The Philippines: The Most Dangerous Land on the Planet


Other lands are better at destruction with bombs and guns, but the Philippines occupies the most dangerous land.

Indeed, the Philippines does battle with God. And He can smite awesomely.

The Philippines ranks number one in the world for deaths caused by natural disasters. Last year, 2,360 people lost their lives in the Philippines due to natural disasters. China, in second place, was way back with 771. It was the same story in 2011.

This year is again proving to be similar in scale of grief. You read the headlines as well as I do. We grow numb to the body counts, they are so relentless.

Well, we understand that the Philippines is situated dead center in Typhoon Alley, rests on the unstable “Ring of Fire” where volcanoes blast from the earth’s core, and rides earthquake prone tectonic plates as they slip one beneath the other. It’s the most dynamic location on the planet, bar none, positively terrifying if you think too much about it.

But . . . but . . . but does that not mean we should be taking SPECIAL CARE instead of strewing flimsy bamboo shacks across the muddy slopes of hills and drainage channels?

Reader Jocelyn asked that I examine why the Philippines is so vulnerable to natural disasters. It has turned into a fascinating project. Educational for sure.

The short answer is that, as in many things, the Philippine response is short-term reactive rather than long-term pre-planned. The lengthier answer follows. But let me say the single most important answer is the attitude one takes, the approach, the organization, the effort, and the COMMITMENT made to:

Fight this battle as if it were a battle.

This is civil defense. And we ought to use a military approach.

Here’s what I’ve learned, along with a few relevant deductions and opinions.

Who’s Responsible?

The Senate is responsible for laws protecting the environment and the people who live and walk in it. Senator Loren Legarda chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. This Committee oversees the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

This Act is a fine example of legalisms run amok, totally incomprehensible legal language. I defy any sane human to try to read that law and figure out how lives will be saved. Any law that concerns itself with gender balanced protection against storms is intoxicated with legal rectitude. Not focused on saving people.

Read this and tell me if it is saving lives:

  • The civil defense officers of the OCD who are or may be designated as Regional Directors of the OCD shall serve as chairpersons of the RDRRMCs. Its Vice Chairpersons shall be the Regional Directors of the DSWD, the DILG, the DOST, and the NEDA. In the case of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the Regional Governor shall be the RDRRMC Chairperson. The existing regional offices of the OCD shall serve as secretariat of the RDRRMCs. The RDRRMCs shall be composed of the executives of regional offices and field stations at the regional level of the government agencies.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (I’ll call it “the Disaster Council” because all those initials drive me nuts) is established in the 2010 Act as the managing agency for disaster prevention and response. Based on the detailed lists of events and activities on its web site, the Council appears to be an operating unit dealing mainly with warnings and after-the-fact response to disasters. Setting up the managing committees, finding channels for contributions and money, orchestrating rescue and repair activities.

As always, I search through government web sites looking for the leaders and the clear plans that demonstrate the agency has its priorities straight. Then I look at the financials to see if they are spending money wisely.

The Office of Civil Defense central unit reports to the Department of Defense and oversees the Disaster Council. It’s governing committee has six officials:

  • Undersecretary Benito T Ramos, Administrator of OCD and Executive Director of natural disaster response agency.
  • Attorney Priscilla P. Duque, Officer in Charge and Civil Defense Executive Officer
  • Director Edgardo J. Ollet, Chief of the natural disaster response agency.
  • Director Susana M. Cruz, Chief of the Office of Civil Defense operations.
  • Ms. Crispina Abat, heading admin and finance division.
  • Ms. Lenie D. Alegre, heading the planning division

The “Roadmap” on the web site is a blank page. So your guess is as good as mine as to what they are working on to prepare for and prevent disasters. The “Assessment Tools for Early Recovery Strategic Planning” is also a blank page.

I couldn’t find financial information on the web site.

I’m afraid these things cause me to turn almost violently cynical. The Philippines is a small country. It’s about like California but with more babies. Why are we making this so hard?

Follow-through on disaster warnings and recovery is managed using a deep and complex rolling set of committees rather than  a military-chain-of-command that assigns individualized responsibilities. I suppose that is fairly typical of the way the Philippines operates. Meetings, committees, diluted responsibility, taking forever to get things right as every t is crossed and i dotted and common sense is abandoned. Is that what we NEED? An administrative parlay rather than to fight a battle?

  • Conclusion: defense against natural disasters is: (1) reactive to events rather than proactive and pre-planned, and (2) operates via accountability-free committee rather than the more decisive and accountable (yes, and perhaps more risk prone) military model.

I also know what would happen if you put that disaster Law on the table of a family living in a hut on the slippery slopes of a drainage channel and ask them what it means to them.

A Fresh Start

So let’s back out of the legal Act and the web site lest we get trampled in the relentless pounding of lawyers’ words and meaningless detail so that we can start fresh. Let’s discuss natural disasters, the reasons for them, and practical things that can be done to protect Filipinos better.

There are two approaches that can be taken, I suppose, that determines how much we are willing to invest in disaster protection and recovery. One is to consider these deaths much as Americans considers that nation’s 40,000 auto deaths per year. They come with the territory. Acceptable risk. If you want to drive fast, you pay the piper at some statistical percentage of the whole. And if you live in a country with low cost of living, you accept that many homes will be made of bamboo and erected on free land on a river bank near where land is cheap and day-jobs may be possible or the begging is good. They wash away now and then, a statistical event. Move on.


Ch-47 “Chinook” helicopter

The other approach is that of President Aquino, to point toward “zero fatalities” from storms. This goal obviously has not succeeded, if we believe zero is actually possible, but it has promoted improvements to early warning systems and to disaster follow-up, and some work is going on to rehabilitate Manila’s drainage system.

What ought to worry us is that the storms are now doing damage in areas that normally are spared. Cagayan de Oro. Subic Town. Manila, several times a year.

All the warning in the world can’t protect businesses and residents from Manila’s outdated drainage system. Government agencies are actively working on that drainage system with little help from the people who, even after wading through several large floods, insist on tossing their plastic into the streets.

All the warnings in the world can’t protect against a lazy or uneducated public.

All the warning in the world can’t protect Subic from huge, unexpected surges of water pushing hard down four rivers at the same time, and the resultant destruction of water systems, bringing in diseases that kill. If we plan for the 100-year flood and the 500-year flood comes ripping through, we will have major damage, no matter how good out preventative work.

So a good warning system is not enough. We know pretty well now when a big wind or rain is approaching. We can’t exactly peg the intensity in a specific local area.

And we know for sure we can’t stop the storms from unleashing their fury anywhere at any time.

Given that global warming is a done deal, we can predict that we will get more 100-year, 300-year, and 500-year downpours as the years pass. Indeed, we’ll have to re-calibrate the intensity index.

Whatever Shall We Do?

Short answers: (1) better pre-planning, (2) mandated evacuations, and (3) develop a playbook.

Lets go through some ideas in these areas. You can add your own suggestions in the comment section, or tell me where mine are impractical.

Better Pre-Planning

This is the area where the Philippines is weakest. Looking forward and getting ready. There are three main areas to work on:

  • Better public awareness and accountability
  • More stringent zoning and building codes
  • Local Investment: Relocating residents, building infrastructure,
  • National Investment: Buying ships and planes and medical equipment

Better Public Awareness and Accountability

It would appear that the broad masses are absolutely clueless about the connection between their tossing trash out the bus window and a flood washing their grandmother or their auntie’s sari-sari store into the West Philippine Sea. They don’t see how trash makes the nation poorer by killing sea life, requiring that someone, somewhere, spend time and money picking up their garbage, or making people waste money repairing their flooded home or business. Money that could be spent growing the Philippines.

mudslide 02

They are also inclined not to heed evacuation orders. “It can’t happen to me.”

The Philippines needs a good public relations drive to expand awareness, and it should require citizens to police themselves and their neighbors. Fathers should scold children. Friends should scold friends. Everyone should be working together to change trash-disposal disciplines and clean-up the Philippines. They should be working together to know their best escape route and where their designated evacuation shelter is.

I thought about fines levied against transportation companies whose riders litter the streets, but enforcement would be too difficult to allow that to work. But, certainly, transportation companies could be a part of the publicity push to clean up the Philippines.

Get an advertising guy on it, eh? Tourism Secretary Jimenez could put together a brilliant creative and media campaign strategy in about two weeks. Make trash his job, eh? It’s related

More Stringent Zoning and Building Codes

Building codes are set by national order (“The National Building Code of the Philippines”). This is another law I defy you to read. It gets into mindless detail about construction.

The pertinent section for our inquiry, however, is Section 1.01.07 (b)

  • ” . . . [buildings] shall be at a safe distance from streams or bodies of water” or volcanoes and the like.

The definition of “safe distance” is left to the interpretation of local officials. Implementation of the Law is assigned to the local “Building Engineer” and  “Building Official”. So if there are vulnerabilties at local levels, it is because of the LOCAL determination of what is “safe”. Or local failures to inspect and mandate upgrades. So very clearly, the question arises, are local engineers and building officials clued in to the rising dangers of global warming? And are they FEELING the accountability for loss of life in their communities.

To the extent that reader Jocelyn expressed concerned about Subic’s failure to protect residents, that failure rests squarely with local leaders: the mayor, his council, his engineers and his building officials. (His = her where appropriate.) Somehow excuse-making needs to be taken out of the picture. No Mayor should point to his predecessor, or to the national government, or to another agency, or to global warming, or anywhere but to himself for accountability for the well-being of his residents and businesses.

I also flip through this long, detailed national law and see in it a flaw that seems to be common in Philippine lawmaking. Mindless detail goes into the law proper rather than being assigned as a code for upkeep by a designated cabinet department. This makes the law very inflexible. In this case, whenever a building material is deemed unsafe (asbestos), or new materials introduced (carbon fiber), or old standards deemed not protective enough, the whole law needs to go back to Congress for revision.

Like, delegate to ensure proper care of the code, eh?

And finally, we discover that there is no national zoning law. Management of land use is relegated to local governments. Localities mix industry, commercial and residential uses and seem powerless to stop unrestrained consumption of agricultural land for other uses. Projects are looked at based on the merits of the project, rather than in a context of project within a community. They are almost invariably approved.

The “context” of a good zoning plan is particularly important to restrain development in areas susceptible to rising ocean tides. Or to identify “no build” zones along drainage channels or on or beneath earthen hills.

Rising seas are coming. We know it. Zoning should push structures back from the coast, and/or mandate higher construction above the water line. It should provoke a discussion locally about construction of seawalls, drawing a future picture of the community with an ocean one-meter higher. Every coastal community should have a “rising ocean” plan.

The nation needs a national zoning law to mandate better community planning, better safety, and to step up protections in anticipation of more intense storms and rising seas.


Australia provides detailed hazard maps

Local Investment: Relocating Residents, Building Infrastructure

Some projects take time because they require big money. It is hard to sustain interest and a sense of urgency. We can see this is the slow efforts to upgrade Manila’s drainage system. Again, we are fighting a battle, and certain defenses MUST be in place before the next enemy attack:

  • Alternative housing and relocation of informal settlers
  • Flood control barriers and seawalls
  • New drainage channels

Wealthier communities such as Puerto Princesa are taking proactive steps to close down squatter’s villages and provide alternative housing that is safe. Poorer communities struggle to do this. The forces at play are difficult to work out sometimes, the poor wanting their government to do more for them or refusing to move. Government officials wanting the poor to be more understanding of their mandate to protect lives.

A military approach brooks no hesitation.

Cities and municipalities need to make investments for alternative housing and relocations, starting with the most dangerous locations. Many are already doing so. Governments also need to state and enforce building standards and not let the seeds of new squatter’s communities spring up.

Encouraging new tools are coming to the scene to help local officials identify high risk areas. The Australian government is helping with high-resolution mapping that identifies vulnerable locations in Manila and other population centers. The nation’s largest rivers are being mapped by the same system.

Hospital Ship USNS Mercy USA T-AH19

Responsive, responsible local governments will use such tools invest in long-term projects to protect their citizens. River retainer walls, higher bridges, relocation of homes, new drainage channels, sea walls. Negligent local governments will find reasons not to act. Politics, budgets, corruption, no sense of urgency.

National Investment: Buying ships and planes and medical equipment

If we adopt a military model that says we need to be in national defense mode, then we need the equipment. Which is costing us more lives now? China sitting on rocks in Philippine seas, or natural attacks coming at us every few months?

We buy boats and planes to counter China, eh?

But where is the hospital ship? Where are the Chinook helicopters and MASH hospital units?

A big problem in Bohol is that roads are cut off and access must come from the sea. We ought not let it happen again.

I’m saying lets fight a better, more equipped, battle

Mandated Evacuations

If buildings are deemed to be safe for a 100-year flood, and a 100-year flood is possible with an approaching storm, evacuation from unstable slopes, river banks, or flood zones should be mandatory. Residents should know their assigned evacuation centers, and these centers should be safe and stocked with food and water for three days. The barangay structure of local governance is ideal to manage evacuations.

The Philippines requires a “Civil Defense” system as intense as was America’s effort to protect citizens against nuclear war in the 1960’s. Instead of bomb shelters, the Philippines needs well-protected, well-stocked evacuation centers. Most likely exist already, schools or civic buildings in safe locations. What is needed is the regimen mandating that people in vulnerable areas move to the shelters ahead of a storm’s strike.

Fines against violators should be steep. Guards against looting should be provided. Looters should receive very long prison terms.

Develop a Playbook

How many natural disasters have we been through that teach us the same lessons? (1) We do not have rescue teams that can get quickly to remote areas with medical teams or supplies. No dedicated ships or helicopters. (2) Disasters wipe out doctors and hospitals and schools and water. (3) Officials are loose with their lips.

We can see from responses to recent storm and last week’s Bohol Earthquake that steps to upgrade rescue and rehabilitation have helped immensely. The disaster agencies were in place, at work, quickly. Provincial leaders immediately declared states of calamity to freeze prices and open up avenues for funding rescue and repair work. Rehabilitation will likely be well-funded and move fairly quickly.

But there is more to be done, lessons to be learned and applied.

I envision the time when every local government will have a playbook that provides a checklist of exactly what needs to be done. He will know who his lieutenants are and issue orders, not seek their guidance at committee meetings held in the heat of disaster.

I envision a large disaster relief organization standing by, not pulled together on the fly, with large chinook helicopters ready to fly, loaded with medical gear. And a large ship standing by as a rescue platform and hospital, a few hours away from anywhere on the Philippine islands.

Summary Action Steps

I think the Disaster Council is getting better at managing post-disaster response. I may not like the committee approach, but they have enough case studies under their belt that they seem to have a good idea of how to deal with organization and funding of relief. Sure, it can always improve. But recovery is not going to save lives as well as good pre-planning and preparation.

From the discussion, we have identified the following possible action steps:

  • A national publicity campaign to place responsibility for preparedness with the people. For trash disposal disciplines and awareness of evacuation steps.
  • A deep discussion for what “safe distance” in the national building code means, with stringent standards applied consistently across all municipalities.
  • Separate the building code particulars from the national Law so that it can be flexibly revised and strengthened without returning to Congress for amendments. Enforce the code rigorously.
  • Develop a national standard for the required level of flood protection:  against 100-year flood? 500-year flood? I’d say minimum, 300-year flood.
  • Develop a national zoning code. This should require restrictions on construction along the coast, or on vulnerable river banks and hillsides.
  • Introduce mandatory evacuation orders to be implemented when storms approach. Establish safe, well-stocked evacuation centers. Enforce orders with fines.
  • Relocate vulnerable informal settlers whether they like it or not.
  • Dedicate ships, helicopters and medical gear to the battle, on standby 24/7.
  • Continue to learn and build rescue and rehabilitation resources and skills. Compile local playbooks and issue commands. Committee consensus is not required.

Zero tolerance for loss of life is the correct approach.

Develop policies by committee, fine. But fight the battle with individual accountability, a clear chain of command, and decisive action. Tolerate mistakes made in the heat of battle. Learn from them.

Complacency and equivocation are not acceptable when the next disaster is on the march, heading our direction.


Typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas on November 8, 2013, a little over two weeks after this article was published. It destroyed Tacloban, Leyte, killed over 6,000 and laid waste to an entire region. It was a wake-up call. Recovery has been slow and painful. Disaster preparation and recovery is being removed from Defense and restructured, reporting directly to the President. Some of the steps recommended here are being implemented. The following article reports on the establishment of regional rescue and relief centers equipped with helicopters, ships and other specialized equipment: Specialized Coast Guard base to Rise in Capiz

Read as well these two posts from JoeAm dealing with preparing for a storm and recovery after Yolanda:


110 Responses to “The Philippines: The Most Dangerous Land on the Planet”
  1. ikalwewe says:

    You know, i always think I increase my chances of dying whenever I go home. The government offers bandaid solutions to almost everything. Oh no, a typhoon. Let’s get our pumpboats ready. Oh no an earthquake, let’s train our citizens what to do. It’s ill-prepared and passive. And we all know that it’s all going to get more intense from now, as predicted by the climate scientists.
    Here in Japan, there is a trend for trasparency when it comes to govt spending on projects. I once went to an earthquake centre where you can “try” a magnitude 6 earthquake and they train you for free.I also went to a sewage museum where they showed us what they do with our crap (Clocks, vases etc).I thought, wow, if we could do that in the Philippines, use our crap to make things it’d be great. Maybe it’ll ease the burden of the sewage and make money at the side too..(And with a growing population, we won’t have a shortage of ‘raw materials’) I don’t knowthere are so many things to learn from our neighbours… Japan isn’t exactly rich with natural resources but they make the most of what they have…

    • Joe America says:

      I think Disneyland has similar training exercises but its called Space Mountain, encouraging us to restrain our natural urge to simply scream. I’ve ridden out three 6.9 or 7.0 quakes in Los Angeles, and they are terrifying. The best way to deal with them is BEFORE THE FACT with strong building codes. Then we can scream madly and survive anyway.

      I’ll be doing a sequel to the article to crystallize better the action steps that could be taken. Like, identify exactly WHO in government ought to be feeling the weight of failure considering the Philippine’s weak disaster readiness, and who ought to be changing that. I’ll be following my own advice to get it down to individual accountabilities. Defense Secretary Gazmin, for instance, should feel a heavier weight of responsibility, and Secretary Roxas, too. Also, the Legislature.

      Japan is good at managing with few resources. But they certainly have their . . . um . . . things to work on, too, if we consider . . . say . . . nuclear power plants. I rather think Japan is actually not a good model. Maybe they are transparent on spending, but not on facts when there is blame to be avoided. I’m for the Dutch model: tell it like it is, no matter how much it hurts.

      • ikalwewe says:

        Well, yea, you’re right. Building codes, we must have that already, though right? Either not rigidly reinforced or outdated. Look at all the fire accidents! I’ve taken that for granted because it’s not something I’ve participated in actively implementing. I’ve proven that indeed my house is eq resistant. (Rigorous building code dictates that a building shouldn’t collapse at magnitude 7 or higher. ) Next, save myself. I mentioned JP because, though as you say, still needing to work on some things, it is a good comparison : both archipelagos, subject to the same naturals disasters (typhoons, tsunamis, eqs) and equally dense (or more). We can, maybe use the ODA to adopt some of their technologies? (building codes, Earthquake alerts and flood tunnels But you know, we Filipinos are very short-term oriented as a culture (score of 19 / 100), and it makes a big difference. We just don’t plan things, as individuals. And even if we do ,it’s subject to (frequent) change. Saving for a rainy day, preparing for a disaster.. Sure, we know that throwing trash is bad, it will clog the sewage and come hit us back tenfold during the next monsoon. but so what, it’s not going to happen now? And now is what matters! So never mind that there are 20+ typhoons per year, it seems to me that the Philippines is always caught with pants down. I think one alternative is to decentralize Metro Manila, where 40% of the population resides (allegedly..)… less people, less waste, less flooding… And yes, segregate trash, recycle our turds into things, even burgers…

        • Joe America says:

          Ahahahahaha, thanks for the laugh of the day, your recycling plan. Two, actually, as I visualized the “Pants Down Philippines”.

        • artemism89 says:

          Agreed on decentralizing Metro Manila.
          First, I hate that news updates on disasters on national TV doesn’t give equal weight on the location of the disaster. As far as I remember, when the typhoon was coming in, one channel still got Kris Aquino’s face plastered on the screen. I hate to admit it, but I’m really starting to harbor a grudge for the capital city.

          Two, I hate that everything has to pass through Mla’s system before a go signal is given. When I was listening to the local radio during Yolanda’s big day (’cause that’s the only way you get current news), I heard that the local PAG-ASA sends their data to MLA first for verification before informing the locals of the weather status. And I’m pretty sure this scenario doesn’t just apply to the weather system.

      • ikalwewe says:

        But unfortunately I just don’t believe new technologies will ever be adopted.. because it’s not in most politicians’ interest to do so. Whenever a disaster strikes, they can retreat to their mansions and say Inshallah to the rest of the nation. Look at the poor state of public transportation! If only they were directly affected, then maybe things would change..

        • Joe America says:

          Yes, let’s take away their cars for one year and see what happens to the transportation decision making. Maybe we will get clean roomy, air conditioned shuttle buses instead of sweaty, smelly, sardine packed jeepneys. (Even though I like jeepneys for being cultural icons.)

          • David Murphy says:

            Cultural icons or not, jeepneys are inexpensively, indigenously produced and maintained transportation suited to the needs of the vast majority of Filipinos and that operate without government subsidy. How far do you think P8 would take you on a “clean, roomy, air conditioned shuttle bus”?

          • Joe America says:

            Point taken. My shuttle buses would be heavily subsidized by government, from taxes on private cars. 🙂

        • AUSSIE BURKA says:


      • To indict the whole nation and its people in time of catastrophe like the one that happened in the Philippines is like kicking a fallen Iraqi and blaming him for having been droned, You, Joe America, who writes this kind of junk makes you the most dangerous animal living anywhere else with zero sense of compassion. Do not represent America because you are an Ugly American. Most Americans I know are beautiful people just like the Filipinos. Stop being a wheelchair analyst in the face of natural and man-made calamities. Otherwise, you would be mistaken for an AIDs carrier. If you have nothing to write about, quit writing.

    • the bahala na culture and inutile government made Philippines the most dangerous place on earth.

      • Ed misch says:

        That statement is the ones I hear mostly from arrogant Filipinos from mostly San Jose to most Bay area Filipinos who daily smack their faces with mud as if they doing themselves some good service and helps them hoping the person they say it to will not identify themselves to the Filipinos in the Philippines.But they don’t t know they made themselves more muddied in front of the ones they are telling it to. I lived in the Philippines for awhile and most of the experiences are better. Although for my part instead of just sitting down criticizing their government I made myself to be a part of the solution. I joined civic groups,radio clubs and disaster assistance volunteer. Government corruption is everywhere and the best in P.I. is you can expose Politicians easily there which you can’t do in the US,no one noticed the city I am in changed or booted out their mayor 3 times without anyone knowing it,video a government or politician here and you’ll end up in prison,thats why they can’t boot Obama or politicians they don’t like here. You cannot prevent natural catastrophe even in high or low magnitude and no matter how organized,clean or inutile a government can be,disaster will get through it,just like rain it falls on the rich and poor,dead or alive or everyone ready or not. Your statement-you just smacked mud in your face. By the way I am white born in P.I.

        • Concern Filipina says:

          I’m really glad to hear your opinion Ed. It does reflect who u are and your love for your country if you keep badmouthing your own country. Be part of the solution. For NIlo to say “inutil” …it’s very very sad…..

          Just want to share this to you Nilo

          There is a truth to this letter from someone from Korea.

          A Korean’s Message for the Filipinos
          18 July 2008
          Written by Jaeyoun Kim

          Filipinos always complain about the corruption in the Philippines. Do you really think the corruption is the problem of the Philippines? I do not think so. I strongly believe that the problem is the lack of love for the Philippines.
          …….I am sure that love is the keyword, which Filipinos should remember. We cannot change the sinful structure at once. It should start from person. Love must start in everybody, in a small scale and have to grow. A lot of things happen if we open up to love. Let’s put away our prejudices and look at our worries with our new eyes……

          • Ben Vegas says:

            Tell that to the corrupt politicians in the Philippines. They don’t know LOVE to their fellow countrymen but LOVE to the money they will get from PDAF and pork barrels. Look at what happened when SC declares PDAF unconstitutional, no lawmakers or majority of them are not interested anymore to attend congressional session to do their obligations. To hell with them! Just give the PDAF to the deserving government agencies, we don’t need these irresponsible senators and congressmen, they just appear in sessions to collect pork barrels.

          • Nandy says:

            I am glad that Concern Filipina, shared with us a letter from a Korean. But, I am thankful that Jaeyoun Kim, saw it in a very good perspective. I had a chance to integrate with Korean society as I worked there in the past and all I can say is that, its really sad, although some of them acknowledged that the Philippines is far more developed than any other country in Asia many decades ago. While the observation is true, the sudden turnaround can be traced to the never ending bickerings within the Philippines Political sytem that put the nation to what it is now today, a poor loser if not a tail ender to East Asian countries. This bickerings were transmitted from the top level to the lowest echelon of political arena, which is the Barangay. Today, this attitude was manifested once again by the ugly confrontation between the Secretary of DILG and the mayor of Tacloban City, not to mention other problems confronted with these issues. They both represent feuding political clans in the country. This attidude is also true at the lower echelon of political system. If only we can think of helping our brothers and sisters who were devastated by these natural calamities instead of hauling in criticisms, would make a difference. And Ed Misch, I appreciate your comment.

  2. Joseph-Ivo says:

    In line with the previous article, I believe that culture contributes in a major way, positively and negatively. Positively in so far that a lot of support comes from family, neighbours and friends, everybody gets involved in the digging for survivors, a lot of sharing of survival essentials. Negatively in the disrespect for live. The car industry has “meat to metal” rules, how to avoid sharp parts close to a person. Look at jeepneys and the sharp edges everywhere, bolts sticking through the roof ready to tear open your scull in an accident or emergency stop, some even have their axels extended with meat grinders!!! Yesterday night I saw a motorcycle not with a blue or green, but with a red (!!!!) headlight, or how to confuse everybody, especially on a damp rainy night. Look at small construction sites and the total disregard for safety. Fatal accidents happen, so what am I talking about.

    In industry we relied on exercise, exercise, exercise and visual management. I would like to see more frequent real live simulations to improve preparedness, coordination, intervention skills…. I would like to be reminded more often of potential dangers. In my country all civil defence material is dark blue, very uniform, very recognizable. You see quit often convoys of dark blue trucks on their way to the next exercise, a reminder that calamities can happen.

    Remember that a risk is: P (probability of the cause) x S (seriousness of the effect) x D (detection or effectiveness of early warnings). P relates to prevention, S to mitigation, D to predictions. In risk reduction all 3 have to be improved. We should prepare not only for natural disasters, but also for man-made disasters (e.g. Zambanga, petrochemical plants, sinking ferries…)

    See also and the importance of resilience, the possibility for people to bounce back.

    • Joe America says:

      Red headlights and ripped open skulls. More fun in the Philippines . . . if you survive.

      Your point on simulations and blue uniforms is excellent. I may refer to that in my sequel to this article I’m now drafting. As a math major, I must say I also appreciate your delineation of risk. It does take efforts in all three areas. Thanks also for the link.

      It is always good to hear of solution rather than complaint, though complaints are important to set the stage for solution.

      • Ed misch says:

        I lived in the better part of the Philippines,the Northern Luzon where most people are organized and disciplined.I was born In Baguio City where I grew up where littering,spitting anywhere,peeing anywhere is punishable by law and it was clean and every citizen or resident is accountable to clean their area of responsibility. The dirtiness comes where when the vacationers comes ignoring our local laws for maintaining cleanliness,but our local patient street sweepers do their jobs. The lowlands do the same but once you reach Metro manila things change,the local government is different-all the good you see up North is the reverse side of it-corrupt! And most people who came or have lived in these areas has nothing good too describe it. I met a lady here and she’s from Malate,she doesn’t want to go back there. Same with the woman from the province of Quezon describes Philippines doesn’t have roads,cars and toilet paper and tells her children that,so they are surprised when I said I am going to the Philippines for a visit. So now I know where people came from due to how bad and how good their description of the places they came from in the Philippines. In Baguio we get battered with typhoons even super typhoons but didn’t have much corruption as the guy who describes his horrifying experience in his place,they might be hard to organize or hard to get to do something good to contribute to his place of residence. The culture there in Northern Luzon is if it is good for someone it might be good for everyone kind of thinking. One instance was when a big corporation wants to remove trees in a historical park lowland extremist made a bad demonstrations to resist the move,I didn’t join their group but what i did was get a couple of young plantable trees with me and planted them surrounding the century old tree,there is a national law banning cutting off newly planted tree(the cordillerans uphold the law) so there they were not able to cut down the tree.Be a solution not the problem maker is what makes even a most naturally dangerous place a paradise even for a short time. And the title of this page is soo misleading,you can make a place in the Philippines one of the the dangerous places to live but not the whole Philippines. One national law that squatters love “Agrarian Reform Law” and this need to be repealed. They squatt everywhere even in dangerous areas and suing this law makes them immune to local laws banning squatting(the problem now is they started creeping up to the north). If people are as educated and law abiding like us in the North death tolls in the disaster areas will be lowered. I still love to go back to Baguio.

        • Henz says:

          Yes I agree Baguio was a peaceful, clean and people live simple until this big icon capitalist started to sprout like mushroom.( DNER) was and is trapped by the devil’s temptation,,, Thanks to Micheal Bengwayan who successfully stopped the cutting of trees. Every typhoon strong or weak teaches us the hard way depending on how we respond to it before and after.

  3. ella says:

    Aside from the Philippines being the most dangerous place on earth in terms of natural calamities, she has also the most number of corrupt politicians.

    • Joe America says:

      hmmm, could be there is a connection . . .

      • Nathan says:

        i agree.. it all boils down to one thing – corruption.. budget allocated goes down to the pockets of politicians.. yes, culture is a factor – a culture of the government that is..

    • Ed misch says:

      In your place maybe,but not mine.Northern Luzon politicians and government are far less from your description. Most people that came or are in the most depressed areas(probably where you are or came from)have these bad description of their place but not the whole of the Philippines is that bad.I Baguio city or lets say Northern Luzon we much good to say about our places,clean,less crime and less corruption.Littering is bad for us in Baguio and you will know that a person is not from Baguio if he/she litters,spit or pee anywhere. People there are organized and again they are not from there if they are otherwise.And they can come together to unseat a government official if he/she is corrupt(like they did numerous times). So please don’t include us northeners from the “Philippines” that you described. Manila maybe or your city but not the whole Philippines is dangerous to live in.It is like looking for salt in a sugar factory-where the salt suddenly takes over the whole sugar factory. Analogy-a small salt doesn’t describe the sugar factory-so a small dangerous,corrupt part of of a country does not describe the whole. If a small group of white supremacist in North Dakota does not make the whole of US to be Racist. If you haven’t got my point something is mentally wrong with you.

  4. brianitus says:

    Uncle Joe,

    I don’t know if you’d agree with me. Us Pinoys have pretty much basic stuff on our wish list of ideal this and thats. The difference between us and what’s abroad could he the willingness to pay for those wishes to come true.

    • Joe America says:

      Willingness or ability? I think people have a shopping list that is just a little above where they are on the pay scale today. These are the things they want and have to work to obtain. In the Philippines it is basic, I’d agree with that.The difference is that in the U.S. there are more opportunities to get a better job and get promoted, so those shopping desires get fulfilled more easily and more often. And then more expensive desires move in.

      Same applies to governments.

      • brianitus says:

        Let me add ability then. Imho, it’s pretty much a chicken and egg thing. Where to start? Maybe a leap of faith. Bet on the egg or the chicken. Maybe it’s even the resilience that’s killing us. What if everyone was certain that they’d die with inaction, would that force them to move towards something positive?

        • Joe America says:

          “Maybe it’s even the resilience that’s killing us.”

          Now young whippersnapper, that is the kind of wisdom that I normally expect from old people. Perhaps you are ripe before your time.

      • brianitus says:

        Oh, as far as consumer desires are concerned, I’m sure that some brilliant company can always come up with a watered down sachet version of a way to meet an expensive dream. That’s why the market for knockoffs refuses to die.

  5. Joseph-Ivo says:

    Just thinking driving on my way back through an impoverished Barangay. What is better, 200 fatalities in an earthquake or 0.000,2% of the population (=200 people) dying because of stress due to the constant reminders of earthquake dangers and all the efforts to be prepared? Regardless the hardships I still saw a lot of smiles Do the Philippines have to copy the grey sad faces of the West and its addiction to Prozac?

    • Joseph-Ivo says:


    • Joe America says:

      That’s an important question. Or why invest billions of pesos in a hospital ship or helicopters if you only save 10 to 50 lives per year? Just keep giving the money away to the living if they keep their kids in school. Care for the living better.

      And if that is the decision taken, not to spend to get better prepared, then people – and the media – should be fair about it and stop bemoaning the loss of life.

      In the U.S., most accept the loss of life on the freeways as a cost of getting places really fast. The speed limit used to be 55 MPH, in part to conserve gasoline, but no one obeyed, so they raised it back to 70 on most interstate highways.

      But still, auto companies invested to develop airbags, and waste money crash-testing perfectly good cars. So there must be some who still hold that one life is worth making an effort to save.

      Would you buy a big hospital ship if you were President of the Philippines? Say it cost 15 billion pesos.

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        I don’t know. For the nation there might be other priorities, but if it could extend my live, by all means. Being a president isn’t easy, balancing what is needed and what can be afforded, setting priorities. As an individual it’s much easier.

        On the other hand, what is an acceptable price in terms of effort and lack of leisure time for increased wealth or safety? People here wouldn’t mind to die years earlier in exchange for whiter skin, football players in the US would accept dangerous drugs and die at forty if they could win the Super Bowl, short fame/happiness over a long live or avoiding danger.

        Is the American rat race, the elimination of all possible risks, the working ethos with its long working hours… is it so much better than the “bahala na’s” and neglect but with fiestas and acceptance of the current state here? When your measurement is smiles, I don’t think so.

        • Joe America says:

          I agree that the Philippines should not aspire to emulate the U.S. or anyone else. This matter of capitalism and its superb ability to create wealth as well as anxiety is finding its way into another blog in the pending file. The Luddite mentality. I rather think it is good to aspire to be neither a monk nor a Bill Gates, but to strive for riches, including those that come with fiestas or snoozing in a cottage by the beach.

          I look at a big ship in terms of a 30 year life, and figure the expense is not all that much. Operating cost would be more than the capital cost. And there is something “feel good” about being ahead of the storms, to be attacking them instead of waiting, and having a pretty white boat sitting off some dock making the statement, “we are the Philippines, and we take care of our own.”

          I’d buy it.

      • Hospital ships and helicopters can also be used in quite times. Not the least-cost approach, but having your back-up operational and on-line all the time does save critical time. Anyway relief goods/equipment sitting in a storage house do need maintenance as well: non-use does do often more damage than reasonable steady load use.

  6. Jocelyn says:

    First, let me thank you for taking the time and effort in exploring this very important issue. Actually, I think this is the most important issue facing the Philippines.

    I agree with all your conclusions. I find that there is a complete lack of commitment to the issues at all levels of government.

    This is, plain and simple, not a case of financial resources but a lack of direction and willpower. I, strongly, believe that the problem begins and ends with the President of the Philippines and the Secretary of the DILG.

    President Aquino is a “one song” leader. To be an effective president, you must be able to multi-task and focus on many important issues…not just one. Yes, I applaud him on his anti-corruption campaign but he must focus on using the money that he is “stock-piling” on the people and local infrastructure and not worrying about getting higher credit ratings. Without modern and effective infrastructure and a major change in the Constitution; he will NEVER attract real, long-term investment.

    Secretary Mar Roxas might be a good and decent man but he is an ineffective leader. I know that President Aquino owes him a huge political debt but the question is: at what expense? Do we allow people to die and suffer because of that debt? He is NOT a pro-active leader but merely a follower. The other “face” in this situation is Vice-President Binay who is nothing more than a old school trapo who is looking to “feather his family nest” as next President of the Philippines (God forbid!). Both of them are completely useless.

    My view is this:

    1. Can we stop typhoons, earthquakes, and other disasters? No, but we can prepare in such a way that we can suffer minimal loss of lives and money.

    2. Can we stop flooding? In many ways the answer is a huge YES! We can repair and rebuild drainage and sewer infrastructure in our major urban areas. We can start a long-term (and I define that as ASAP!) dredging of our rivers. This must be an on-going plan not just a one-time project. It should be conducted year-round.

    Here in the Subic area, the reason why Olongapo City and Subic did not flood year-to-year was the simple fact that the US Navy (aka US Government) had an on-going river dredging operation. They, also, sprayed nightly for mosquitoes hence no major dengue or other diseases in the area. With them gone, it created a huge vacuum and displayed the total lack of leadership and good governance of the local elected officials that have been put in office over the years since 1992..

    The floods are over and the rainy season is done. Here in Subic, nothing and I mean nothing is being done. It is being swept under the carpet just like every year. There is ABSOLUTELY no excuse why the river dredging should not begin right now.

    Instead of all the focus on the Napoles’ scandal, maybe there is a bigger scandal in the fact that the entire government (top to bottom) is not doing the real job of taking care of the people. That is what government is suppose to do.

    In closing, I strongly believe that if names of local officials like here in Subic, Olongapo City and Zambales province were to start being shown and question in the local and national media, they might just get off the “dead asses” and start doing the job they were elected to do by the people.

    How many more of my neighbors do I have to see die before their lives become important to our elected officials?

    • Joe America says:

      Jocelyn, actually I found this one of the more interesting projects that I’ve had the opportunity to explore. So thank you for asking that I look into it. I’ll be doing a follow-up on Friday, seeking to generate a sense of personal accountability that I think is missing right now. Everyone has an excuse, and they ought not to have one.

      The Mayor of Subic ought to look no where but within, as it is the Mayor’s job to take care of the community. If there has been complacency at dredging the rivers, there is no place to look but where the buck stops, at the Mayor’s office. These people pull out all their political stuff at election time. Favors and money and bragging and maybe some buying of votes. Plastering their name all over the place. Then they coast as esteemed leaders.

      Well, I suggest removing the “esteem” until they demonstrate they can do civic work. So I agree, town meetings, and more. I will suggest annual emergency drills for every community so that people learn they are a part of the solution, and bear responsibility for knowing their escape routes, where the evacuation shelters are, and what to do when asked to evacuate. Like, not be troublesome to the people asking them to move. The leaders should be holding simulation disasters twice a year, reviewing procedures, improving processes, having crystal clear who does what. And they should have a plan for investing in flood protections. Every community is becoming more and more vulnerable.

      But I’d better be careful. I’ll end up dumping the whole blog here.

      The one area I don’t see things the same as you is with regard to President Aquino. Actually, I think he does multi-task, and quite well. I understand his cabinet and issues meetings are quite rigorous. He delegates well, setting forth his expectations and giving his people room to produce. And they are for the most part earnest and honest if not always as productive as we would like. I see Abaya and Roxas pretty much as you do. Knocking around in the china cabinet with a lot of expensive china, putting the plates here, putting them there . . . studying the issues and then studying them some more . . . not generating the profound results I’d hoped for. My original expectations for President Aquino were very low . . . riding on name, passive, nerdy, not a dynamic senator by any means . . . so I’ve been surprised with his capable handling of tough issues. He seems to know when to be tough (Sultan, China, Zamboanga), and when to be delicate (not embarrassing the Church in signing the RH Bill). Is he 100% the way I’d do it? No. But I think he represents the Philippines well.

      But enough of that . . .

      What’s my next project going to be? ahahahaha

  7. Jocelyn says:

    Joe, I am sorry as I would have liked to be the first to comment to your post as a mutual sign of respect for your interest in my previous comments.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to read this post until now because I am still trying to put my home back in order a month after the massive flooding in our sub-division. It is really a shame that we have heard nothing from our local officials. They, at the very least, should have held an informal “town meeting” with the residents of our sub-division and explained what their plans are for preventing flooding in the future.

    But then again, what do I know as a simple housewife, tax payer and citizen of this country who has a vote come next election?

    • Joe America says:

      I’m thinking you know a lot, actually, and have a right to be peeved. I hope you get everything cleaned up okay.

    • neriza says:

      Hi Jocelyn, was reading your comments and kind of amaze how you see things and our local official there, you have the right knowledge so why not start running in politics start as a barangay official? who knows someday you become a president, just a thought… the way you think and I guess you are knowledgeable enough, maybe you are the solutions of our political problems in there. I believe you have a heart that are willing to serve the People(nation).

  8. Jocelyn says:

    Joe, I thank you for your reply.

    I can see your point about President Aquino. Maybe I missed my whole point through my choice of words. I feel very strongly that this president ( like all the others in the past) does not focus enough on his main mission of the Office of the President …we the people. Sure, there is a lot of “lip service” from all points in the government but the average Filipino and, even foreign resident feels that they are alone and isolated in their daily lives.

    Religious leaders (all faiths included but especially the Catholic Church) pretends to “fill the gap” but they, in the end, use the people to their own ends very much like the politicians. They are all the same. They don’t care. All you have to do is look at the huge bank accounts and investments of the Catholic Church and you will see that theirs is the lip service of badly misguided men and not the word of God.

    I believe that everything in this world , in the end, comes down to people and how you treat and care for them. I would much rather the Philippines think more about the welfare of its people than what the world (especially the western countries) thinks or wants. In the end those countries, especially America, only wants from us what suits their needs…nothing more. They are all about self-interest.

    I look forward to your next article. Thanks again for your great article. I hope that it gets spread around to the right people. Maybe they will wake up to the real reality of the Filipino people.

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks for the further explanation. I appreciate where you are coming from.

    • Joe America says:

      I found interesting this morning’s Rappler publication of budget for 2014 versus what is being spent this year. The link:

      The increases are generally in the “people caring” departments. Perhaps you will find this encouraging, even if it still seems not enough.

    • The Mouse says:

      “In the end those countries, especially America, only wants from us what suits their needs…nothing more. They are all about self-interest.”

      America has debt-for-nature program. At least they are concerned about the rapid environmental degradation in the Philippines, whereas the Filipino citizens themselves by large, are NOT. Especially the politicians.

      It really makes a difference in perspective when you have lived in BOTH countries. Rather than merely relying on hearsays or stereotypes. But then again, who does not look after their self-interest? Are we terrible concerned about the starving and oppressed people in North Korea? How concerned are Filipinos about people dying in the Syrian War? Advocating one’s self interest and accusing other countries of self-interest is rather hypocritical to me. It’s okay to promote Philippine-self interest but do not accuse other countries of only looking after their self interest (which by the way is normal in geopolitics and the Phlippines is not spared here)

    • Vi says:

      Jocelyn, I can see all of your frustration about what is going on in your local, provincial and national government. Who would not, you live in the Philippines. People smiles a lot in the Philippines, they hope a lot, they pray a lot. We can not take that away from them. Smile, hope and pray are the only response to which they can hold on to in facing every disaster and impoverish act that they confront in their daily life. But a lot of the Filipinos forget that the only way things can improve is by strict implementation of the basic civil laws of the government. I believe there is one written on the civic laws governing the Filipino people. There are a lot of blaming, sabotaging, counter-acting, and a lot of blah, blah, blah on how the Philippines can improve from its current situation on economic, financial, poverty, and so many issues that touches the daily life of the Filipinos. But come to think of it, as the old saying says: Charity starts from home. Therefore, if the Filipinos can just be united in a sense that everyone should abide the civil law, maybe, just maybe, things will improve a little. Bayanihan still exists in the country. But the meaning of Bayanihan should be more than just lending hand, It should be more deeper than the act of helping hand, it should be a national unity of doing the right thing. If the Filipinos want to live in a better place, then it should be a national goal for each and every Filipinos, not just by a chosen few.

      Japan is a country that is always devastated by earthquake, they stand united to implement the toughest building code so that their infrastructures withstand the effect of disaster. In the Philippines, they do not have that. The Japanese have the ability to come out of disaster as quickly as possible. How? Because the Japanese people have the unity that binds them together when needed, instead of the “me first” attitude. They have this unprecedented team work to merge as one, they are very disciplined in all levels of their daily life. Japan, until today, remains one of the richest country in the world. They do not brag about it but their financial sustainability is exemplary. And they have the highest code of ethic and dignity, which I must say hardly exist in the Philippines.

      Another thing, the Filipinos can not accuse other countries of the current situation where the Philippines stands right now. The Filipinos afflicted “the disease” on their country because they elect anybody in the government, I mean really anyone, who promise everything literally. Therefore, what happens in the Philippines is only and only the Philippines and its people’s business. Too many Filipinos create problems that they themselves can not find the solutions to the problems they created. But no, I am wrong, there is always a solution, only if they face and resolve the problems that they have created, and learn from it so that it does not happen again. YES, THERE IS ALWAYS A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM. It takes courage and unity to apply the solution to the problem.

      So instead of blaming each other, why not stand up, gather in groups, go to town meetings, attend municipal reunions, and on and so forth. If one just say and not act, nothing will happen, nothing will be done. Be the watch dog of your local government. One should not be ashamed to express their dissatisfaction to their elected officials on the way business is handled at all levels of government. This is democratic and everyone has the right of speech.

      As for other countries, some may express their dissatisfaction on what is going on in the Philippines in some instance because they send financial aids thru World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Please do not forget, these funds comes from the taxes that the citizens of the countries who sends financial aids. Please do not forget that citizens of the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, and so on are paying taxes to the government of these countries. But in no terms these countries will mingle with the Philippine politics on how they govern the Filipinos.

      Like you, I wish the situation will improve for the next generation of Filipinos. It will only happen if everyone will give their implication and personal time thru awareness and education of the population. The Philippines is now reaching 100 million people in its 7,100 islands.

  9. The Mouse says:

    The first thing the Philippines has to do is to abolish the Lina law and things will follow after that. The Lina law practically gives the “right” to squatters to squat wherever they want. A lot of times, they build their homes and throw their trash in the drainage and they complain against the government about THEIR trash. I believe Manila has a brilliant pumping system. It’s just that a lot of times, it is clogged with trash. You pump it, you get trash than water.

    The Philippines also needs to mandate garbage segregation (not merely suggest it). It was suggested back in Erap’s time but the public were darn lazy to cooperate. When I was still living in Baguio, the city government provided segregation bins. But dumb people still mixed their garbage and thieves stole public trash bins.

    Interestingly, the Philippines usually come up with brilliant ideas. Sometimes, even more creative than their Western counterparts. However, the Philippines miserably fails in implementation.

    On the other hand, I am also disappointed by CA drainage system. I live in the flatter part of the Central Coast and a light rain creates flood! And all they do is put a “flooded when raining” signs rather than improving the drainage. This is America, should it not be that drainage should be better planned? Imagine if CA receives the amount of rainfall the average of the Philippines, it would be massive relocation.

    • Joe America says:

      Your comment reminds me of the dilemma of the “999” emergency phone system here, although I think the number in most areas is 117 or somesuch. The system is plugged up to useless by people calling in as prank calls. So they get something like 12 legitimate calls in a month and several hundred thousand pranks. So they are thinking about abandoning it.

      It is difficult to do good works when the setting for them is bad. Even if implementation is good, the broad community doesn’t grasp its role to be responsible.

    • Louise says:

      Wow lots of complaining about America… (previous post: “In the end those countries, especially America, only wants from us what suits their needs…nothing more. They are all about self-interest.”) I’m no expert at drainage issues, but the fact that CA receives a lot less average rainfall means drainage might not be the priority it would be if there was a pattern of more abundant precipitation in the area you described. I live in CA with family in the Philippines. I find it interesting that you have nothing good to say about America, when you have chosen to live here, surrounded by benefits and conveniences you could not easily find at home. For one, you can show up at any US emergency room and be treated, not left on hospital steps to die because you couldn’t produce cash immediately (this happened to 2 different family members of friends of ours in the Philippines). Anyway, just my two cents. I found it interesting that you feel America is just taking from others, in self-interest. I wouldn’t move to a country I felt that way about…

  10. Philippines is a correct country with wrong governance. It is reactive and not proactive. Government people do not know the saying “PROACT AND PREVENT, REACT AND REPENT”. Philippine governance now is actually the realization of our late president Manuel Quezon’s dream, “Better to have a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by other countries”.

    • Joe America says:

      Welcome to the blog, Icawalo. I agree that the Philippines is reactive and not proactive.However, I would not be so harsh on the current government. I think it is pushing out in many positive directions, but is doing so in a culture of “win/lose”, anger, corruption far and wide, envy and an inherent need for everyone to believe it has to be done MY way or it is wrong. I think in 10 years, the Philippines could be a dramatically different nation. Wealthier, healthier, more proactive. I’ll be writing about this in a future blog. A lot depends on what happens in the presidential election in 2016.

      • Vi says:

        Joe, I do agree with you…let us wait and see what happens in the presidential election in 2016. If there is a change of government, no one will know the direction the country will be taken to. But if the Filipinos choose to vote wisely, then what the current government is trying to achieve will materialize: wealthier, healthier, more proactive population.

  11. Michael McDermott says:

    Food for thought…

    Nice observations – and true I think.
    Plastic is a problem?
    Sorry wrong approach.
    “Sin” Tax on every plastic bag – 20 pesos each. (government law)
    Guess how quick there gone …..
    Mandatory 20 pesos deposit on PET bottles.
    After there lifetime – recycle (ship to china – they make clothes out of PET)
    Has to be done by the government though….

    You mentioned littering out of a Jeepny.
    Sorry – no food or beverages allowed.
    Non compliance easy to check.
    Again – Government.
    Doesn´t take care of household garbage.
    Build a WORKING waste management system.

    In that we definetly agree – the government has to do something.

    Looting is a problem. Hmmm
    Maybe a bit radical but….
    Looters get shot on sight.
    Sounds a bit american eh? I´m not. Whatever.
    Make it known that looters will be shot on sight.
    2 things will happen.
    Honest people go to the shelter because they don´t want to be mistaken for a looter.
    The looters get shot and the taxpayers don´t have to burden themselves.

    P.S: Hospitals and schools (Public buildings in general) should be built AND located in such a manner that they can be easily converted to emergency shelters – e.g. with emergency food
    water and medical supplys in the attic – maybe beds and so on too?

    Just food for thought.



  12. Marina Hamoy says:

    Thanks for examining the disaster preparedness policymaking that requires serious review from lawmakers. Alas, Sen Legarda’s lawmaking is purely fluff … lacking substance. The mindless policymaking appears to have reached crisis proportions in the Philippines. The policies I am also beginning to examine in education, language & other social development provisions do not benefit the diverse needs of the majority of its population. It is as if the ruling elites’ reactive policies affect their centralized radius … diluting their relevance, implementation, and enforcement … and almost verging on ignorance about what the Philippines is all about and who its people are.

    I disagree that the military be vested in managing natural disasters, simply because historically the Filipino military has shown to be strongly callous and corrupt establishment that has supported the plundering of the nation’s resources (Plundering Paradise: The Struggle of the Environment in the Philippines).

    But how can lawmakers or “leaders” respond when their own levels of literacy needed in lawmaking have not been reached linguistically, culturally, cognitively, psychologically? I venture to say that The frequency of plagiarism is high among lawmakers and also among students … the rate of wrongful convictions is beyond 50% also speaks to the dire literacy skills.

    When looked at from this perspective, there is little truth in your statement that “All the warnings in the world can’t protect against a lazy or uneducated public.” The Filipinos are hardworking and their mis-education comes from the outdated policies that are so entrenched in strong colonial thinking … except that this thinking has devolved into the national issues. Inspite of the ongoing major educational system overhaul, the disproportionate focus on commoditizing national identity and national language creates the lack of access to knowledge in the majority marginalized by language … and the denial of language equality belies cultural identity that results in mis-education! It is such a dangerous suggestion to propose the military’s role in natural disasters for as long as both private and public education continue to be lacking the grounding of human development in education reforms!

    • Joe America says:

      I wish I’d done this blog as “blog, counter-blog”, with you doing the counter-blog, because you raise very substantive points. Let me enumerate those that stood out for me:

      1. Legarda fluff and general ineptitude among legislators. Yes, I agree that is a problem. Now at service or operating levels, I attribute this to the educational style of the Philippines, rote learning rather than teacher’s fostering ingenuity. But legislators have gone to the best universities, and many have studied overseas at top universities, and they compete well academically (Abaya #2 at US Naval Academy). So the problem is either (1) cultural, in that their gang of brothers and sisters demands mindless minutia and form over substance and product, or (2) the Filipino mind is culturally honed to whack trees and not even know it is in a forest. In other words, I agree with you.

      2. If you want a blogging platform to share and shape what your explorations reveal, consider doing guest commentary here. I’d welcome it for sure.

      3. I agree the military is an ill-disciplined lot, rife with pot bellies and corruption. My proposal presumes a clean-up of that act, and that, indeed, having specific, visible accountabilities such as storm defense, would give them focus. Like, something to do other than slog through the jungle fighting rats or lounging at the road check-point ogling girls. Pardon my cynicism. That’s because I agree with you that Defense is a vulnerability to the idea, but it is where the responsibility OUGHT to reside, as a function. What department COULD handle it, if not defense? (Run ships, respond as if the urgency of a battle, logistically able to cover the whole nation?)

      4. I also agree that the broad masses are sincere and hard-working, and the misdeeds on good community behavior (tossing trash out the bus window) is a function of family, culture and education and the greater fault is ignorance (not used in a disparaging sense) rather than laziness. I view it as laziness when a college graduate tosses the trash.

      In summary, I agree with all your points, but we have to get to the particulars of doing something about them. My own bias is that shaping what we have is preferential to ripping it apart and starting again. So I browbeat on educators and the military in my blogs and figure that, at some point, if enough people do that, their cultural framing will shift.

  13. Cosmological says:

    I like/ agree with your educated plans … They can also be applied to quite a few countries.

  14. Pearl Lee says:

    So sad. The blog and the rest of the comments are damn true. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if the government should be blamed or our own selves because more often, we never abide with the laws and we become selfish. :((

  15. jack says:

    Why? God is in control of everything. God Established government here in earth but government not lying on the principle of God when it comes to governance. What is the Root? Money, politicians love money more that God. The issue of pork barrel scam is a big sin and immorality made by humans (idolatry, TV shows that said they Glorify God but they have shows that not pleases God, ex. That’ my Tomboy-stop this! else God will still be angry. Our God is all powerful God that can change the situation or circumstances. Hey! napoles spake up, the truth will make the Filipino free from the wrath of God. Do good things. BE honest. Be Fearful in the LORD God.

  16. I’ll share this on Facebook.

  17. Rennyvonne Fae says:

    I love what i’m reading here blog and comments both. 🙂

  18. raul says:

    Best blog article I’ve read and the comments too. I can’t believe that I read them all :-). Kudos to Uncle Joe. Looking forward to your next article.

  19. duskfading says:

    The fact that constructing waiting sheds and basketball courts are our land official’s only idea of a good community project, made me cringe from my seat as I read your article. I want to start the litany of the rosary now for our leaders to just DO THE DARN NECESSARY STRATEGIES to alleviate the lives of the Filipino people instead of planning the next election. Solutions are possible. Selfishness of some of our leaders, impossible.
    Dear God have mercy.

  20. Blessie D. says:

    This is a great recommendation/study with re: how to improve our gear against natural disasters but where will the country get funds when all of our taxes go to this greedy woman named Janet Napoles and her daughter’s lavish, fashionista lifestyle. Besides officials being held accountable, the large part of that accountability is hindered by corruption?

    “Safe zoning codes” are also tied to accountability/extent of corruption, as some government officials forge legality of the “safeness” of structures being built along “danger zones,” also to get voters during the election. It’s like, provide housing, coz that’s what the people want, taking advantage of their “I don’t care” attitude if that’s a danger zone (also the “It can’t happen to me” mentality; sometimes “I have no choice” mentality). And you’re right about educating people about disaster management and survival, unfortunately, only the educated (which is likely to be only 20% of the whole population) will learn about this (due that the programs are not being administered to the lower echelon of society, since “educators” usually disregard them or don’t focus on them).

    About housing, you can never totally stop squatters from sprouting. It’s all connected via the vicious cycle of corruption. Squatters, thinking they are a vulnerable sector, will not understand the government’s protective actions because they will always think there will be no future for them after the “clearing” of the area. Well, they do have the right to think that way because usually, the government doesn’t have a clear plan where to relocate the residents (given that if they do relocate, it will affect their livelihoods and will hassle them with moving and starting over). Second, some officials side with them (squatters) and let them stay there illegally (official sees them as potential voters), even if it places their lives in danger. It’s a mindset of survival, though with illegal means. The government has a hard time building infrastructures also for these people to relocate, let alone convince them to relocate. It’s tricky business. You’re totally right about the drainage system though – it sucks. Esp. the Manila drainage system.

    So see, your plan maybe good, but it will take a couple of years of planning, assurance in accountability, and most of all honesty in the part of the government for these things to happen. It will also take time to convince people to do the right things, since, I do agree that people don’t care about the environment, esp. the ones in the city… Like, they’re so used to the pollution and feel entitled to complain about it when it causes floods and blame the government. It’s a really two-faced reality.

    However, as a Filipino, I really do hope that we’ll achieve these things in the long run, after all these issues in our country are done and over with (hope the corruption trials finish and that bitch JLN goes to jail where she belongs!).

  21. Leo says:

    This is definitely must be read by all gov’t agencies particularly the NDRRMC! I will definitely share this very informative solutions to the problems of disaster preparedness and management.

  22. farmer says:

    Whatever you think it’s all useless and worthless. as far as i know there is no safest place to live in this world. the safest place is in the hands of the Lord God almighty.

  23. Have you ever read of project noah, dear?

  24. Architect Rodger C. Abad says:

    Good reading, as an Architect and a student of Urban Planning, the problem really boils down to political will. The political will to to ensure proactive disaster planning at all levels( local and national), the political will to strongly enforce existing building laws and to update these laws when necessary. The political will to relocate informal settlers away from permanent danger zones disregarding the political dictum that these informal settlers are rich sources of votes during elections. The political will to come with up one civil defense agency based on the models from other countries such as Japan, etc, whose main function is to save lives and make the Philippines a safe place to live thru proactive planning, wise use of funds and resources.

  25. Believe me Brooklyn, New Orleans and Kuwait are FAR more dangerous….I have lived in Manila for 5 years now…this is hardly a dangerous place….

  26. dobother says:

    yet these stupid sh!ts continue to vote for f*ckers who are notoriously and blatantly corrupt… i mean look at our senate and congress, that sh!t is a f*cking a circus composed of idiots and morons. binay = imbecile, ejercito = imbecile, estrada = imbecile, honasan = self righteous imbecile, marcos = son of the dictator who raped, tortured, murdered and bankrupt your country, WTF!, revilla = stay in the movies, sotto = stay in noontime shows, lapid = wow philippines, wtf!?!?! ,enrile = satan spawn. and these are just the senators, i won’t even get to congress as it even more depressing. elected local officials will drive you to madness. i’d rather have chimpanzees run this country than those cockroach scums in office right now.

  27. Maris says:

    It takes natural disaster to kill thousands of Filipinos but in the US over 25k are murdered each year by people… I wouldn’t live anywhere else, we have the best people in the world!

  28. ImProudToBePinoy says:

    Wow! Look at the experts! Hindi niyo alam kung anong dinaranas ng mga kabababayan naming nasalanta ng bagyo, kaya sana lang kung wala rin naman kayong maitutulong sa bansa namin eh manahimik na lang kayo! Oo, totoo lahat ng sinasabi niyo tungkol sa bansa namin. Maling pamamalakad at corrupt na gobyerno, kawalan ng disiplina etc pero wala namang magagawa ang mga pinagsasasabi niyo sa panahong ito na ang dapat eh nagtutulungan imbes naghahanap ng masisisi. Ang gagaling niyo magsalita, bakit kayo ano bang mga nagawa niyo para sa bansa niyo? Kesa inaaksaya niyo ang panahon niyo sa mga ganitong criticisms tumulong na lang kayo or kung hindi man manahimik na lang.

    • Cosmological says:

      There was a time way back when I was 8 or 9 nine years of age that I couldn’t wait to take a trip to Baclaran by way of Edsa/Santolan (old residence was 11 avenue / Murphy Cubao). I walked with a friend on EDSA…that was fun because, if you guys remember back in the mid sixties and maybe earlier there was a beach in and around Baclaran. There was Dewey Blvd. before the name changed. To me the most exciting thing that I loved in the area of Baclaran/ Dewey Blvd. was the goldfishes there were so plenty of them. This experience of mine was priceless…I never stop loving the Philippines. I am hoping that in the future I will come and visit again. Filipinos like me are hard working people and “will” do the right things for the good of others. But for now your help is needed and we thank you… From Canada! saying Mabuhay ang Philippines!

      Hope I did not break your thread!

  29. Jimee Panelo says:

    What could be more simple after evaluating the problems? Short term solutions are not effective, long term solutions take a hundred years to be enjoyed. My generation has only few decades left to enjoy life. Don’t we have a right to be happy and feel secured? In this case, Internationalism could save more than nationalism mindset. Simple solution: When all else fail, migrate!

  30. Ejet Ramos says:

    i hate to agree with you but sad to say…. you are correct (sigh!)

  31. Red Sox Katipunero says:

    Dear Joe America,

    I am a first time reader of your blog thanks to GMA7. Your observation of the nuclear air raid shelters is absolutely correct. The 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination is offering a retrospective of how imminent total destruction of the US was a daily reality. The iconic radiation signage can still be seen in the 5 boroughs of NY.

    I was in a discussion with FilAms last night on how to respond to the Yolanda tragedy. I offered up this analysis on the chronic lack of preparedness at the LGU level which is systemic in nature.

    a) The LGU Code of 1991 enshrined and ensured autonomy at the local level;
    b) This was well meaning enough except for 2 factors 1) the 3 year election cycle which is part of 1987 Constitution
    and 2) the devolution of former national agency functions to the local government.

    Item b) is now creating large scale consequences that I am sure were neither intended nor anticipated when Sen. Pimentel was championing the bill. Incidentally, he authored the bill because he wanted to ensure that we would never again fall into the Marcos era trap of the Office of the President singlehandedly favoring which provinces were to develop and those condemned to stagnation.

    Deficiency A.

    The 3 year cycle creates tremendous volatility and short-sightedness at the LGU level. It has been said that a mayor or governor only has one year out of his 3 year term to conceptualize, approve, and implement his project. This is because year 1 is spent figuring out who in the LGU staff are competent but disloyal, loyal but incompetent, outright lazy.

    Year 2 is spent on making a project happen.

    Year 3 is spent on planning how to win in the upcoming election

    Deficiency B.

    The mayor will bring in trusted associates or political appointees to fill in all the executive departments under his watch. These posts will range from city admin, health and safety, public markets, etc. etc. It is totally foolish to believe that a mayor Ieven in Metro Manila) will have the smarts or awareness to realize that he needs to bring in someone to run disaster management with the skill set or comprehensive prior experience to run a mini-FEMA

    Deficiency C.

    The LGU code and its devolution of national agency responsibilities means that former departments which housed the expertise are now stymied from telling the LGU what to do – all in the name of preserving autonomy. This is the reason why Bureau of Fisheries and Waterways cannot tell Marikina to stop putting malls on the riverbanks, or why Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board cannot enforce the building code.

    This is the reason why every disaster is always a headless chicken affair where the ABS-CBN and GMA-7 chronically have to organize the relief effort and why the perennial question of overseas Filipinos is where to send aid or money…

    Due to climate change, we have to face the reality that we will face 1-2 Yolanda level calamities annually. Donor fatigue will quickly set in if donors begin to realize that the country has no capacity to learn from its deficiencies and implement paradigm-shifting solutions.

  32. Meg says:

    I’ve lived in Hawaii for a few years in the Big Island specifically. Hilo which is a place in the. Big Island has had two enormous deadly tsunamis tucked in their history. Aside from their sea walls guarding their bay they have incorporated a civil defense system. They have placed signs everywhere pointing to the evacuation places. They have placed civil defense sirens and continuously educate the local populace by doing random exercises on radio and tv. I believe we can use some of these to help educate our people.

  33. Val says:

    Thanks. I found it very enlightening to read. I grew up in coastal community in Gubat, Sorsogon where the environment (in my childhood) was so beautiful compared to anywhere I’ve seen in the world. However, through the years people gradually destroyed the vast mangrove forests and the government allowed (or connived with) them.

    I cannot count how many times our family experienced super typhoons and how many times our nipa house were blown out completely, but we have always survived and recovered. So I am totally confident that the Filipinos will survive and recover from these disasters. Thanks to the very generous countries and foreign companies and individuals who are sending huge amounts of aid. I hope people from the world will also give for prevention and protection and not just wait for deaths before they help.

    Filipinos will recover from this great human tragedy, as it did from the disasters brought by colonization in the past and imperialism in the present of those rich countries whose people assume that their country is safer. Yes, their country might be safer, but in other countries they cause deaths multiple in numbers compared to the number of deaths brought by natural calamities. The number of deaths in Leyte and Samar is very few compared to the number of Filipinos killed by Americans during the Filipino-American war, and much fewer compared to the number of Filipinos who died for America in the second world war. The number of houses destroyed by Haiyan is few compared to the number of houses destroyed during the second world ward. Yet Filipinos have always recovered and will always recover. Again, thanks to the help from our brothers around the world… I like to mention that in return to your generosity, millions of Filipino overseas workers and servants will continue to help you develop your economy. Thank you.

  34. rolito c. ponte says:

    If it wouldn’t be too much, I would like to share it with you the spiritual message regarding what’s all are happening in our world today, most specially to the country belittled most of the time, and that is the Philippines. If we have to look back the words written in the Holy Scriptures, particularly in Amos 9:5-6; And the Lord God of hosts is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned. It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name. With these declarations back in the past, the Lord of host makes it to happen the words he had spoken before, because of the fact that his word has the power to make it happen, because he is the God who cannot lie. Again in Job 9:5-6; Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger. Which shaketh the earth out of her place, the pillars thereof tremble. Should there be doubt upon his words, that you will ignore the things that is happening around? In Jeremiah 25:32-33; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground. Is it not that the magnitude of disaster which continuously besets the world today is exactly what the Lord was referring to in the Holy Scriptures? Come to think about it, even Prophet Isaiah speaks about how people will become in the last days. In Isaiah 57:1- The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. With all of these declarations from the Holy Scriptures, no one can come up to blame one from the other. What matter most is how people became upon the face of the earth in this last days. To whom those that spoke about the Philippines, though as little as we may be, God has something to show, a message we oath all to consider – that he uses a small and worthless country such as the Philippines, to be his example to let the world know how powerful his words are.

    Ian Aine Lepo (fb)

  36. hello joe. how about if we take your stuff, mash up with this–bCi1gz4XtmJwQsQOtsO6E/edit then build a checklist/ paper for PH exec+legis to hammer out?

    good stuff, boss.

  37. Ram J says:

    Will we ever learn from our past mistakes

  38. Hi Joe! This is an amazing read: very well thought out, researched, plainly and unpretentiously delivered. I think these are solutions that come from the top, can easily be monitored by the concerned public, and bring about changes to the system, not the people.

    I was looking around for solutions that the Philippines could start addressing to prevent another disaster such as this for my blog post, and decided to link to yours. I hope you don’t mind:

  39. Carmina says:

    Joe America, I can vote you for president in the Philippines! I enjoyed and learned a lot from your articles. I will be following your column. I grew up here in the states since I was 13 years old, now I’m -3, hehe! I’m sad to say it but I don’t know anything about the politics at home. When I read your column, I was amazed. Our government here in the states is confusing enough for me, but I need to follow and learn about my government at home. I’m planning to retire and live back home, I hope by them it will show some improvement. Thanks! Carmina

    • artemism89 says:

      Hey there. I hope you don’t take this negatively but I do hope you don’t actually cast your vote on a blogger so easily after reading a fairly long educational blog post. I mean, what’s mostly so wrong about the Pinoy mentality is that we’re quite impressionable. No offense to Mr Joe here. But we don’t know enough about him whether he qualifies to run and manage a nation that has centuries old self-esteem issues and pretty disorganized citizens. So I hope you don’t just say “I can vote you for president in the Philippines!” just to anyone. It’s either you take our national problems so lightly or that you’re cruel enough to burden a random stranger with our country’s issues.

      • Carmina says:

        It was a humble joke! Like I said, I’m trying to understand more about our government ! Where is your sense of humor? Or common sense? You really think I was asking Joe to run? Grabe ka naman!

        • Carmina says:

          Your stated ” you can’t just vote anyone for government ” just because? How do you explain Manny Pacquiao? That’s just an example, so please, before you get all upset about my friendly comment, think first kabayan!

  40. artemism89 says:

    We need a strong proactive political will and the decency to recognize one when it happens right in front of our nose. Surprisingly, some politicians do bear worthwhile projects. But when these honest to goodness politicians end their term, the successors get some crazy idea that they should be more original. So they discontinue these good projects just to spurn their predecessors. And do something like painting the city firetrucks with ” A love project of Mayor Whatshisname”.

    But as for us, civilians, the best way to secure a nation of exemplary citizens, is to go home and love our families as Mother Teresa said. And not just the soppy love we see on TV. Maybe what we all need now is tough love.

  41. Charles says:

    Where does God come into the equation? Relying on prayers and divine intervention, is a cheap but useless solution. Get of your knees and take some positive action. If the church wants to help turn your Churches into ‘Disaster’ shelters.

  42. Simond Crewferd says:

    It’s dangerous because the government don’t take actions.

  43. Vin Oronce says:

    You took a look at websites. And made your hard conclusions from there. This page has more speculation than fact.

  44. Dr Gaudencio Abellanosa says:

    DISASTER? “God always forgive, man sometimes forgive, and nature never forgive”

  45. A. Campos says:

    Hey Aussie Burka did Liberal’s John Howard buy himself a multi-million dollar home when he left politics. He never moved from his original home and still lives there. NOW, what did Labor ex Prime Ministers do, bought multi-million dollar homes. Get your facts straight. Jealous?

  46. mike says:

    the philippines,though, technically a democracy, is in my opinion a feudal society.. each public official has their own turf where they earn as much money as they can in a short amount of time so they can have a retirement package when they lose or reinvest their earnings into the next election. many areas like in metro manila already instituted zoning a long time ago.. but areas that were identified as catch basin were still erected with residential villages like the one in marikina. i think short of a radical social revolution, we will continue with our ways regardless of changes in constitutions, administrations etc..

  47. I decry all Filipinos who tolerate, nay patronize, this Ugly American who uses the name of America in vain to mock their nation. Where were you Joe America when terrorists from Saudi Arabia destroyed the Twin Tower and Saddam Hussein got blamed for the devastation wrought by Osama Bin Ladin and fabled Iraq qas turned into what it is now? Where were you when Lousiana got destroyed? Where were you when children got massacred in Sandy Hook? Where were you when Hurricane Sandy lashed at New Jersey which, without Obama and Christie, oculd have been another wasteland? Stop giving unsolicited advice, back up by Filipinos who betray their own country by tolerating your madness. And by the way, you are a horrible writer. But that is your own prerogative. You should write more so future generations will know how horrible a writer you are.
    That, in itself, is enough punishment.

  48. Open your hearts and your wallet. Donate to the Red Cross.
    Enough of wheelchair analysts.
    Wheelchair analysts, like bad poets, destroy their own homeland.

  49. Debbie says:

    You have many good points and you researched well. I just wish you didnt cursed or hated us or called us the land of fools because not everyone here are fools. Our population is about 98 million and to generarized it to such negative phrase is just unfair. Many people wants change and are trying to rally on it but rally just aint enough. It takes another revolution which is yet to happen. And it needs a good influencial leader to start it so all people would pay attention and join. But so far the good groups have yet found. But who’s to fire among the government officals when almost all of them are corrupt? Last revolt for was a failure when they change Pres. Estrada to Pres. Arroyo because the choice was another corrupt. The only choice of the people now is to correct the system and the framework of our corrupt government thats why we need to abolish PDAF. And thats what many in Manila are trying to do.


  51. Sixto M says:

    My heart bleeds – so much knowledge, so much man power, so much passion and love for the country, but no one wants to make the first move.

    Enough is enough.

    Another storm will come tomorrow, another earthquake will swallow a community, thousands more will die and things will repeat itself. People will be lining up in the street begging for food and water, dead bodies will bury themselves, barangays will again allow people to build bahay kubo by the the foot of the mountain or a meter away from the shore.

    If we care then we have to act to make a difference.

    What happened in Samar and Leyte, are predictable. When Ninoy days ahead of Yolanda entrusted local government and national agencies to act so as to ensure that Zero storm fatality – he should put those officials into trial for gross negligence of their duties.

    You and I must act – today.

  52. I am with you already, Sixto M. Kung dalawa na tayo, surely you and I can enlist some more. TITO GALLARDO

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