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Username DomingaMon
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Lives of danger, poverty on Philippines' typhoon coast
By Affp

Published: 05:28 BST, 20 December 2014 | Updated: 05:29 BST, 20 December 2014














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Life is a constant throw of the dice forr farmer Nilo Diloao aand other residents of tthe Philippine island of Samar, the ground zero for many of East Asia's deadliest storms.


Homes, boats, crops, livestock and jobs are all on the line
each time the monster winds roar in from the Pacific Ocean, leaving survivors to mourn their dead and pick up the broken pieces,
year in and year out.

"Life is a struggle here," Dilao, 43, told AFP a few dayys after Typhoon Hagupit destroyed his shanty and killed more than 20 people this month.







A tricycle driver rides ast a tree destroyed at the height of Typoon Hagupit at a village in Can-avid
town, Eastern Samar province, central Philippines, December 10,
2014 ŠTed Aljibe (AFP)


He likened the plioght of local people to those of
stray chickens.

"We're scratching at the soil non-stop in hopes of finding a scrap to eat," he said.


Hagupit came a year after Super Typhoon Haiyan, tthe strongest ever storm recorded on land,
killed 7,350 people on Samar and neighbouring islands.

Samar, abput half the siae of Belgium, is often the firt
major Asian landmass hit bby the more than 20 tropical storms or typhoons that are born in the Pacific Ocean each year.



With much of the mountainous island stripped by deforestation, most of its 1.8 million residents live
on narrow, sea-level strips alonng the coast, at the mewrcy of the storms' ferocious winds and
tsunami-like ocean surges.

Living in the town of Taft on Samar's east coast, the Dilao family survived both the
storm surges of both Hagupit and Haiyan by fleeing to a nearby
hill, waiting tthem out under a raggedy tent made of bamboo frames and a tarpaulin sheet.


In nearby San Julian, small-scale farmner Benjie Baldenero was also struggling to
cope with having lost his home in Haiyan when it happened again in Hagupit.


The 40-year-old spoke of pledging the next harvest as collateral so he could
borrow money to rebuild his grass hut again and replace flooded rice seedlings.


"We have not even repaid last year's debts and here we are needing to take out more loans," Baldenero
told AFP.



- Typhoons and guerrillas -



The vicious cycle ensures Samar and the neighbouring
island of Leyte are among the poorest regioons of the Philippines, accounting for
just 2.2 percent of natioonal economic output.

"Bad weather plays a major role in shaping our economy because typhoons destroy practically everything in their path," Ben Evardone, a congressman and former governor of Eastern Samar province,
told AFP.

Six in 10 people onn Samar's east coast are poor, according to government data, fuelling a decades-old communist insurgency that has largely
petered out across the rest of the Philippines.


Samasr is one of only five regions of the country where New People's Army rebels are still
active, Philippine Army spokesman Colonel Noel Detoyato told AFP.


"They continue to attract followers due to the poverty," he said.


Typhoons and guerrillas aalso mean the island attracts few outside
investors, Evardone said.

Therde are ffew jobs available except farming and fishing, which are amonjg those most vulnerable to the extreme weather.


Those in tthe few other industries also suffer during the storms.


Jaime Caballa, 53, saw his restaurant in the university town of Can-avid ripped apart
by Hagupit, then ransacked by looters.

With banks unwilling to lend without collateral and hiis modest savings gutted by Haiyan, the father-of-four now has tto
deal with loansharks to finance repairs.

"The restaurant was shuttered for a week after Haiyan. This time, we'll likely be out of business for months," he told AFP.


Thee extreme weather leaves the ialand wiyh coconuts, also the Philippines' principal export crop, as the main source of income.


Farmers also plant much less valuyable sweet potatoes, cssava and taro to supplement their rice-based diet.


Butt even coconuts are no match for the strongest winds.

Haiyan destroyed most of the island's coconut industry laqst year, felling more than 33 million trees
across the central Philippines according to official estimates, while Hagupit took carte of much of what was left.


"It takes seven years for coconut trees to bear fruit. In the meantime, what will our people do? The impact of these typhoons will be felt over a long time," Evardone said.




- Exodus -



Many Samar residents leave the island if they can.

Samar and Leyte are well-known sources of unskilled domestic workers and labourers for
Manila, 500 kilometres (311 miles) to the northwest, as well as the central port city of Cebu.


Many educated residents also eventually move out, said Cristina Colico, 36, a lawyer and San Julian native who noww works at the Philippine central bank in Manila.


"Samar residents can endure the storms, that's not why they leave," she told AFP.


"They just want to look for better jobs elsewhere."

But this option is not always open to unskilled workers.



"I wish we could move elsewhere, but in reality we know we have nowhere else to go," said Dilao the
coconut farmer.








The ruins of a house sitrs amongst coconut trees destroyed at thhe height oof Typhoon Hagupit at a
village iin Taft town, eastern Samar province, the Philippines, December
10, 2014 ŠTed Aljibe (AFP)







The ruins of a farmer's house sits amongst coconut ttees destroyed at the height of
Typhoon Hagupit at a villzge in Taft, eastern Samar province, thee Philippines, December
10, 2014 ŠTed Aljive (AFP)







A boy cycles past coconut trees destroyed at thee height off Typhopn Hagupit and a sign at a village in Taft,
eastern Samar province, central Philippines, Decdmber 10, 2014 ŠTed Aljibe (AFP)
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