Filipino poet and editor Marne Kilates criticizes a university professor’s Facebook post comparing the death toll during Supertyphoons Yolanda in 2013 and Lawin in 2016.
In what he labelled as an FYI post, De La Salle University professor and political analyst Dr. Antonio Contreras posted a photo putting Yolanda’s over 6,000 casualties under former President Benigno Aquino and Lawin’s then reported 8 casualties (this has climbed up to 19, as of October 23 reports), under President Rodrigo Duterte.
“FYI. I am not making my own commentary on this, but posting this only for your own analysis and conclusions. Let the debates begin,” Contreras said in his post.
As of posting, Contreras’s FYI post has been shared almost 14,000 times and have been reacted to 17,000 times.
But some netizens who commented on Contreras’ post said that he has to factor in several other things, such as the supertyphoon’s paths and that the presidencies have nothing to do with the number of casualties, adding that the Philippines’ experience during Yolanda has helped improve disaster response under the current administration.
Aside from the netizens above, poet Kilates commented on Contreras’ post, calling his comparison of Yolanda and Lawin’s casualties as something made with “extreme illogic” that made “short-cuts in reasoning” to further glorify their idol, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“THE PICTURE of the Yolanda-Lawin comparison, more or less insinuating the almost-zero-casualty in Lawin as the work of the new administration has been removed by its owner, apparently. (Sorry friends, your comments have disappeared together with the questionable post.) Let the debates begin daw. But I will re-post my comment to point out the extreme illogic of such claims and comparisons which makes short-cuts in reasoning so the Believers can glorify their idol,” Kilates said.
He then went on to repost his earlier comment on a post that was already deleted.
“PROFESSOR BA ito, ‘kamo? Contreras who? Here is what I know (I know because I was partly involved in one of their programs. I’ve seen how our scientists work.) I am not a “pure” PNoy supporter but I can use good information when I find one. (I joined the chorus of criticisms when PNoy blundered. But here is an example of effective work. Let it speak for itself.),” Kilates wrote.
Kilates said that he was involved with some Filipino scientist’s work on Project NOAH, which he credited as one of the factors that helped minimize the number of casualties during Lawin.
“The almost zero-casualty now in any weather disturbance is due to Project NOAH and the intense upgrading and government investment in PAGASA and PHIVOLCS equipment done during the entire term of Pres. Aquino (2010-2016). We are now reaping the benefits of government recognizing the importance of sci-tech and giving full backing to the DOST and its programs then. The new administration and the people benefit from this,” he said.
“They must continue upgrading and investing in meteorological and earthquake detection equipment. Example: DOST has now 770 various kinds of sensors all over the country (previously less than half of that). These sensors range from flood to rain and river basin water-level sensors. Practically all river basins and flood-prone areas of the country have gauges, auto weather stations and the all-important sensors. These are complemented by rain-cloud detecting radars or LiDar (light or laser-using radars, instead of sound) which the country did not have before. Two or more reconnaissance planes actually fly into typhoons (yes they do) to gather all-important data,” he added.
Kilates also mentioned the first satellite ever designed by an all-Filipino group of scientists with the assistance of engineers from Fukuoka University in Japan. He said it “sends back volumes of remote-sensed data not just for disaster readiness but for use in crop protection and other agri purposes, among others.”
All of these scientific developments were completed before the May 2016 elections, he said. And once again, he hit Contreras for making the wrong conclusion.
Kilates also factored in several things that made Yolanda’s effect on the Philippines even more devastating, such as not understanding the language (“storm surge”) used in warning the people.
“Other factors produced the disaster that Yolanda was, not least was that warnings were either not heard or understood, e.g. the term “storm surge.” Language is important. “Daluyong” and “tsunami” are good enough as references,” he said.
If comparison is to be made, Kilates said it should have been about the casualty levels between Tacloban and its neighboring towns.
“The better comparison in the case of Yolanda would be the difference in casualty levels between
Tacloban and other neighboring places that bore the brunt of the storm surge. Guiuan, the first landfall, did not suffer as much in terms of casualties. Another town where the mayor almost forcibly evacuated the people, had almost zero casualty,” he added.
Kilates emphasized that the lower death toll during Lawin is in part thanks to Project NOAH, which was upgraded during Aquino’s time.
“The small number of casualties in Lawin is the exact result of Project NOAH and the DOST upgrading under PNoy’s mandate when he said, after Yolanda, that ‘We should put science to work in order to save lives,’” Kilates said.
In a Business Mirror article, former DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo said that Aquino’s order was to use science to save lives.
“The role of science and technology is important not only in improving life but also in safeguarding life. This was stressed by President Aquino after Typhoon Sendong devastated Cagayan de Oro in 2011 and [Supertyphoon] Yolanda [hit Leyte in 2013]. Science should be put to work to save lives. That is the order of President Aquino to the DOST,” Montejo said.
Kilates pointed out how “science and technology” has become one of the stronger points in Aquino’s administration. He also hit the casualties in the Duterte administration’s war against drugs.
“Now, the ‘war against drugs’ casualties are higher than typhoon casualties: EJK, 3000; Lawin, 8. Where is the science in that? No debate, Contreras-who,” Kilates added.
Contreras responded to those who accused him of spreading misinformation, saying that whatever people have concluded based on his FYI post is their own conclusion, not his.
In Kilates’ post, some netizens commented on Contreras’ denial of any misinformation, accusing him of politicizing the disasters brought by the typhoons.