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The Politics of Natural Disasters in the Philippines

Catherine Lourdes Dy
Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate GEM Program (Université Libre de Bruxelles & LUISS Guido Carli di Roma)

Catherine Lourdes Dy
Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate GEM Program (Université Libre de Bruxelles & LUISS Guido Carli di Roma)

Catherine Lourdes Dy
Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate GEM Program (Université Libre de Bruxelles & LUISS Guido Carli di Roma)

The Philippines is the second largest archipelago in Southeast Asia, comprised of seven thousand, one hundred and seven islands. Situated as it is west of the Pacific Ocean and immediately on top of the “ring of fire”, the Philippines finds itself as one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, and by far the most vulnerable country in Southeast Asia.

This panel brings together the interdisciplinary expertise of scholars from the medical, legal, political, and sociological fields. This panel features a diverse set of methodological approaches, all moving towards a deeper understanding of the politics of human and environmental welfare in the Philippines.

The panel features the politics of natural disasters in the Philippines seen from various disciplines: (1.) an approach which explores the effects of the Philippines’ colonial past in relation to its current policies on foreign aid; (2.) a comparative study of the legal frameworks supporting disaster risk reduction and management efforts; (3.) an overview of the interplay between legislative and executive bodies influencing disaster risk reduction and management laws and programmes, and how the power struggle adversely affects delivery of foreign humanitarian aid, and (4.) a special focus on politics of health service delivery during disasters at the local government units and their relation to health outcomes.
Paper 1: Politics of Local Health Service Delivery in Natural Disasters: The Typhoon Haiyan Experience

Dr. Dante Salvador Jr.
Erasmus Mundus European Public Health Master Program (University of Sheffield)

In 2013, the Philippines was devastated by the strongest typhoon in recorded history – Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Aside from the thousands of lives claimed by this onslaught, consequent disease and illness affected the millions of others who survived. While the national government has the mandate to provide support to areas affected by disasters, local government units are pivotal in effective health disaster prevention and mitigation program, especially during the first few days following a disaster.

Before and after disasters, local powers are at play and may either positively or adversely affect the overall health service delivery: from procurement of relief medicines and supplies, deployment of health personnel, prioritization of needed preventive and curative measures, and redistribution of aides from national and international humanitarian relief operations. Even in the post-disaster stages, local authorities are the main drivers attaining rehabilitation, whether funding is internal (national to municipal level) or external (humanitarian funding from international bodies or organizations).

This study will present critical issues on health disaster and risk reduction management at the local government level, and how it can affect the health of the people. It will highlight the Typhoon Haiyan experience of various health workers assigned in the affected municipalities. Best practices on health service delivery during disasters will be explored and analysed, and a review of missed opportunities will be made. Finally, this research aims to provide recommendations that may serve as a guide to local leaders in preparing for, and responding to, disasters in the Philippines.
Paper 2: Tug-of-War: Politicizing Humanitarian Aid in Times of Natural Disasters

Miranda Gian Carlo and Janeca Naboya
Masters in Comparative Constitutional Law (Central European University) and

This paper is co-authored by Gian Carlo Miranda and Janeca Naboya.

In response to the devastation brought about by several typhoons beginning from the early 2000s, the government came up with several statutes aimed at addressing disaster reduction and elevating the quality of disaster risk management – The Philippine Disaster Act of 2010, the Climate Change Act of 2009 and the People’s Survival Act Fund. While unquestionably sound, the enactment of these laws leave much to be desired.
This paper aims to examine the interplay and the power struggle between the political entities who are tasked with making the laws (the Legislative department) and the state organs who are in charge of ensuring that these laws are faithfully carried out (the Executive, through the Local Government Units). What was supposed to be a united effort at rebuilding instead became opportunities for local politicians to advertise themselves and campaign for the upcoming elections. As a result, extending aid became a highly politicized process and the victims of the disasters instead relied heavily on aid from the international community and the private sector.

Despite the allocation of a tremendous amount of money to be used for rehabilitation
and financial aid, tangible results have yet to be seen. This paper aims to explore the
issues of transparency and accountability in disaster risk management policies and its
relation to the constitutional mandate of checks-and-balance.


Paper 3: Learning Lessons, Saving Lives? Natural Disasters and the Disaster Risk Reduction Law in the Philippines

J.P. Leo Asong
Erasmus Mundus Master TEMA (Eötvös Loránd University & Università degli Studi di Catania)

Southeast Asia is a dynamic region that enjoys varying stages of economic development. It is also one of the most vulnerable regions in the world. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, a total of 527 natural disasters from 2004-2013 took place in the region. The Philippines accounts for nearly half of these occurrences that displaced thousands of people and disrupted economic activities.

Despite the frequency of natural disasters in the Philippines, the country only recently enacted and passed a comprehensive national law addressing disaster preparedness and risk reduction. In 2010, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 10121, otherwise known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

The main objective of the paper therefore is to situate and critically analyze the legal framework in the Philippines on disaster risk reduction. Specifically, the following shall be addressed: a.) to trace the evolution of legislation on disaster risk reduction in the country; b.) to discuss the role, impact and extent of the national legislation on disaster risk reduction; and c. ) to analyze the common gaps and best practices. In the end, the study will present issues and challenges arising from a critical study of the aforesaid law.


Paper 4: The Politics of Aid: A postcolonial approach to the Philippines’ relationship with foreign aid during and in the aftermath of natural disasters

Catherine Lourdes Dy
Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate GEM Program (Université Libre de Bruxelles & LUISS Guido Carli di Roma)

Climate change has left the world reeling from the sheer power and number of natural disasters that have made their presence known these past few decades. In no other country have these calamities been felt more than in the Philippines, where disasters of land and sea meet in is one of the world’s most disaster prone countries, which is particularly vulnerable not only to tropical cyclones and floods, but also to earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Typhoon Haiyan, local name Yolanda, has taken over seven thousand lives in 2013 alone. Typhoon Ketsana, local name Ondoy, which hit Manila in 2009, was the strongest tropical storm of its type to breach the Philippines since 1970. There is no doubt that the changing climate has brought about a concrete increase in humanitarian disasters this past decade and beyond.
It is at this point, in the darkness of the worst disasters, that the global community rallies together to provide aid and support for the victims. International governments, organizations, and civil society groups have all been active during the times the Philippines has suffered loss. What is interesting to note is that while the Philippines is willing to accept aid from foreign government agencies such as USAID, during times of calm the politics of aid are much more fraught. This study examines these relationships with a critical postcolonial eye, and identifies the effects of the Philippines’ colonial past in relation to its policies on foreign aid.