Lessons from three disasters in the Philippines

Lessons from three disasters in the Philippines
VERA Files
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Lessons from three disasters in the Philippines

Countless environmental disasters in the Philippines have caused death, destruction and displacement. They have wiped out villages, altered landscapes and deprived communities of livelihoods. Long afterward, the affected communities continued to experience untold misery, uncertainty, health problems and economic losses. Journalists know this only too well. Many have covered one disaster after another in a span of months, sometimes even weeks. These disasters are front-page stories or top items in television news programs when they happen and in the days immediately after. But slowly they become secondary news until they disappear from the media altogether.

More often than not, these disasters fade from the public’s memory, along with the lessons people ought to learn from them.

In an effort to address that gap, VERA Files, under a project with Internews, revisited three environmental cases that have gone "cold" to see what changes have occurred in the years since those disasters took place and compiled that reporting into this 52-page e-book.

The cases are the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991, massive flooding in Ormoc City in November 1991 and the March 1996 mining spill in Marinduque province, a man-made disaster whose effects continue to impact the local ecosystem and have remained in the veins of its residents to this day.

The stories in the e-book are written by journalists based on visits to these places that were first published on the VERA Files website. They document the stories of people who survived the wrath of nature: men and women who fled flooded villages in the nick of time; families that lost homes, livelihoods and a part of their past; and people who continue to suffer from various ailments caused by a toxic environment. 

Scroll through the text to learn how these disasters played out and how the communities affected by them have learned to survive and adapt.

Lead photo: Mt Pinatubo eruption in June 1991 / File photo from Phivolcs