Triple whammy | Investigator’s opinion
General Santos City â It has been a week since the supertyphon “Odette” (international name: Rai) made landfall numerous times in many parts of the Bicol, Visayan and northern Mindanao regions, leaving massive devastation. in its wake. Not surprisingly, among the hardest hit were the impoverished communities in the hard hit areas. Many of those affected have lost not only their homes, but also beloved family members. In Bohol, more than 100 people have died in different parts of the province, and many remain missing.
This is not the first time that devastating typhoons have hit the country; in fact, there have been some more tragic ones, like the supertyphon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) which claimed thousands of lives in Guiuan, eastern Samar, and Tacloban, Leyte in November 2013. Yolanda, a Category 5 typhoon, affected more than 14 million people in 44 provinces, displacing an additional 4.1 million. His death toll has been officially estimated at over 6,000 people, and 1,800 others are missing. Importantly, it destroyed 33 million coconut palms which were the main source of income for the population and disrupted the livelihoods of 5.9 million workers. Over a million homes were also totally destroyed. The overall damage caused by Yolanda was estimated at $ 5.8 billion. All of this comes from a report by World Vision, an international non-governmental donor agency that has also provided substantial relief and rehabilitation assistance to communities affected by Yolanda in Samar and Leyte provinces.
Odette may have been a “milder” typhoon than Yolanda, but the experiences of survivors of the two devastations are similar. On the one hand, after Yolanda, commodity prices in Leyte and Samar increased quite drastically. I remember visiting Tacloban, Leyte and Guiuan in eastern Samar a year later. I was part of an international group of researchers commissioned to conduct a post-typhoon assessment by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Brookings Institution (Washington, DC). Some friends from various local and international donor agencies who provided assistance to Yolanda survivors also recalled how fuel prices skyrocketed immediately after the typhoon, ranging from P500 to P1,000 per liter. Car rental was also at astronomical rates of P 10,000 to P 20,000 per day. It was a good thing our team had access to IOM vehicles at that time so we didn’t have to deal with this extraordinary car rental pricing.
Rising prices for much needed commodities and services show how opportunistic traders are exploiting the dire situation faced by disaster survivors. It is sad that instead of helping the survivors get back on their feet and providing them with the much needed help, many traders see this as a way to get more profit at the expense of the tragedy of the others.
Those hard hit by Odette now face the same experience as Yolanda’s survivors. Some social media account holders have reported that prices for galvanized iron roofing sheets have become more expensive by up to 50%. A relative of mine who lives in Bohol told me that right after Odette left many towns in total destruction, the fuel prices in the town of Tagbilaran went up to P200 per liter and the supply was quite rare.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez called the situation in the aftermath of Odette a “crisis within a crisis”. He noted that the country still has to face the dire consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and that now many of its impoverished communities are also hit hard by the typhoon. As the number of new infections has started to decline, new reports point to a slight increase in the number of COVID-19 cases last week. And there are threats of the new Omicron variant coming.
But there is yet another storm brewing, not perhaps in our time, but in the possibility of another bloody election in the year to come. It would certainly be a triple whammy for many impoverished communities ravaged by Odette.
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