Yolanda ten years later: Media goes back to communities, zoom in on perennial problems

TEN YEARS ago, the tragedy caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) claimed at least 6,300 lives and forced 750,000 people to flee their homes. Media accounts recalled the day and fixed its spotlight on communities who were most severely affected, reviewing lessons learned and revealing the continuing lack of government attention to perennial problems affecting disaster victims. 

Media also reported the statements by the president, vice president, and house speaker. Some journalists sharpened the focus of their reports with views of climate advocates. The protest march of advocates and survivors who made a month-long journey from Manila to Tacloban dramatized the urgent call for climate action and climate justice. The 1,000-kilometer journey culminated on November 7, the eve of the 10th anniversary of Yolanda.

Those interviewed said they have yet to see actual policies to provide for climate justice. Philstar.com explained that climate justice calls on wealthy countries whose carbon emissions have caused the crisis to worsen, to compensate the communities that suffer most severely from extreme weather conditions. 

Recalling the day

Headlines recalled what transpired on the date. Manila Bulletin and Inquirer detailed Yolanda’s maximum winds and gustiness. The Bulletin provided a timeline of the typhoon’s landfall and its path through several islands in the Visayas. GMA’s 24 Oras and ABS-CBN News’s Patrol ng Pilipino described weather reports in November 2013 warning about the “storm surge” which most people then did not understand. 

Filipinos may be accustomed to typhoons. But typhoons are different from one another. Information about Yolanda as a weather phenomenon is fresh news for those who were not there and for whom the disaster is just another name and date in climate history.

News5 in a 33-minute digital special took a different approach and told the story of journalists who were onsite when the typhoon hit. Their tales include the news team that went missing, reporters who got sick, how they worked without wi-fi, and what they did when equipment broke down. They shared the scenes etched in memory, people who had nothing at all to eat for days, the looting of abandoned stores and homes, and the desperate search for lost or missing loved ones.  

Lack of social services

Reports from Philippine Daily Inquirer, Bulatlat, GMA’s 24 Oras, and Rappler reminded the public that some residents who were relocated from coastal sites have had to fend for themselves because of the lack of social services in these areas. 

GMA, Inquirer and Bulatlat talked with various residents who listed basic services they are still deprived of ten years later, namely potable water supply, affordable public transport, income opportunity, and legal ownership of housing units.

Rappler published a 12-part series to discuss the wide range of issues and stories. Iya Gozum featured a specific worry among residents of Barangay Paraiso who may be losing some of the gains in the aftermath, as the province seeks more “development.” Residents fear for the mangroves’ health now that a construction of a PHP3.46 billion causeway project is underway. The people of Paraiso had replanted mangroves that were uprooted by Yolanda. The thriving mangrove forest serves as a barrier against the onslaught of disastrous weather as it shelters fish and other sea creatures for livelihood. Now they ask, who will benefit from this development? 

Disasters take more from those who have little to begin with. Media updates on how those who were left homeless by Yolanda prove this.

The news that commemorates suggests a different kind of journalism, one that no longer waits for things to happen as events. There is a process between disasters that journalists can plumb so as to get ahead of crises, maybe even prevent its worst outcomes. We need to fend off peril that may surpass the devastation that Yolanda’s survivors have been lucky enough to live through and share – ten years later.