Multiple disasters hit the Philippines in the past 4 months affecting about 5.8 million people across eight out of its 17 administrative regions. The consecutive disasters since October 2019 has overwhelmed the capacity of the government to support the affected population. From the typhoon and volcanic eruption in Luzon, followed by the strong typhoon in Visayas, and the series of earthquakes in Mindanao, the affected population had struggled to meet their basic needs such as food, restore their lost assets and much more, recover from the devastating impact of these disasters. The poorest households from marginalized and vulnerable sectors bear the heaviest brunt of these disasters.
On the evening of December 2, 2019, Category 3 Typhoon Kammuri (local name : Tisoy) hit the province of Sorsogon, and made further landfalls across central Philippines that affected almost 2 million people. In its wake, Kammuri left four casualties, and damaged 558,844 houses. The combination of high winds, sustained heavy rainfall and storm surges have impacted vulnerable communities across northern Samar to southern and northern parts of Luzon. Agricultural and infrastructure damages were estimated to reach US$118 million. Previous typhoons have also caused significant loss of assets throughout the year, aggravating further the burden of poor farmers to recover entirely.
Almost two weeks after, on December 15, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake with epicenter in Matanao, Davao del Sur, affecting the same areas experienced several magnitude 6+ earthquakes since October. UN OCHA analysis reports about 838,000 people living in the areas worst affected by the earthquakes. Many of those displaced are living in makeshift tents in open spaces near their homes or in evacuation centers. Currently, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reports that about 130,000 people still living in evacuation centers or temporary homes. In total, 36 people were killed and over 770 people injured by collapsing structures, falling debris, and other earthquake-related traumas. The physiological trauma of the affected population is aggravated by continuous aftershocks. A total of 47,635 damaged houses were reported with rehabilitation plans still uncertain. An estimated US$37 million will be needed for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged schools.
On December 24, less than ten days after the fourth earthquake in Mindanao, Typhoon Phanfone (locally named Ursula) made its first landfall in Salcedo, Eastern Samar. On Christmas day, the typhoon knocked out telecommunication services and power lines, uprooted trees, inundated farm lands and caused significant damage to infrastructures and houses made of light materials. Subsequently, it also made 7 landfalls and brought strong winds, storm surges and heavy flooding in the provinces of Leyte, Eastern Samar, Biliran, Northern Iloilo, Aklan, Antique and Oriental Mindoro before exiting in the West Philippines Sea. Many of the affected regions were the same areas already ravaged by Typhoon Kammuri (Tisoy) three weeks earlier. Typhoon Phanfone (Ursula) followed a similar path as typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and had affected 3.2 million people in 3,073 barangays, leaving 57 dead, 369 injured and 6 persons missing. Moreover, it destroyed 530,696 houses, and partially damaged 467 schools and 32 health facilities. The NDRRMC estimated the damage to infrastructure and agriculture to reach over US$69 million. A total of 24 municipalities in 9 provinces were declared under state of calamity. Millions of affected people welcomed the new year in either evacuation centers or makeshift shelters made from the typhoon's debris. To date, farmers and fisherfolks in affected communtiies are still in dire need of livelihood support to recover.
On January 12 this year, the Taal volcano located in CALABARZON (Region IVA) became restive after 43 years of inactivity. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised Alert Level 4 (hazardous eruption imminent) from Alert Level 1 (abnormal) in a short span of 12 hours, due to the frequent phreatic explosions and magmatic eruption causing giant ash plume that rained ashfall in Batangas, Laguna and Cavite provinces, as well as parts of Metro Manila. DOST-PHIVOLCS reiterated the total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas within the 14-km radius from Taal Main Crater and along the Pansipit River Valley where fissuring has been observed. Residents were not allowed to return to their homes after a lockdown order was implemented in 8 municipalities. Several municipalities have become ghost towns after huge volume of ashfall made the towns unsafe and unliveable. As of January 20, the volcano characterized steady steam emission and weak explosions (ash plumes 500 to 1,000 meters tall), with 725 volcanic earthquakes plotted in Taal region, which according to PHIVOLCS, likely signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice. At least 282,021 people were reportedly displaced in the provinces of Batangas, Quezon, Laguna and Cavite, excluding those who are not registered in the government designated evacuation centers, those who are being hosted by relatives and other communities. An estimate of over US$ 64 million worth of damage to agriculture was reported. Since January 12, Phivolcs has downgraded Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 thus, several communities outside the 7km permanent danger zone were allowed to return home. But even at this level, there could be sudden steam-driven and even weak phreatomagmatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall and lethal volcanic gas expulsions which may pose great danger to people living within the vicinity.