Is Ferdinand Marcos' Ghost Haunting Typhoon Haiyan Relief? - Pacific Standard

Is Ferdinand Marcos' Ghost Haunting Typhoon Haiyan Relief?

After ousting a dictator, Filipinos built a government that skewed local. Will natural disaster strain that system?
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The remains of a home destroyed by the storm in Tacloban City. (PHOTO: TROCAIRE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The remains of a home destroyed by the storm in Tacloban City. (PHOTO: TROCAIRE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

A report from Pete Troilo at DevEx proposes a possible reason for why it's been difficult to get relief supplies into many regions of the typhoon-slammed Philippines. Traveling with an aid convoy toward a spot north of Cebu, he claims part of the difficulty has come from the unusually de-centralized political system, part of the new laws put in place after the fall of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"Some Filipinos naturally recoil at any government move that resembles martial law, even in drastic emergency situations like Typhoon Haiyan."

Though the central government in Manila has declared vast areas of coastline as disaster areas, it's not clear that means much in a place where most of the important aid-delivery systems fall under local jurisdictions. Local government is particularly powerful in the country. That's in large part a legacy of the Marcos years, Troilo claims, which created a lingering distrust of the central administration in Manila, and particularly any sign of military involvement in local events. Unfortunately, the military is the only organization with the ships, trucks, aircraft, and people to mount a complex logistical effort like the post-typhoon relief. "Some Filipinos naturally recoil at any government move that resembles martial law, even in drastic emergency situations like Typhoon Haiyan," he writes.

If the sight of military helicopters overhead makes a lot of people nervous in the country, the current (democratically elected) government "might feel pressure to restore the decentralized model at the soonest possible time."

According to his bio, Troilo used to be an advisor for the Asian Development Bank and and the U.S. government. So you'd figure him to be comfortable with power being in federal hands, particularly for large-scale efforts like disaster response. But the former advisor's observations from the ground skew toward a need to localize the efforts as soon as is practical, because of the local history and sensitivities to a heavy military response run out of Manila. It's a point that hasn't come up elsewhere yet in the aftermath of the typhoon. If Troilo's right, there's a reason people in the region prefer to keep power further from the capital and closer to their local city hall. The problem is, city hall just blew away. Manila's challenge now, it appears, is to convince everyone that the cavalry coming over the hill really are there to save them, not arrest them—this time.

The original report from the ground is here.

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