A Primer on the Typhoon Sendong Calamity

prepared by: Anakbayan NJ

What happened during the Typhoon Sendong?

On Friday, December 16, 2pm, Typhoon Sendong (Washi) landed in the Philippine area of responsibility. Around 2am of December 17, Typhoon Sendong dropped a month’s worth of rainfall — amounting to 142 milimeters (6 inches)– over Northern Mindanao, the Southern most island in the Philippines. It caused flash floods, overflowing rivers and massive landslides.

What Were the Effects of Typhoon Sendong?

Sendong left 1, 403 dead, 1,089 missing, and an estimated PhP 1- billion damage to property and farmlands. Affected provinces and cities are Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Mr. Diwata in Compostela Valley, and Zamboanga del Norte.

It should also be noted that though Typhoon Sendong dropped only an average of 5-8inches of rainfall (as compared to Ondoy’s 15-18inches), the death toll under Sendong is almost 3-4 times more than Ondoy.

What caused such devastation?

An environmental crisis, caused by unregulated large-scale mining, logging and quarrying, coupled with the Aquino (Noynoy) government’s budget cuts on disaster preparedness and other social services created the conditions for such a calamity.

a. Lack of disaster preparation

The Aquino government vetoed disaster preparation in the P 5-B ($ 116.2 M) national calamity fund in 2011, claiming that the money should be spent exclusively on actual calamities”, and not for “preparation of relocation sites/facilities, and training personnel engaged in direct disaster.”

b. Indiscriminate logging and deforestation

Forests absorb water and keep the land intact during rainy season. Northern Mindanao was a land of lush forests and thriving wildlife. Due to this, it became a hotbed for legal and illegal logging activities of foreign companies. 75% of logging operations in Mindano are legal and has permit from the government. An average of 608 sq.mi of forests are denuded each year. Deforestation such as this leads to fatal flash floods and landslides.

c. Mining and quarrying

Mindanao has a landscape rich in minerals such as gold, silver, copper and various forms of rocks used in industry. This is why the largest foreign mining companies in the country operate on approximately 125,670 hectares (a little bigger than New York City’s total area) of land in this area.The destruction of mountains, plains and other land formations, caused by the extraction of precious minerals, this leads to the elimination of natural waterways such as rivers which then caused the overflowing of rivers that flooded Cagayan de Oro and other affected cities.

d. Land conversion

Land conversion refers to converting vast tracts of arable land to subdivisions and/or pineapple or banana plantations for foreign companies instead of farming land to provide for the needs of the Filipino population. These foreign corporations reap the most profit in disregarding the rights of workers and indigenous people in Mindanao.  For example, an estimated 23,000 hectares (roughly 1.25 times Hudson County’s land area) of upland forests in Bukidnon was cleared out to make way for Del Monte Corporation alone. Rainwater that fell in that area created rapids down to Cagayan de Oro, washing away homes, lives and communities. In addition, displaced peasants and indigenous peoples, victims of corporate land-grabbing, were forced to relocate to disaster- prone areas.

What can we do as youth and students? As Filipinos overseas?

Raising as much funds and other donations are necessary to respond to the urgent needs of our kababayans, and course them through people’s relief efforts such as BAYANIHAN Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation, a project of National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), which works directly in coordination with local grassroots organizations such as BALSA-Mindanao.

We must also continue to deepen our understanding and raise awareness in our communities regarding the environmental situation in the Philippines and the socio-economic factors that create these conditions.  We must come together, organize and take action.

1. Donate to NAFCON’s BAYANIHAN Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Program [ http://www.nafconusa.org ]

2. You can contact us if you want to set up a workshop or discussion at your school regarding the environmental situation and other social issues in the Philippines [ http://www.anakbayannynj.wordpress.com ] , email [ anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com ]

3. Join Anakbayan and be part of the Filipino youth movement in affecting genuine change in our communities and in the Philippines.

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