The Unnatural Politics of Natural Disaster

On Friday, November 8, Super Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, hit the Philippines with gusting blasts of 200 mph wind. Trees and buildings collapsed and were thrown about in a whirlwind, power outages broke out all over the country, and widespread flooding devastated a country which typically endures and resists up to six or seven typhoons a year. This one, however, was different, and for unnatural reasons.

Once the typhoon had already passed and moved on to hit Vietnam and Laos over the weekend, after the death toll reached, according to UN figures, approximately 4,460 people, and finally following several days of starvation, thirst, and an absence of shelter for thousands of people – only then did the Aquino regime declare a state of national calamity four days after the typhoon hit. Filipino national news media didn’t even show footage of the typhoon until 36 hours after impact. Whereas Vietnam mobilized and evacuated 600,000 people in a matter of two days, no emergency preparations were made for the Filipino people and approximately nine million people, or 10% of the Filipino population across 36 provinces have suffered drastically.

Still then, few emergency supplies came. Instead of food, water, and other relief efforts, the Filipino government deployed tanks and soldiers to set up military checkpoints around the country in tandem with the approach of six US warships, an aircraft carrier with 80 fighter jets and multiple Osprey helicopters, and up to 10,000 American troops who are to “take over responsibility for coordinating emergency transport and distribution.” Meanwhile, Aquino’s tourist officials announced that the Philippines was “still fun to visit.”

The Economist described the ensuing scene as “worse than hell.” Many of the areas that were mercilessly ravaged by the typhoon had just recently endured an earthquake, and the vast majority of the population in these areas is not only the most vulnerable but also the most neglected. The Aquino government has long since abandoned the poor peasants, farm workers, fisherfolk, and indigenous people under the pretext of fighting communism.

In fact, those areas which are controlled by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army have been among the few in which people have received aid. Within 24 hours of the disaster, the Communist Party and New People’s Army launched a nationwide mobilization for relief operations and had begun taking surveys of the damage. Rather than focusing on relief efforts across the country, the Aquino regime has diverted its resources towards using the opportunity to recapture these “red zones” and welcome American military assistance in overthrowing the provisional revolutionary government. When the New People’s Army called for a temporary ceasefire in order to combine efforts in aiding typhoon victims, the regime responded with an offensive of more than 11,000 soldiers.

Most notably, on November 12, while Filipino and international eyes were yearning to see emergency aid efforts, the government instead sent in bulldozers, military and police guards, and business advisers to oversee the destruction of the peasants’ collective farm at Hacienda Luisita which had been established after the expropriation of the local landlord’s 4,500 hundred hectare sugar plantation. The day afterwards, 60 armed figures appeared and demolished peasant houses, crops, and buildings with government authorization. Again, this was happening after the typhoon had already wreaked havoc in the area and was the government’s “substitution” for emergency aid.

The reality at hand seems reminiscent of Haiti following its 2011 earthquake which left 300,000 people dead and around 1.5 million homeless. A year after the earthquake, actual relief efforts from non-socialist countries were pathetically disproportionate to the number of foreign soldiers and policemen who occupied the country and manipulated elections to prevent the victory of the very progressive movement which had been cruelly overthrown in a US orchestrated coups in 1991 and 2004. While traumatized and starving Haitians were desperate for help, Gap and Levi Strauss were surveying the country for cheap labor potential and the only “aid” organization receiving a million dollars a day was MINUSTAH, the UN’s political “advisory” established after the 2004 coup. Instead of raising living standards and ameliorating conditions, the “humanitarian interventionists” primarily focused their resources on imposing martial law in order to root out surviving independent movements which would dare to challenge the now favorable conditions to “foreign investment.”

Now, as the Philippines is in total chaos and the Filipino people have been reduced to beggary, US and Filipino officials are offering increased and indefinite military presence instead of civil aid. The question must be asked: which nature is really at fault for the state of the present crisis – nature, or the nature of imperialist politics?



One thought on “The Unnatural Politics of Natural Disaster

  1. Very informative article. The rapacious response of the government and connivance with the U.S. military screams volumes about the real nature of so called free market values. The comparison with Haiti is also very telling!

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