A burger joint rises

TACLOBAN CITY – THEY MAY or may not have suffered considerable loss when Typhoon Yolanda plowed through Tacloban City and other areas in central Philippines, but friends Trisha Torres and Vanessa Salazar look too busy to think about any tragedies. The pair happens to be freshman entrepreneurs and most of the women’s time these days is devoted to tending to their thriving burger joint.

In large part, this is because mobilizing the aid funds has been grossly inefficient, if also severely impaired by the massive devastation, leaving efforts stuck at the recovery stage instead of progressing toward rehabilitation.From seven to midnight each evening, Torres and Salazar can be found at Pop-up Kitchen, flipping burgers for locals and foreigners, many of whom are aid workers doing relief and rehabilitation projects in Tacloban and nearby towns. Opened just this July, Pop-up Kitchen is among the 103 new eatery establishments in Tacloban post-Yolanda.

The city government relaxed its rules following the disaster by extending the deadline for payment of business taxes, and for application and renewal of permits and licenses until last June. This gave the likes of Torres and Salazar an easier time to start small businesses, including those that are now benefitting from the presence of transients with high spending capacity: the aid workers.

But relief operations have not only given businesses here new customers. Innovative entrepreneurs have also saved on costs by reusing the discarded tools and structures from relief activities. Torres and Salazar, for instance, made chairs and tables out of pallets left behind by an international nongovernmental organization after its emergency response. A nearby establishment turned an old trailer truck to a mobile bar.


Pop-up Kitchen. “Vanessa Salazar, left, and Trish Torres, flip burgers every night. They run Pop-Up Kitchen that has been serving comfort food for aid workers from other countries who are helping in relief efforts in Tacloban City. Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Private sector recovery appears to be relatively faster than that of the public sector in the city. While many government buildings are still needing repair – forcing their occupants to hold office elsewhere in the meantime — many private businesses have already resumed their operations in their original locations.

Nonetheless, Tacloban’s rate of increase in the number of businesses this year remains lower compared to previous years.

As of October 2014, data from the Business License and Permits Division of the City of Tacloban show that the number of new and renewed businesses increased by six percent this year. With just two more months left in the year, there is a very slim chance that the figure may still reach the rate recorded in 2013: eight percent. But even that would be starkly below the rate in the pre-Yolanda years, when Tacloban was recording two-digit rises annually in the number of businesses starting up or renewing their permits. (In 2011, the increase was even 25 percent.)

businesses in tacloban

Source of Basic Data: Business License and Permits Division of the City of Tacloban

Businesses engaged in manufacturing of non-essential commodities, as well as hotels and lodging houses, made up many of the enterprises that applied for or renewed their permits in 2014. Those offering vehicles for hire, including jeepneys and motorcabs, were also among the top seekers of new business permits.

Just as in the case of eatery establishments, the presence of foreigners or members of international organizations may have contributed to the rise in the number of those involved in hotel and transportation businesses.

Pop-up Kitchen’s Torres and Salazar admit that the end of Yolanda-related operations may affect their business since foreign aid workers make up the bulk of their clientele. But they remain optimistic that by improving their products and advertising through social media, their burger business will be able to attract more locals as well. – PCIJ, January 2015



“Christian Aid funded this project/report as our contribution to the interest of the public’s right to know how the Yolanda funds are managed and used, and that the findings and recommendations are meant to feed into the policy discourse on Republic Act No. 10121 (The Philippine Risk Reduction and Management Plan of 2010) review and the Yolanda budget process.”