A series of protests themed “Global Surge” was organized across the Philippines and several cities around the world to commemorate the first year anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda), and to condemn the government’s “criminal negligence and corruption” in the aftermath of the disaster.
Haiyan was the strongest typhoon to make landfall in world history. Victims, their families, and supporters labeled Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III “waray pulos” or incompetent for his administration’s alleged poor performance in handling the disaster relief, rehabilitation, and recovery efforts.
Over 20,000 people joined the protest march in Tacloban City while another 20,000 people protested in Roxas City, Estancia, Kalibo, Iloilo City and other parts of Panay Island which are some of the areas hardest hit by Haiyan.
Some disaster survivors and their supporters also marched to the door steps of the Malacanang presidential palace in Mendiola while Filipino communities and solidarity groups organized various gatherings in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, and across Europe.
The protesters criticized the Aquino government for allegedly aggravating the destruction brought about by Haiyan through the absence of a sustained relief and rehabilitation program, the reported misuse of calamity funds by politicians and relief agencies, and the profit-oriented feature of the rebuilding plans.
Groups such as the People Surge, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Tindog Network, International League of People's Struggles, and Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment initiated the formation of Daluyong, a national network of disaster survivors. They also used the hashtag #RememberHaiyan during the protest actions.
Activists also chided President Aquino for not visiting the Haiyan survivors in Tacloban where more than 2,000 died during the typhoon. Renato Reyes, one of the protesters, asked on Facebook:
Why is Aquino skipping Tacloban on the first anniversary of Yolanda/Haiyan? Is it because of the protesters that will be gathering in the city starting tomorrow? Why can't he face the outraged survivors on this important day?
Official government data puts the number of deaths at 6,300 and the number of missing at 1,061, but independent estimates by People Surge and Civil Society groups puts the number of fatalities at over 18,000.
A statistical analysis by independent think tank Ibon Foundation revealed that the accomplishments enumerated by the Aquino government are drastically below the targets it made earlier.
The Aquino government's Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan was signed only on October 29, 2014, almost a year after the calamity.
Below are some photos of the “global surge” protests:
Protesters in Estancia town meanwhile decried the continuing delay of compensation for residents affected by the oil spill caused by the running aground of a power barge at the height of typhoon Haiyan. Many residents filed a class suit against the company that owned the barge and other government agencies. The oil spill caused the evacuation of more than 2,000 residents from their communities, which were contaminated by poisonous fumes.
Political analyst Benjie Oliveros wrote on alternative news website Bulatlat that the rehabilitation efforts are being hampered by massive corruption and wrong government priorities:
How could the people “build back better” when they have no land on which to build their houses? How could the people acquire sustainable livelihood when those engaged in agriculture do not own the land they till and those who eke out a living through other means would be constantly displaced and thrown to remote areas where there are no livelihood opportunities?
Investigative journalist Kenneth Guda visited Tacloban and interviewed some of the survivors. He wrote on Facebook:
They cry every time they retell their stories. And not just because they lost loved ones and what little properties they had during the storm. They cry every time they talk about how their children starved during the first few weeks after the storm. They cry today because they could not move on. […] They cry because they are thankful for whatever help individuals and groups are able to give them, but they cry in anger at a government that promises help but always fails them.
An open letter from typhoon Haiyan survivors to Pope Francis has also been widely circulated online in relation to the pope's upcoming visit in January next year. The letter laments how Haiyan victims continue to suffer from hunger, disease and government neglect.
According to “global surge” organizers, they will inform Francis about the real situation of Haiyan survivors during the his visit to Tacloban in January 2015.