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Proletarian issue 57 (December 2013)
Editorial: Typhoon Haiyan – a disaster compounded by imperialism
Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda was one of the deadliest ever to hit the southeast Asian nation. It struck in early November, and has left a trail of suffering and devastation, whose effects will doubtless be felt for years to come.

According to still incomplete figures, at least 5,500 people are dead. Around 15,000 people are thought to be missing and the possibility that they may yet be alive decreases with each passing day. Tens of thousands more are injured and tens of millions of people, in mostly impoverished parts of the country, have been adversely affected by the typhoon and its aftermath.

Speaking of the great famine that hit that country in the 1840s, there is an Irish saying that ‘God sent the potato blight but the English sent the famine’. Typhoon Haiyan is another example of how a natural disaster has been grossly compounded by imperialist depredations.

The increasing prevalence and severity of such natural disasters is widely believed to be connected with climate change. Yet the developed capitalist countries – those most responsible for the problem – meeting at an international conference in Warsaw at the very time that the typhoon hit, once again refused to shoulder their responsibilities to the majority of humanity and the planet by agreeing to realistic emissions cuts. As even the New York Times put it:

From the time a scientific consensus emerged that human activity was changing the climate, it has been understood that the nations that contributed least to the problem would be hurt the most.” (‘Growing clamour about inequities of climate crisis’ by Steven Lee Myers and Nicholas Kulish, 16 November 2013)

What the US imperialists have rushed to do – under the guise of lending a humanitarian ‘helping hand’, of course – is to put their boots back on Filipino soil as part of their strategic attempt to encircle socialist China and to defeat the Filipino people’s war.

Under the guise of ‘relief work’, some 13,000 US military personnel and some 50 US warships and military aircraft, including the nuclear-powered super-carrier USS George Washington, have been dispatched to the former US colony, along with more than 1,000 Japanese troops. The US was forced to close its giant military bases in the Philippines in 1992, but the reactionary government has hosted 72 visits by US warships and submarines to Subic Bay in the first six months of this year alone.

Yet despite this massive military presence, the New York Times reported:

But while hard-hit urban areas are finally getting adequate supplies to stave off hunger and thirst, the region’s rural hinterland has been largely left to fend for itself ...

Rural areas, however, are still neglected. Perhaps most desperate are the far-flung islets whose residents, isolated from the country’s main islands, already live from hand to mouth.” (‘Relief supplies pour into Philippines, but remote areas still suffer’ by Andrew Jacobs, 16 November 2013)

The New People’s Army, by contrast, has declared a unilateral ceasefire and is focusing all its efforts on mobilising the people to help themselves in rebuilding their lives. A local chapter of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) noted:

We condemn the gross incompetence and unreadiness of the Aquino government, even though weather forecasts had already warned days in advance of the category 4 superstorm and the expected massive flooding from the storm surge ...

There are more than 10,000 military and police troops in Eastern Visayas, but the Aquino regime is loath to shift them away from ‘counterinsurgency’ operations and make them actually useful by clearing roads, building shelters, repairing infrastructure, and restoring agricultural production.

A true end to the misery of the Filipino masses will only come with the victory of the revolutionary forces led by the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the NDFP.
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