VERA FILES FACT CHECK: In first 2019 speech, Duterte repeats false claim about typhoons in Mindanao

President Rodrigo Duterte in his first public speech in 2019 rehashed a false claim that Mindanao is not hit by typhoons.


In a Jan. 3 speech, a week after tropical depression Usman devastated parts of the country, Duterte said:

“Mindanao does not suffer any serious calamities. Typhoons would be the number one enemy of agriculture. Wala po diyan (There are none there).”

Source: Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte, Tagaytay City, Jan. 3, 2019,
watch from 1:34 to 1:48


Several typhoons including the worst to hit the country in recent history ravaged Mindanao, contrary to Duterte’s claim, a rehash of a similar false statement he made in August. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte wrong in saying Mindanao not hit by storms)

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), using data from state agencies and weather organizations on 99 tropical cyclones that entered the Philippines from 2006 to 2016, lists at least three that hit Mindanao:

  • Tropical Storm Vinta (international name Tembin) in December 2017 which devastated Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay, and killed at least 173 people, affected some 797,000 and destroyed over 4,000 houses;
  • Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) in December 2012 which made landfall in Davao Oriental and killed at least 1,268 people, affected some 973,000 and caused P36 billion damage to infrastructure, agriculture and private properties; and
  • Tropical Storm Sendong (international name Washi) in December 2011 which caused flooding in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, and killed at least 1,901 people, affected some 698,000 and caused P2 billion damage to infrastructure, agriculture and private properties.

    Sources: UNOCHA, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council

Pablo and Sendong are among the most destructive to hit the country, the UNOCHA list shows.

The findings of a 2014 University of the Philippines study that looked into an international database of tropical cyclones from 1884 to 2012 also debunk the claim by Duterte, the country’s first president from Mindanao.

The study noted:

“Typhoons making landfall in the Visayas and Mindanao region have also become slightly more frequent in the last decade.”

Source: University of the Philippines Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, A Manifestation of Climate Change? A Look at Typhoon Yolanda in Relation to the Historical Tropical Cyclone Archive, Jan. 7, 2014


ABS-CBN News, Usman leaves P4.2-B in agriculture, infra damage, Jan. 7, 2019.

BusinessWorld, Usman aftermath: Reported deaths at 126; damage, P4.25B, Jan. 6, 2019., ‘Typhoon-free’ Mindanao?, Jan. 26, 2014., ‘Usman’ leaves 126 dead, 75 injured, Jan. 6, 2019.

Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards website, A Manifestation of Climate Change? A Look at Typhoon Yolanda in Relation to the Historical Tropical Cyclone Archive, Jan. 7, 2014.

NDRRMC, Final Report on the Effects and Emergency Management re: Tropical Storm “Sendong” (Washi), Feb. 10, 2012.

NDRRMC, Situational Report No. 38 re: Effects of Typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha), Dec. 25, 2012.

ReliefWeb, Philippines: Destructive Tropical Cyclones From 2006 to 2016.

ReliefWeb, Philippines: Tropical Storm Tembin (Vinta) Snapshot, Feb. 1, 2018.

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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