The Visayas is one among the three geographically combined island groups of the Philippine archepilago. It is located in the central part of the Philippines and comprises 3 out of the 17 administrative regions in the country, namely Western Visayas designated as Region VI, Central Visayas as Region VII, and Eastern Visayas as Region VIII .
The three regions are primarily agricultural regions with rice, corn, coconut, sugarcane and banana as its major crops. Mining , farming and fishing contribute significantly to the economy.
Among the three regions, Central Visayas has the highest population of 6.8 million making it the 5th most populous of the country’s 17 regions, next is Western Visayas with a population of 4.1 million and lastly Eastern Visayas with a population of 1.5 million. Around 49 % of the three region’s population are women while around 51% are male.
Despite the regions’ abundance of resources, poverty is prevalent among the people. The Visayas regions were among the top ten regions in the country with highest poverty incidence . Eastern Visayas ranked 2nd with a 37.4% poverty incidence among families equivalent to 337,221 families or some 1.68 million persons. Western Visayas ranked 8th with 22.8% poverty incidence equivalent to 365,040 families or some 1.82 million persons. And, Central Visayas (Region VII) ranked 9th with 25.7% poverty incidence equivalent to 405,694 families or some 2.02 million persons.
Absence of genuine land reform and national industrialization has stunted real economic growth. Land continue to be monopolized in the hands of a few elite depriving the people access to the primary means of production. Majority of the peasants do not own the land they till and were forced to work under very exploitative conditions. Many were forced to flock to the cities looking for work only to be faced with the reality that there is none. Thus, they become odd jobbers and live under inhuman living conditions in squatter areas only to be faced with the constant threat of their homes being demolished as lands were being classified to prioritize big business interests over the peoples’ right to security of abode. Around 26% or three million are unemployed and underemployed out of the 12 million combined labor force on the three regions. Even those lucky enough to have jobs could hardly make both ends met as wages continue to be pegged at very low rates. Minimum wages in the regions ranges from PhP 220 to PhP327 further widening its gap vis-à-vis daily cost of living for a family of six which is P1,034 as of Dec. 2012.
On the other hand, prices of goods and services continue to rise plunging the people’s lives to further misery. Compounding this are the series of natural disasters that struck the region year after year victimizing the people and pushing them to further destitution.
Just recently, two major disasters hit the region bringing whole scale destruction on people’s lives and properties. The first was the October 15, 2013 earthquake that struck Central Visayas and the second was the November 7, 2013 super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that hit the Visayas regions in less than a month after the earthquake.
Bohol earthquake. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Central Visayas on October 15, 2013 with its epicenter in the municipality of Sagbayan in Bohol island. It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in 23 years with the energy released by the quake equivalent to 32 Hiroshima bombs. According to official reports by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) 222 were reported dead, 8 missing and 976 people were injured while more than 73,000 structures were damaged of which 14,500 were totally destroyed. A total of 671,103 families or more than 3.2 million people were affected by the quake. Out of this, 71,822 families or more than 348,000 people were displaced.
The province of Bohol suffered the most casualties and damages with at least PhP2.2 billion worth in damages and a total of 209 people confirmed dead, 877 injured, and 8 missing. The town of Loon had the largest number of fatalities (67). The province’s entire population of 1,255,128 people were affected. Around 71,900 residential houses were damaged, out of which 14,480 were totally destroyed. Several churches, government buildings and schools including municipal halls of 12 towns were totally and partially damaged. Prolonged periods of aftershocks forced people to reside outside in makeshift shelters, afraid to be inside weakened buildings, and causing psychosocial trauma.
Some three weeks after the earthquake, super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the region sending some 40,000 Boholanos still living in temporary shelters back to evacuation centers and disrupted relief efforts in the province.
Currently, many residents are living in makeshift houses constructed from salvaged materials while some are still living with host families sharing resources and facilities.
Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The super typhoon struck the Philippines last November 8, 2013. It was one of the strongest and most destructive storm ever recorded. . With sustained winds of up to 250 kilometers per hour (160mph) and storm surges, it has caused widespread devastation in the country most especially in the Visayas regions. It has affected more than 13 million people or around 10% of the country’s population, leaving more than 6,000 dead and causing widespread damage and destruction on houses, crops, establishments and infrastructures. . Among the worst hit are the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Cebu , Negros and Panay
In Leyte, many towns were ruined with victims bodies strewn in the streets, in front of hospitals and municipal halls. Tacloban City has the most devastation with all structures damaged and many people were killed when a five meter (16 feet) high surge of water flooded the city. All houses made of light materials were leveled while some are being swept away by the storm surge. Even concrete buildings have damages with their roofs, doors and windows. Trees and crops were being destroyed also. In Eastern Samar, around 90% of all houses and establishments were also destroyed.
In Cebu, over 15,000 families were evacuated to shelters. Most affected are the towns in the northern part of the province. In Daanbantayan, all the area’s 86,000 inhabitants have been affected. More than 90% of houses have been damaged or totally destroyed and nine people were reported dead while 50 others were injured. In Medellin, four people were reported dead while around 90% of homes are damaged. Practically all houses made of light materials are all gone. Government infrastructures are either totally wiped out or heavily damaged. The same situation are experienced in Sta. Fe and other towns in the north end part of the province.