TACLOBAN - Almost a decade after typhoon Yolanda devastated parts of the Philippines in 2023, no less than Tacloban City’s own mayor has said that 70% of the houses given to Yolanda survivors by the government are “substandard.”
On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – codename Yolanda – in the Philippines killed at least 6,300 people and wiped out entire communities. Immediately after, governments around the world pledged around 73.3 billion pesos (1.3 billion dollars) worth of aid to survivors.
With the donations, the disaster was an opportunity for Tacloban – one of the hardest hit areas – to reboot in a sustainable and democratic way, and perhaps even become a model of development, especially with global warming and its stronger, more frequent storms.
Pumapodcast partnered with Danwatch, an investigative news outlet based in Denmark, to help us track European assistance. The story focuses on the Yolanda Permanent Housing Program, a vital component of the government's rehabilitation efforts.
Under this programme, ten thousand families have been moved away from the coast – away from the city center and away from their livelihoods – and into housing that even the local government admits is substandard. Nearly four thousand of these families are still waiting for their houses.
Through the interviews, expert insights, and the analysis of the situation on the ground, we unravel the complexities of rehabilitation efforts, revealing a bitter reality, far from the "better" that was promised.
Part of fieldwork for this podcast series was conducted in Tacloban City: we interviewed the key figures in the city. Among those were local Tacloban officials, representatives from the National Housing Authority (NHA), and a professor who specialises in government rehabilitation initiatives. These interviews were helpful in providing insight into the various facets of the rehabilitation process, as well as the challenges and successes that have emerged since Typhoon Haiyan.
One of the most moving experiences during that trip was the interviews with people living and working by the shores of Tacloban City. We listened to their stories and learned about the struggles they faced as they strived to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. These interviews bring to light the strength and resilience of the affected communities.
We also visited several housing resettlement sites, where we interviewed residents who had been relocated in the wake of the typhoon. These conversations offer a window into their experiences, their satisfaction with their new housing arrangements, and the level of support they received from the government.
In the Philippines, the head and other officials of the presidential office created for the rehabilitation of Haiyan refused any interview on the subject.
The requested documents would have been the basis of a reportorial account of the Haiyan international donations. The lack of substantial data prompted the team to change the original premise for the series.
In 2018, the Duterte administration stopped maintaining the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), the online portal of information on calamity aid and assistance (both in cash and in kind_ that were received by the Philippines from other countries, multilateral organizations, and those sent through Philippine embassies abroad. The online portal can no longer be accessed.
And while the FAiTH link to the website of the Republic of the Philippines’ official journal can still be accessed, it only contains an overview of the pledges and donations, the full report cannot be accessed.
Photo credit: Bernard Testa / Pumapodcast.
"Facing Cancabato Bay, this house in Barangay 68 was destroyed by Super Typhoon Yolanda ten years ago. The homeowners have abandoned it, but allowed a family to stay on as caretakers. The family has chosen to return to this coastal village and inhabit this damaged structure instead of living in the resettlement housing projects away from their source of livelihood, mostly fishing."
- 10 years after Typhoon Haiyan | Episode 1: Build Back Better?, Youtube, 07/11/2023
- 10 years after Typhoon Haiyan | Episode 1: Build Back Better?, Spotify, 07/11/2023
- The Philippines
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