Hearts and Minds: Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan and the Use of Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief to Further Strategic Ends



Philippines, political economy, disaster response, humanitarian assistance


Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) should, as the term itself implies, be driven by humanitarian concern for the welfare of others. To use HADR for political or strategic ends distorts its purpose and introduces the potential for suspicion and distrust. In the aftermath of the November 2013 Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, the U.S. military extended HADR to the affected regions of the Philippines. In the ensuing months, the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) allowed the U.S. military access to bases in the Philippines. Facing off against China’s presence in the South China Sea, U.S. military presence in the Philippines is clearly intended to encircle China in a future war. The ascendancy of Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency has meant that the Philippines will follow an independent foreign policy. His stated intent to reverse EDCA has laid bare the use of HADR for strategic ends. The use of HADR by the U.S. as a ploy to gain strategic advantage is clear to the rest of the world. It is time to abandon the deception.


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