Yolanda’s aftermath and Autonomous Initiative (Philippines)


Yolanda is one of the most destructive typhoons to have visited the Philippine archipelago. It pummeled the Visayas region, particularly Leyte and some parts of Cebu and Panay areas. Super typhoon Yolanda left the archipelago with thousands of dead people, commercial and residential structures destroyed, power knocked-out; agriculture and livelihoods are washed-out that caused billions of losses. Destruction is so extensive that it caused unimaginable effect to the survivors.


Government’s Response caused more devastation to the people

The Philippine archipelago is in the frontline of calamity brought by storms. It is a common knowledge impossible to miss especially by the government which is supposed to be the authority in terms of preparation and rehabilitation. The huge number of dead people scattered in Leyte is attributable to the incapacity of the government to install preparatory mechanism to lessen casualties, the Philippine government did not learn from our past experience of havoc due to storm surges.

Reports in relation to looting and violence in Tacloban city and other municipalities are effects of dirty politics, neglect and corruption. The inability of the government to provide systematic and effective respones made people behave violently; shortage of food is not an issue. The global attention is on the Philippines for the past few weeks; donations and support in terms of cash, in kinds and in services are overwhelming.
Ships fully loaded with goods are lined-up in ports of Cebu and Manila; billions of funds are pouring in through government and corporate accounts (media); despite this, victims are scrambling to get food. The feeling of scarcity and food insecurity forced people to behave violently.

This calamity is one of the most devastating witnessed by the global community, the spirit of solidarity is heartwarming and very effective in terms of recovery and rehabilitation, but the government’s corrupt practices undermined this solidarity; two weeks after the horrifying event, the people in Leyte remained hungry, homeless and seeking medical support; useless and hazardous materials are everywhere. Prices of basic commodities increased almost double such as food and medicine; lack of power supply is a lucrative business that exploits the victims. Local business offered high rate of charging services to the people for their emergency lights and mobile phones.

Generally, it is the government’s inability to respond swiftly and appropriately makes the situation much more devastating.

In this context, Mobile Anarchist School decided to act and conducted direct action; we set an action that could elude government’s corrupt influence. We gathered support from Local Autonomous Network (LAN), independent collectives and groups and international network.

Power is crucial in terms of rehabilitation and recovery process, so we focused our efforts in consolidating resources to complete a 150 watts solar set-up to provide free charging services to community to power up emergency lights, flashlights and mobile phones. After a week of soliciting support, we procured 160 watts solar panel, 10 ampere solar control charger, 500 watts inverter and 12 volts/50 ampere starter battery.

Inter-Island travelling

On the 20th of November we started travelling; our crew with four volunteers travelled packed with supplies good for a week; we also prepared packages of relief for 15 families. We made sure that our equipment is working and in good condition. Bus ride is the most practical and cheapest way to reach Leyte. We left Cubao Quezon City at 9 AM, we negotiated the road connecting Manila, Laguna and, Quezon; we took ferry to cross the sea between Sorsogon and Samar.

As we travel, we witnessed the extensive damage in many municipalities in Leyte; Yolanda’s onslaught starts right after we crossed San Juanico, a bridge connecting Samar and Leyte. The situation in Tacloban is relatively peaceful, the people are trying to collect and salvage remaining useful materials to rebuild their homes at the back draft of heavily devastated city. We could not find any regular trip so we rented an expensive jeep going to Municipality of San Miguel. We reached Barangay Libtong, San Miguel on the 21st of November at four in the afternoon.

Solar Charging Operations

Day 1

Our actual operation started on the 22nd of November, we accommodated at least 40 units of flashlights and mobile phones and we reserve more units to be charged on the following day. We conducted informal discussions with the families and let them talk and share their miseries, grief and difficulties. Unfortunately, our plan to give a free call and free internet access for communication purposes did not materialize due to lack of network signals.

Day 2

Sunlight was poor due to low pressure area that brought rain; we decided to stop the operation to charge our battery for effective charging operations. We arranged interviews and discussions with localities and barangay officials to gather data. More phones and flashlights come in for charging but we stopped accepting to on the afternoon and asked people to come back because we can accommodate only very limited units.

Day 3

We resume charging operations; more people are coming in waiting to be served. Good thing that sun shone entire day and we able to charged at least 30 units. We reduced number of units to avoid under voltage status. We observed the process of relief distribution of barangay officials and Philippines air force.

Day 4

We keep accepting phones and flashlights but we are able to charge limited units. The capacity of our solar set-up could only accommodate 30 units per day to avoid draining our battery.

Day 5

We conducted an orientation for local volunteers who will maintain our solar equipment and will facilitate solar charging services. We made sure that volunteers learn the simple process of operation and maintenance to continue providing free charging.

We are set to travel going to Ormoc City, from Ormoc we took ferry going to Cebu where we will catch a plane going to Manila. We need to be in Quezon City in time because we have a climate conference with Evangelical network.

Ways forward

The incompetence and corruption in the government proved to be more devastating than the super typhoon itself, we call on the people, collectives, private sectors and autonomous network to act directly. Avoid government process because goods and supplies will just end up in storage facilities accessible only to authorities. There are plenty of reports with regard to anomalies, we actually witnessed how the authority controls the basic goods for their own purposes. Thousands of socks of rice and goods are being kept by the authorities and being distributed only in very limited supplies to the families who could not access basic commodities.

In our part, we would like to expand our set-up of solar power unit equipped with 300 watts solar panel, 30 ampere solar control charger, 2500 inverter and two units of 3SM maintenance and deep cycle batteries to accommodate more units of mobile phones and flashlights. We will organize a Solar Guerilla Autonomous Response Team that will immediately react in every calamity and power black-out situation.

In the first week of December we are planning to organize a camp that will provide relief, medical missions and stress debriefing activities, the extent of operations will depend on the support and participation from immediate and extended Network.

Any queries or donation related to this initiative please contact: aschool (at) riseup.net