Three typhoons rock the Philippines, militant students strike

Student protest in front of Ateneo de Manila University, Nov. 17.

As if extrajudicial killings, the worst COVID-19 infection rate in Southeast Asia and a renewed government effort of red-tagging weren’t enough, the Filipino people were struck by three typhoons within the space of three weeks.

  • October 25: Typhoon Molave (called Quinto in the Philippines) made landfall at San Miguel Island and tore across Luzon for two days.
  • October 31: Super Typhoon Goni (or Rolly) struck the Bicol region, very close to where Molave made landfall.
  • November 11: Super Typhoon Vamco (or Ulysses) hit the Quezon region on Nov. 11, just north of where the first two typhoons made landfall.

Following the destruction of these three storms, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports:

  • 73 deaths
  • 24 injured
  • 19 people still missing
  • 283,656 people are in evacuation centers
  • 82,900 people remain displaced
  • 50 villages remain isolated 
  • Over $165 million in infrastructure damage across 8 regions
  • Only 60 out of 316 municipalities have had power restored

Many of the working and oppressed masses of the Philippines have accepted that help is not coming. Despite the millions of U.S. dollars poured into military and police aid, none of it will be utilized for disaster relief or rescue. 

Some of the most calamitous consequences of the storms were those that were avoidable and unnecessary — those that can be traced back to the actions, or lack thereof, of the Philippines government. 

President Rodrigo Duterte’s persecution and subsequent shutdown of the ABS-CBN news service meant that entire regions, where ABS-CBN was the only news service available, went without any prior warning of the incoming typhoons. 

The budget for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has been dramatically slashed over time, specifically by 4 billion Philippine pesos (or more than 82 million USD) in 2020. Writer JC Punongbayan also comments on the funds allocated for the government’s war on activists: 

“But, at the same time, he said they won’t likely touch the P19.1 billion that will be allocated for the National Task Force to End Communist Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) — an anti-insurgency committee engaged in red-tagging and propaganda. That P19 billion is no joke, and the whole amount will be much better repurposed to augment disaster relief efforts, as well as the COVID-19 response.”

Students strike back

Youth and student groups called for a national academic strike against the criminal negligence of the Duterte administration. Students at University of the Philippines campuses, the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of Santo Tomas and many more submitted pledges to withhold all submissions of enrollment requirements until their demands are met. 

The demands:

  • National academic break and semester end
  • Urgent calamity aid and pandemic response
  • Ouster of the Duterte administration
  • Fair wages for university staff and faculty

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque threatened: “Babagsak po kayo,” or, “you will fail.” Duterte threatened to cut off funding to the University of the Philippines, red-tagging the university in the process: “Sure. UP? Fine. Stop studying. I will stop the funding. You don’t do anything except recruit communists. You study, and then you criticize the government. You are so lucky. Don’t threaten me, because I will oblige you.” 

Alongside the student protests, at least 134 faculty members of the University of Philippines-Diliman issued a statement calling for the end of the semester. 

The situation is very fluid. One way to follow developments is to tune into the hashtag #YouthStrikePH on all social media platforms. Whatever happens, this action led by youth and students, bringing together the workers and faculty of the universities and surrounding communities, is a remarkable example of mass action.