), it changed my perception and belief. But the main trigger to my enlightenment was when I received a lecture about the Milankovitch Theory ( where I was shown by my lecturer on how they measure earth’s prehistoric temperature using dendrochronology from a million year old tree trunk that was not yet fossilized.  Our lecturers handed to us different prehistoric tree trunks where they measured these temperatures. If you watch national geographic documentaries from Youtube, you’ll see that they also use several million year old ice that are preserved in the Antarctic.  Or course they are also able to read it from other fossilized organic materials like tree trunks (photo above: a 205-million year old fossilized tree trunk in front of the Museum of Natural History in Washington DC).  From these, scientists were able to quantify temperature patterns hundreds of millions or even billions of years ago.  Even though our satellite and ground based meteorological instruments are now more accurate, we can still see from geology-based climatic history that the warming of earth is part of the natural earth cycles.   Now, the question is, could it be that humans are the main culprit in the current climate change?  Please watch this Youtube video first before answering it.  In the video, you’ll see two guys burning ice in Siberia.  What I mean to say is that there are many other natural sources of heat-trapping gases like CO2 and methane other than burning fossil fuels, sources like volcanoes, ocean release of methane, and other natural sources, as well as human-induced but not due to fossil burning like the methane released from rice crops and cattle dung.  Illustation: when I put water on a deep well, did I add water to the well?  Definitely yes!  But can I add enough water to cause the deep well to overflow?  That I’m not sure.  The climate alarmist are employing scare tactics and appeal through the emotions like other activists do without saying concrete evidence aside from their model predictions which are likewise subjective. When they say that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is human induced, it seems convincing but they do not show any survey to prove their statistics.  Nonetheless, I believe that we should still minimize the release of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, but at the same time, it should not deter us from driving our cars or using fossil fuels that drives industrialization until we find more environment-friendly fuel alternatives.  My boss once said that “time will come when humans will burn fossil fuels to warm the earth.”  Maybe that will come true when we are in the cooling stages of the Milankovitch cycle.  For now, we should minimize fossil fuel burning but not too frugal that we must return to a stone-age lifestyle (yes, not even bronze or iron age because it entails burning of fuels to smelt these metals).”

Elizabeth Villezar (December 3, 2013):  “Hello Sir Jun,  I was not able to watch the video due to some error on the file, but the Milankovitch Theory made me recall the lessons I had in my early years in school.  The theories that were taught to us on how the continents move to their current positions (until now they are still moving but it's not as obvious as anybody could notice it).  The scientific studies that were made as to what caused or are causing the increase in earth's temperature is basically true (the extinction of dinosaurs in our present time).  However, the occurrences of these calamities seem to increase as the time passes.  If we'll analyse the theory, it may be true.  However, we are still on doubt, what made these changes on earth?  What made it tilt?  What made it change its path around the sun?  What made it wobble?  I'm just thinking and sharing my doubt with you.  Somebody might be able to explain to me other factors causing these changes, just like the theories on solar storms, the electromagnetic field of the earth, etc.”

Cynthia Andaya (December 4, 2013):  “Earth science books discuss the Milankovitch cycles but a simple discussion is given in on that topic.  Sunspots and changes in earth-sun distance (no matter how small, whether by tilt, wobbling, or elliptical cycle) definitely affect the earth's climate. But whether it's cooling on one hemisphere or warming on the other, these effects are enhanced by the increased amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  And there is not only CO2 that we are talking of here.  Other gases have greater global warming potential.  Climate change activitists. those who are not merely reactionary but are people who base their actions/reactions on valid data, believe that we can bring back CO2 concentration to 350 ppm, the safe upperlimit, by using more solar power than burning coal, planting more trees instead of removing them, and by having governments who can be more responsible in promoting environmental sustainability.  In May 2013, CO2 conc. reached 400 ppm, as measured in the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii (May 10, 2013,  We do not have to go back to the Stone Age to achieve that 350 level.  If governments are serious about tackling the climate change problems, they should begin putting more money on better alternative energy resources, and educating people about it.”

Eduviges Gibas (December 4, 2013):  “I think the map with the scale of 1:50000 was already prepared as early as 2010 and a more detailed map scale of 1: 10000 in year 2011.  Some officials I think had taken note of this, while others maybe not.  But for sure, this has been explained and distributed to the concerned officials as part of the survey and assessment procedure of the project on geohazards.”

Liezl Mendoza (December 5, 2013):  “We cannot prevent typhoons like that of Yolanda.  What we can do is to prepare for a similar event.  But come to think of it, we were taught how to manage our environment and natural resources, right?  We have the capability to inform our kababayan through the social media or other means like tapping the national/international media to discuss how we can conserve our environment  and minimize the effect of climate change.  Also, we can help in informing the proper government agency/authorities to act on the information that we have.  We may have the resources and the know-how.  But aside from us, there are more knowledgeable experts in the field of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.  The key is information dissemination and the popularizing of technical and scientific terms.  As a former broadcast media practitioner, it has always been a challenge for us (media practitioners) how to turn jargons of different professions into understandable and relatable terms to a common viewer who doesn’t have a single background on the topic/issue.  What happened in Yolanda is a lack of information.  Perhaps it could have helped if there has been more graphic representation of the possible effects of Yolanda through mass media.  If there was proper information on the effect and the scope of the storm surge, the local government of Tacloban and also the National Government Officials sent to Tacloban should not have been victimized by the typhoon.  The areas identified to be hit by Yolanda prepared beforehand.  Unfortunately, they were ill-prepared for the worst case scenario because the severity of the situation was not effectively and timely communicated. In one interview to Mahar Lagmay of Project NOAH, he admitted that they were able to send out warnings but they were not able to identify the ahead of time the specific areas which will be affected by the storm surge.   As I remember him saying it, “Naunahan kami ni Yolanda.”   Although looking at the characteristic of the Samar-Leyte area, a region which was known to have been always included in the list of the poor provinces in the country, even if they were given enough information, there was not enough resources for the areas to transport all the affected residents to safer ground.  Hazard maps were distributed to local governments.  But it is not that easy to remove a community from the place they called home especially if there are no clear alternative or no definite plan on the relocation site and the possible livelihood opportunities to the affected communities.  There is always a first time. Unfortunately, our country learned our lesson, the hard way.  It cost our country thousands of lives and millions/billions of properties.  But those affected areas will learn to adapt. We may take the example of communities living near Mt. Mayon.  After years of suffering from the wrath of Mt. Mayon’s lava and lahar, plus the numerous typhoon, they were able to design a warning system and an effective evacuation plan.  Another example is Barangay San Gabriel in Bayambang, Pangasinan.  Houses have tall foundations to withstand the perennial flooding.  They also constructed elevated evacuation sites (stadium like large structures) strategically located in different areas of the barangay.  We have to be vigilant in effectively spreading what we know to the proper agencies and concerned communities.  And also we should be able to do some follow up whether the desired outcome was met.”

Antonio C. Antonio (December 31 2013): “HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Please watch the attached video.  It's the most comprehensive video (so far) on Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda where the causes and effects of typhoons are scientifically presented.  Thanks...

Liza Marie Cabungcal (January 3, 2014):  “Happy New Year 2014!!! Anton, thank you so much for that is captivating!!! It's worthwhile passing the link around.

Thomas Ponce Reyes (January 6, 2014):  “Really glad you posted it here Mr. Anton.  The specter of such calamity gives me chills. Though the typhoon's development was well monitored and documented, its destructive power was unprecedented.  We were completely caught off guard.  I wonder why almost all storm experts consulted were foreigners.  We should have more capable people considering we get hit by typhoons every now and then.”

Antonio C. Antonio (January 6, 2014):  “Hi, Thomas.. The link we watched was produced by a foreign group.  I could only guess that, in the production stage of the video, they had more access to foreign storm chasers and experts.  Sana one of the bigger local networks (ABS-CBN, GMA and TV 5) will come up with something like this with local experts sharing their thoughts and knowledge.  They could definitely bring the issues closer to home.  Baka naman something is in the works na rin with them...”

Oscar Sarmiento, Jr. (January 7, 2014):  “If just like to share that I have in-laws who are survivors of Yolanda. They live right across Tacloban City in Brgy. Amandaheyan, Basey,  Samar. It's around a 10-minute boat ride from the pier near McDonald's in Tacloban. Living along the coast, their survival is nothing short of a miracle.  The devastation of the home and fish cages they built is not enough to stop them from coming back. After a recovery period here in Bukidnon, the family has planned to bounce back by building what they are calling a windship, a variation of the earthship projects which you can find in the web. These are designed to be built from waste material, but sturdy enough to withstand another Yolanda. They also are designed to be off-grid. The same group behind the earthship project is behind it. The project is scheduled to commence in a few months.  It would be interesting to see how this turns out.”

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