Typhoon Haiyan -One Year After:


Ambitious scemes sound fine on paper -but are they viable in practice?

Do those responsible have the ability and the will to make them work?

Are humanitarian projects simply a way of publically funding exploitative commercial systems?


-Good intentions are apparently not enough

-Central government planning may be inefficient, corrupt, or simply too bureaucratic

-Perhaps direct aid to people in need is better than supporting large-scale infrastructures that actually create poverty in support of the rich

-Perhaps local building traditions and materials are better than expensive imported products, which are not adapted to local conditions

-Could comfortable light-weight and easilly rebuildable structures be safer and more economically viable in relation to local conditions?

-Could effective food security be more important than a reliance on dubious monetory economics?

-Food security implies crop diversity suitable for local diets and a focus away from cash crops that lead to mono-culture and economic dependance

-What did happen to all the international aid that came pouring in?

-Where did the aid money go and how effective was it?

-How much is an industrialised economy responsible for destroying the environment and causing the problems?

-Is it possible that externally imposed socio-economic systems are destroying the natural creativity of local cultural systems?


    FEATURE-Typhoon Haiyan survivors rebuild lives with farming, pigs, stores

    Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 5 Nov 2014 06:00 GMT
    Author: Thin Lei Win

        Elizabeth Caramol, 36, with one-year-old son Cavein on her lap and one of her older children, sits in a house in Marabut, on Oct. 14, 2014, which they rebuilt after Typhoon Haiyan swept away their old home in November 2013. Caramol was nine months pregnant when the storm hit and gave birth to a healthy baby boy five days after the storm, on the floor of a cave where they have taken refuge. Thomson

    BASEY, Philippines, Nov 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Coconut farmer Pacalan Wenefredo has taken to growing rice.

    Fisherman Napoleon Caramol is planning to raise pigs.
    Housewife Felipa Balbuana, a mother of four, has signed up for her first job in years, sewing backpacks.

    Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm on record to hit land when it slammed the Philippines on Nov. 8 last year, have had to adapt in a bid to rebuild their lives in the wake of the storm that killed or left missing about 7,000 people.

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates 5.6 million workers in a nation of about 100 million saw their means of earning a living ruined or seriously impaired by the disaster - and about a third of those affected were already poor.

    Crops were destroyed, boats ripped apart, and houses flattened as the typhoon powered across the central Philippines, packing winds of up to 315 km an hour (195 miles) and causing seven metre (23 feet) storm surges.

    Wenefredo, 59, had worked for 20 years on land held for generations in his family in the inland village of Cancaiyas in central Philippines to produce copra, the dried kernel used for making coconut oil but Haiyan destroyed 80 percent of his trees.

    The Philippines is one of the world's largest producers of coconuts, with exports averaging $1.5 billion annually in recent years and the government estimates the damage cost $38 million which is a fortune for many small scale farmers.

    Aware it could take six to eight years for newly replanted coconut trees to reach maturity and return to full production Wenefredo turned to rice farming using cash assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

    It is much less profitable but Wenefredo said he had no choice. He has just sold his first harvest, halving his income, but he needs money to repay debts incurred before the storm.

    "We will continue with the rice farming. It is our only source of living at the moment," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sitting on a bench in the stiflingly hot living room of fellow coconut-farmer-turned-rice-farmer Gerry Baclayo, 44.


    Baclayo nodded in agreement.
    "Less than half of our needs are covered by the income ... we do extra labour work," he said. "We borrow money, sometimes without interest, sometimes with 10 percent interest, so we can buy fish because it's hard to eat just rice."
    In its path of destruction, Haiyan damaged about 33 million coconut trees from a national total of about 300 million, and affected the livelihoods of more than a million farmers, according to the Philippines Coconut Authority (PCA).

    The ADB estimates Haiyan drove an additional one million people below the poverty line with more than 1.3 million people needing emergency relief in the aftermath of the disaster, according to the ICRC. The typhoon displaced up to 4 million.

    A priority now is to clear fallen coconut trees covering swathes of land in areas hit by Haiyan to avoid the threat of pest infestation and clear the way to replant and rebuild homes.

    "Our estimate is coconut rehabilitation will take about five to 10 years. We will need about 20 million coconut seedlings," said Edilberto Nieva, head of the PCA in Eastern Visayas.

    "We are telling the farmers to do inter-cropping so they can start making money immediately. This means planting things like young corn and vegetables that they can consume and sell."

    Initial data from the ICRC shows that farming, rearing livestock and setting up local convenience stores are the top three income generators for people given grants to restart.

    Pigs, goats, and chickens and produce for convenience stories are among the most popular items bought by survivors.

    Fisherman Napoleon Caramol, 44, has planted root vegetables in his garden and is planning to rear pigs with his wife.

    His wife Elizabeth was nine months pregnant with their ninth child when Haiyan swept away their rickety home on a coconut farm in Marabut municipality in the central Philippines.

    They took refuge with 60 other families in a hillside cave, one of many dotted along the beautiful, winding coastline in Samar province, during the storm. His wife feared for her life but delivered a healthy boy five days later named Cavein Cuevas.

    Emerging from the cave, however, they had to rebuild their home and lives, just relieved they had never taken on any debt.

    "The typhoon left a big hole in our small paddle boat and destroyed parts of our fishing nets. They're beyond repair," said 36-year-old Elizabeth Caramol.

    "Now if we do not get fish or cannot buy rice we eat root vegetables ... we are planning to raise pigs with the grant from (child health care charity) Terres des hommes and maybe I'll set up a small grocery stall."

    The ICRC has offered vocational training in sustainable farming, hog rearing, bookkeeping and arithmetic, and advice on how to diversify and grow businesses to help survivors.

    Work on rebuilding areas hit by Haiyan is continuing, with President Benigno Aquino only approving a $3.74 billion master plan to rebuild housing, social services and public infrastructure at the end of October 2014.

    Many families had to adjust to survive.

    Felipa Balbuana had not worked for years and is now one of around 20 typhoon survivors working in a factory in Tacloban, the worst hit city, to produce backpacks and help supplement her husband's increasingly meager income as a fish vendor.

    Members of the Leyte Union of Producers of Agricultural Products, a local farming union, lost their livelihoods and are working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to use lumber from coconut trees to build temporary shelters.

    IOM estimates about 130,000 coconut trees will be salvaged to produce enough lumber to construct 5,800 shelters in three typhoon-affected regions by February 2015.
    "The fallen and damaged coconut trees are our last resources. We have to use our meagre resources instead of waiting for somebody to help," said Noel Inot, 39, a coconut farmer and member of the union.
    But while survivors of Haiyan work hard to rebuild their lives, the devastation and deaths caused by Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon in the Philippines on record, has left them concerned about their security and that of their children.
    "I do worry about our future. A storm like that could happen again and next time we may not survive," said Elizabeth Caramol.
        (Reporting By Thin Lei Win, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)


FACTBOX-Typhoon Haiyan one year on

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 5 Nov 2014 07:18 GMT
Author: Thin Lei Win
Workers paint wooden crosses of victims of Typhoon Haiyan at a mass grave in Tacloban city in central Philippines, on Nov. 5, 2014. The Philippines are preparing to commemorate victims of Typhoon Haiyan, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the disaster on November 8, according to a local government official. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

TACLOBAN, Philippines, Nov 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm on record to ever hit land, struck the central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013, and swept away practically everything in its path.

Here are some facts and figures about the typhoon and how people are recovering one year after the storm.

    Haiyan was the deadliest disaster of 2013, leaving 7,200 people dead or missing. The seven-metre storm surges destroyed about 90 percent of the capital of Leyte province, Tacloban, which has a population of about 220,000.

    Up to 16 million people were affected, including 4 million who were displaced from their homes. Some 1.1 million homes were damaged.

    One year on, the United Nations estimates that about 95,000 households (475,000 people) are living in unsafe or inadequate makeshift shelters, and are highly vulnerable because of their limited ability to recover without further assistance.

    The Philippines government has a six-year, $3.80 billion master plan to rebuild devastated areas, construct about 200,000 homes and provide more sustainable jobs for 2.6 million people living below the poverty line.

    Almost a year after the disaster, the mayor of Tacloban, one of the worst-affected cities, said that fewer than 100 of 14,500 promised permanent homes have been built. He also said 3,000 people were still living in danger zones, including many in tents.

    As of September this year, the government has completed about six km of 116 km of damaged major roads, six of 43 damaged ports, 213 of 19,600 classrooms and three of 34 bridges.

    The United Nations has received a total of $845 million, including cash and in-kind donations. Private individuals and organisations have been the most charitable donors, providing $190 million, followed by the United Kingdom with $123 million.

(Sources: Reuters, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Office of Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council)

(Reporting by Thin Lei Win, editing by Alisa Tang)


One year after devastating super typhoon, Philippines approves rebuilding plan

Source: Reuters - Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:12 AM Author: Reuters
    A Philippine flag flutters over signs at an area devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, Philippines, November 24, 2013. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

MANILA, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Almost a year after a super typhoon devastated wide areas of the central Philippines killing thousands, President Benigno Aquino only this week approved a $3.74 billion master plan to rebuild housing, social services and public infrastructure.

Typhoon Haiyan wiped out or damaged practically everything in its path as it swept ashore on Nov. 8, 2013, with seven-metre storm surges destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province.

Haiyan killed or left missing close to 8,000 people and displaced as many as four million.

It was not immediatley clear why Aquino's approval took so long but the mayor of Tacloban said on Tuesday fewer than 100 of 14,500 promised permanent homes had been built there and that thousands were still living in danger zones, including in tents.
The government has blamed the delays on bureaucracy, availability of land for resettlement and scarce resources.
"The national government's commitment (is) to implement over 25,000 rehabilitation and recovery specific plans, programmes and activities," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told reporters in Malacanang presidential palace on Thursday.

"The recovery plans are based on the principle of 'build back better' by focusing on long-term, sustainable efforts to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen capacities of communities to cope with future hazard events."

Apart from housing concerns, data from the Office of Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery showed the government had rebuilt only six km of 116 km of damaged major roads.

The data, as of September this year, shows the government has completed only six of 43 damaged ports, 213 of 19,600 classrooms, 21 of 161 civic centres and three of 34 bridges.

The government plan foresees more than 205,000 permanent houses being built for about four million people. The six-year plan was prepared in August but only signed on Wednesday.

The government has released about 51.9 billion pesos ($1.15 billion) for the initial recovery work but only 450 homes would be completed and ready for turn over to displaced families on Nov. 8, the first year anniversary of the typhoon.

About 75.6 billion pesos would be spent on new townships where homes, once built, would be able to withstand winds of 250 kph.

Alison Kent, Oxfam humanitarian policy adviser, said some administrative processes and land governance issues were to blame for delays in moving thousands of people from tents to permanent homes.

"We feel local authorities, right now, are struggling to find and acquire appropriate and safe land for resettlement sites," she said.

Politics and corruption could also be reasons, said Rosario Bella Guzman, head of research of Ibon Foundation, an independent development agency.
"Some government agencies are saying that the fund releases from the government did not end up for what they were intended," Guzman said. ($1 = 45 pesos)
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie)



Nine months on, Philippines plans $3.9-bln effort to relocate typhoon Haiyan victims

Source: Reuters - Fri, 1 Aug 2014 11:17 AM Author: Reuters
    Typhoon survivors are seen at the entrance of a temporary shelter nearly 100 days after super Typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban city in central Philippines February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The Philippines will spend 170 billion pesos ($3.89 billion) to rehouse some 200,000 families displaced by last year's super typhoon Haiyan that killed 6,100 people, the government said in a masterplan released on Friday.

It has taken a startling nine months to hammer out the plan because crippling bureaucracy entailed lengthy vetting, say government consultants, and sparse technical data on geological hazards and land use plans held up relocation decisions.

Thousands of displaced families remain in makeshift tents or substandard temporary shelter areas, but all-out reconstruction will begin soon after President Benigno Aquino approves the plan, although it is not clear when this will happen.

"We are confident the rehabilitation efforts will now shift to high gear," said Panfilo Lacson, presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery.

"We are hoping to achieve at least 80 percent completion of these priority projects before the end of the president's term," he added. Aquino's term runs until June 2016.

About a million homeowners will also receive shelter assistance under the plan for houses that were either destroyed or partially damaged, said Lacson, a former senator.

The effort will also help build sturdier government facilities, such as schools and evacuation centres, besides providing livelihood and training assistance for farmers, fishermen and those who raise livestock.

Lacson said the budget department had made available about 137 billion pesos this year, with the rest to be released in next year's budget, and promised transparency in project funding.

The slow pace of government reconstruction work has attracted criticism.

"It's alarming that as the typhoon season starts, we still see tents in Tacloban," said Prospero de Vera, a professor of public administration at the University of the Philippines.

Tacloban, the main city on the Philippines' central island of Leyte, was a wasteland after Haiyan destroyed about 80 percent of houses made of light materials, and is slowly returning to life.

"The normalcy in the lives of the people has not returned until now in Tacloban, and that is the biggest disaster of all," added De Vera.

By July, Manila had released more than 35 billion pesos in aid after Haiyan, the budget department has said, spent on food and temporary shelter areas for displaced families, as well as to rebuild some public buildings.

But that amount is just a drop in the bucket, with state funds and loans from lenders such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and bilateral sources committed to typhoon rehabilitation reaching at least $4 billion.

Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons to ever hit land, tore through the central Philippines last November, reducing most of what was in its path to rubble in tsunami-like surges and driving nearly 4 million people from their homes.

The pace of government reconstruction slowed after Aquino last year abolished congressional allocations, called "pork barrel" funds, because bureaucrats were too careful in signing contracts.

Last month, the Supreme Court declared illegal the president's stimulus fund, prompting impeachment cases to be filed against Aquino in the wake of the decision. ($1=43.7500 Philippine pesos) (Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)



Philippine province proves mass storm deaths can be avoided

Source: Reuters - Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:00 PM Author: Reuters
By Rosemarie Francisco
    A couple wades in floodwaters brought by tropical depression "Agaton" in Kabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA, July 24 (Reuters) - Nearly 100 people were killed in the Philippines last week when Typhoon Rammasun roared through, raising doubts about efforts to end the heavy tolls from storms that are only expected to get more intense as the global climate changes.

But in Albay province, which bore the brunt of the strongest storm in the new typhoon season, no one was killed, proving that deaths can be prevented provided there is the will to force people to do what is necessary to save their own lives.

"Tools of leadership are lacking," Joey Salceda, the three-term governor of Albay told Reuters when asked about the tally of casualties in other provinces.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, and recently they have been getting stronger. Meteorologists say that as ocean temperatures rise, storms will get more dangerous.

Late last year, Typhoon Haiyan became the strongest storm to hit land anywhere, killing more than 6,100 people, most along the east coast of central Philippine islands as it whipped up tsunami-like storm surges.

Since the shock of Haiyan, the central government and its agencies have been more active in their risk assessments and recommendations of pre-emptive measures.

But Salceda says it is up to provincial governments, not the central government, to use their powers to force people to take steps to save themselves, and if that is to happen, provincial authorities have to get to grips with what has to be done.

"Local executives need more training, they are still struggling to grasp what it really takes to make people act," he said. "It's a failure to communicate, failure to ensure household compliance."

Salceda's efforts clearly work, as the clean sheet on deaths attest, even as the storm destroyed 6.2 billion pesos ($143 million) worth of crops and property in his province.

Salceda says he has at times used "shock therapy" to get people moving to avoid the storms that regularly roar in from the Pacific Ocean.

He described the bemused reaction of citizens to his order to close schools while skies were clear, a day before a typhoon was due to strike.

He uses relief supplies as a tool, offering residents of low-lying areas emergency rice packs but only if they moved into shelters.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction designated Albay a role model for disaster risk reduction in 2012, highlighting its massive communications campaign in preventing casualties.


Salceda agreed that getting word out, through every channel available, was vital.
"I aired warnings over my Facebook. I probably had 100 interviews over the radio, over and over," he said of the latest storm.
The province also sends out advisories over mobile phones to about 12,000 village leaders and officials and has a smartphone app for warnings.

Albay has tried to pass on the secrets of its success to other provinces but officials elsewhere often don't seem to take the lessons to heart. That was perhaps partly because other provinces are not hit by storms as often as Albay, Salceda said.

But it also comes down to money: other provinces just do not allocate enough funds for disaster management.

Albay passed a law in 1994 creating a disaster management office with permanent staff and its own budget to sustain its mandate despite inevitable changes of political leaders. The province has seen storm deaths in only two of the 20 years since then, Salceda said.

Provincial governors and city mayors are elected every three years, and can serve at most three terms, so setting up a structure that survives leadership changes was vital, said Ramon Isberto, president of the Corporate Network for Disaster Response Inc.

"You've got to make it permanent, you've got to give it a budget of its own and you've got to make it professional," said Isberto, whose group tries to help businesses and communities prepare for disasters.

"It survives and does not collapse when governors change," Isberto said of Albay's disaster management office.

Isberto said in some places, there was just not the political will to save lives.

"Some are not so interested, they are not as committed," Isberto said, adding that his group has had to drop some communities from its programme because leaders did not care.

The Philippines was ranked the world's third most disaster-prone country on the World Disaster Report of 2012, and Isberto said communities had to adapt to climate change.

"What if we had not just one, but 10 Albays in different parts of the country? Or better yet what if there are 20, or 30?," Isberto told a disaster forum of government, business and humanitarian officials on Tuesday.

"Wouldn't the country be a better place?" (Additional reporting by Karen Lema and Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Urquhart)



Filipinos lack climate protection on the ground, despite laws

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 28 May 2014 12:58 PM Author: Imelda V. Abano
    A family peeks out of a makeshift shelter on the Philippine coast in Marabut, Eastern Samar, after their dilapidated house was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. TRF/Imelda Albano

MANILA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Progress in rebuilding the Philippine city of Tacloban and the lives of its residents devastated by Typhoon Haiyan last November has been painstakingly slow, according to the city’s mayor Alfred Romualdez.

And while driving forward recovery from the disaster, the local authorities must also work out how best to deal with extreme weather in the future – which is expected to get worse as the planet warms.

"Climate change is a reality, and we are experiencing that already," Romualdez told a recent planning session with international aid agencies working on the post-typhoon rehabilitation effort.

Local governments urgently need to organise themselves so they can fund and put into practice measures to adapt to climate-linked hazards like storms, floods and droughts, the mayor added.

“It will not be easy for a city that lost scores of lives, saw its infrastructure damaged, and was left with almost nothing,” Romualdez emphasised.

At national level, the Philippines does have policies, regulations and laws in place that mandate action to manage disaster risk and tackle climate change. But implementing these locally is proving harder, government officials and lawmakers agree.

Beyond helping communities shattered by Haiyan to rebuild their homes and livelihoods, Filipino lawmakers also face the task of reviewing and strengthening legislation in order to protect the country better if another super-typhoon strikes.

“Typhoon Haiyan by itself is more than enough reason to urgently act on the implementation of climate change laws,” said Tarlac Province Representative Susan Yap. Challenges include turning national laws into local action and getting government agencies to coordinate their plans, she added.


The government must also make sure it provides adequate funding “year in and year out”, said Yap, who chairs the Philippine chapter of the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International), a network of parliamentarians advocating for action on climate change and sustainable development.

“The People's Survival Fund Law”, signed in August 2012, is the first piece of Philippine legislation aimed at financing early plans to help communities deal with climate impacts. It outlines priorities including food security and sustainable energy.

The law provides for at least 1 billion Philippine pesos ($22.8 million) per year in government spending and international donor aid for climate change adaptation initiatives led by local governments and communities. But the president has yet to sign an amendment to the Climate Change Act that would promulgate the implementing rules and regulations required to make the People's Survival Fund (PSF) operational.

In the past two years, the PSF has been allocated P500 million, but the sources of the money have yet to be determined, so it cannot be accessed by local governments. Earlier this month, environmental activists urged the government to mobilise the PSF and finance it from the national budget.

 “What the people and Congress have been clamouring for is the release of the funds appropriated for the implementation of the laws,” said GLOBE Philippines Director Christopher Estallo.

Not enough funding has been provided so far to roll out laws and projects to build resilience to climate change and disasters, nor has there been adequate monitoring and accountability for the limited resources that are available, he added.

Climate Change Commission Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering told Thomson Reuters Foundation she expects the PSF to be fully funded in 2015 through the national budget, and in a position to hand out cash for projects. 


The Philippines government has responded actively to the challenge of climate change by creating relevant legislation and new institutions, Sering argued.

As a result, the country does not lack laws to adapt to climate change impacts, mitigate global warming and help communities become more resilient to disasters, she said.

The 2009 Climate Change Act established the Climate Change Commission which is tasked with coordinating, monitoring and evaluating government climate programmes and action plans. The commission developed a National Framework Strategy on Climate Change in 2010 and a National Climate Change Action Plan in 2011.

The action plan addresses food and water security, ecosystem and environmental stability, human security, sustainable energy, climate-smart industries and services, and knowledge and capacity development.

Up to 2016, its focus is on assessing vulnerability, developing ‘eco-towns’, and conducting research to support renewable energy and sustainable transport systems.

It also provides guidance for local governments to formulate and implement their own climate change action plans, Sering said.

“We are measuring success on how well we respond in the short term, and yet local plans are still not based on (local) vulnerabilities,” she told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Haiyan exposed how a reactionary response is no longer sufficient.”

There is a need to plan for both sudden emergencies and slower-onset problems, she added.

Challenges include raising awareness at local level, coordinating government activities, and rolling out initiatives at a larger scale, GLOBE’s Estallo said. “There have been a lot of laws that are very good, but implementation is a perpetual issue,” he added.

The budget for reducing the risk of disasters should not be limited to the minimum P1billion required by law, but supplemented by additional spending across government departments dealing with related areas such as infrastructure or science, Sering said.

For 2014, the government has allocated a total of P13 billion for climate change action to various ministries. Most of it will be used for the production of maps plotting multiple hazards, early warning systems and infrastructure to help reduce risks, Sering noted.


Legislator Yap called for three additional pieces of important climate change-related legislation to be passed urgently. One is a bill to protect the country’s rapidly declining mangrove areas, which act as a coastal buffer zone against storms.

Two more draft bills provide for sustainable management of forests and the delineation of forest boundaries, setting out a solid foundation for forest conservation and development efforts, Yap said.

Laws also need to be updated regularly “in order to adapt properly and effectively to the challenges of climate change”, Estallo said. “We may have sufficient legislation to address our climate and disaster woes now, but we cannot be sure about that tomorrow,” he warned.

In Estallo’s view, domestic legislation on climate change is “crucial not only as a first line of defence for our people facing the threats of climate change but also for facilitating the environment necessary for international cooperation.”

The Philippines, along with several other developing countries, has passed key legislation on climate change, which must now be replicated internationally to achieve a global multiplier effect, Estallo said.

In the Philippines, GLOBE now plans to push forward policies and legislation that will move the Southeast Asian nation towards a low-carbon green economy. It also intends to strengthen legislators’ influence on the country’s negotiating position at U.N. climate talks, which are due to agree a new pact to tackle climate change at the end of 2015.

“When there is a critical mass in the number of countries taking the necessary action on climate change, grounded in domestic legislation, they will be in a better position to sign up to the commitments and actions required under a global deal,” Estallo said.

Imelda Abano is a freelance contributor for the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Manila.

This story is part of a series of articles, funded by the COMplus Alliance and the World Bank, looking at progress and challenges in developing nations’ efforts to legislate on climate change, ahead of the June 6-8 World Summit of Legislators in Mexico City, organised by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International).


Typhoon season threatens Philippines Haiyan survivors

Source: - Thu, 8 May 2014 11:40 AM Author: Thin Lei Win
Author: Thin Lei Win More news from our correspondents
    A view of temporary shelters for typhoon survivors that were constructed next to a ship that ran aground is pictured nearly 100 days after super Typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban city in central Philippines February 14, 2014 REUTERS/Erik De Castro

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Six months after super storm Haiyan devastated central Philippines, another typhoon season is looming, threatening a further crisis for the millions of survivors still living in poor housing and struggling to recover their income, aid agencies say.

Aid workers also warned of a shortage of evacuation centres in some coastal areas that are vulnerable to storms in the disaster-prone Southeast Asian country.

More than 5,000 Filipino families still in live in evacuation centres and some 380,000 households need critical, urgent assistance with shelter, the United Nations said.

"(We are) concerned about the potential for a significant humanitarian crisis during the imminent cyclone season," it said in a statement released Monday.

About 20 typhoons hit the Southeast Asian country each year, often bringing death and destruction. The southwest monsoon lasts from June to September but typhoons often make landfall long after the rainy season has ended.

A recent study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Eastern Samar, where Haiyan made its first landfall, found that the area was unprepared for future typhoons, with more than 90 percent of designated evacuation centres such as schools, churches and community centres destroyed or badly damaged.

"It's a situation where the substantial population has no recourse in the case of a typhoon. They would potentially have to ride it out outside," Brad Mellicker, IOM's head of office in Samar Province, told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
"Haiyan itself raised vulnerabilities and exposures to new disasters quite enormously and considering the typhoon risks that exist in the region, it's a major concern," Mellicker said. "Additional infrastructure should be built as soon as possible, beginning now."


Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to make landfall, killed nearly 8,000 people, damaged 1.1 million houses and affected up to 14 million people when it hit on Nov 8. Damage and losses were estimated at around $12.9 billion.

It also damaged the livelihoods of six million workers, of which some 2.6 million were already living at or near the poverty line before the storm hit.

"Shelter and livelihoods are the two biggest needs that we have to attend to," said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), which is embarking on a three-year, $365 million recovery plan.

"Our first concern is of course the upcoming typhoon season. We're wondering whether storms will hit the same area, how will the people cope, and how will we be able to scale up our work," she added.

Both the Red Cross and IOM say there is an urgent need to expand shelter and livelihoods assistance programmes further before monsoon but admit the sheer scale of the disaster is a challenge.

"Many aid agencies and the government have scaled up quite substantially over the past months ... but relative to the scale of the emergency, it still remains a drop in the bucket," IOM's Mellicker said.

Funding shortfalls pose another problem.

"The shelter cluster is only 33 percent funded despite being second biggest component, after agriculture, of the U.N.'s strategic plan. And the IFRC appeal for 126 million Swiss francs ($144 million) is 64 percent funded," said Kate Marshall, spokesperson for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Philippines.

IFRC coordinates international aid agencies' work on shelter under the United Nations' "cluster" system.
"If more funding isn't forthcoming it's likely the recovery plan will be lessened in scope, having a detrimental impact on thousands of disadvantaged families," she said.


Haiyan survivors worry about resettlement sites, homes, jobs

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 22 Jan 2014 04:04 PM Author: Thin Lei Win
    Victims of super typhoon Haiyan pick up pieces of plywood beside cargo ships that were driven ashore by the typhoon at battered Tacloban city, central Philippines. Picture December 22, 2013, REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

TACLOBAN, Philippines (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Immediately after  super typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines, Marilyn Ocena gathered her family of 11 and left Tacloban.

Traumatised by the typhoon, they wanted to get as far from the sea as possible, and walked for almost a day to reach a town further north.

Now the 47-year-old wonders whether it would have been better if they had all perished in the storm that hit the coast on Nov. 8.  “At least then we would be together as a family,” she said, welling up in tears at the prospect of her family having to split up before long.

The Ocenas, back in Tacloban after failing to find jobs elsewhere, want to go back to fishing. But the government  has declared the coastal area where they used to live and work a ‘no-build’ zone after huge waves whipped up by Haiyan swept away many coastal communities.

The Philippines has an average of 20 typhoons a year and the government has ruled that in future no one may live less than 40 metres from the shoreline.

Experts agree that there should be no human settlements in coastal areas and on riverbanks, and Haiyan survivors acknowledge the dangers.

Yet a lack of information on when and where resettlement will take place have left thousands of people worried and uncertain about their future. Many are concerned there will be no jobs at resettlement sites and they have received little help in finding alternative livelihoods.

Recent complaints  that temporary shelters being built by the government are overpriced and substandard have added to the survivors’ woes.


Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to make landfall, killed nearly 8,000 people and damaged 1.1 million houses. Over 4 million people remain displaced.

Many of the displaced, like the Ocenas, are relying on handouts to get by. The Ocenas fear they will be relocated somewhere inland, far from the only life and jobs they have known.

“My husband says he has to live by the coast to continue working but myself and the kids could go to the resettlement place,” Ocena said, standing outside the tent they’re sharing with another family.

“That’s not good. It means we’ll be separated,” she added.  

A few minutes down the road lives Richard Padelia, in one of 40 tents provided by the United Nations. The 34-year-old father of four used to live across the street, but his home was destroyed and where it stood is now a ‘no-build’ zone.

He used to be a rental car driver but lost his vehicle in the storm and has been unable to find a full-time job since.

“I try to be a driver for other people’s cars but that’s only for one day a week and I get only 300 pesos ($6.70),” he said. Like the Ocenas, his family depends on aid, and he does not know when or where they will move to.


The government, which has been building temporary shelters to house the displaced - including those whose homes are in ‘no-build’ zones - has denied allegations of corruption after media reports said the bunkhouses, as they’re known locally, may cost much less than the government’s price tag of 959,360 Pesos ($21,465).

Each shelter has 24 units and each unit, measuring 8.64 square metres, can  house one family. The shared toilets, shower and cooking area are at the back.

At one site Thomson Reuters Foundation visited, a worker said the roofs of some units had leaked during heavy rains in the past weeks. At another, the rains have left green, stagnant water under the units.

Some survivors, like Marvin Tabataña, weary of uncertainty about the future, are starting to rebuild in ’no-build zones’ despite the risk of being removed.

Tabatana, a 33-year-old tricycle driver, is rebuilding his family’s single-storey home, very close to the shoreline, surrounded by debris left by the typhoon.

Tabataña, his wife and their three children are currently living with another family on higher ground, but the makeshift space is too small and it could be months before they have to move, he said. Meanwhile, they need a proper roof over their heads.

It cost him 20,000 pesos ($440) to buy the materials, using money he received from Tzu Chi, a Taiwanese Buddhist Foundation, and part of the cash he and his wife received for clearing debris. He’s doing the building work himself to save labour costs and hopes to finish it in a week.

Marvin’s neighbour, Junisha Yu, who has lived on the coast for 36 years, has different worries. She has heard that the houses at the resettlement site chosen for them are too small and there are landslides.
“But we cannot do anything if the national government wants to force us out,” she sighed.


Philippines mulls disaster risk insurance for local governments

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 22 Jan 2014 03:05 PM Author: Imelda V. Abano
    Pedro Lacandazo, 57, explains how seawater brought by the storm surge from super typhoon Haiyan flooded his house up to the ceiling and separated him from his family, in San Joaquin town at Palo, Leyte province, central Philippines, on December 23, 2013.REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

MANILA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In response to the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in November and many other natural hazards in the past few years, Philippine government officials and the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) are looking into an insurance scheme targeted at local governments as a way to improve the Asian nation’s resilience to disasters.

On Tuesday, at a high-level forum on the issue held at the Office of the Senate, UNISDR and the global re-insurance companies Willis Re and Munich Re presented the Philippines Risk and Insurance Scheme for Municipalities (PRISM), which would provide speedy budgetary support to local government units in the event of a natural catastrophe.

“The Philippines is hit by over 20 typhoons every year. What is needed is a simple scheme which will provide valuable protection to people and municipalities before the next typhoon season,” UNISDR head Margareta Wahlström said in a statement issued before the forum in Manila.  

“In order to be successful it will require mandatory take-up by local government units, but it will make them masters of their own destiny when it comes to responding to relief and recovery needs in the wake of a major disaster event,” she added.

Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people, destroyed or damaged some 1.5 million homes, and caused economic losses of around $13 billion.

“Filipinos are known to be a resilient lot. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of our infrastructure, schools, our cities and even our economy,” Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, told the forum. “It is more economical and efficient to make our communities resilient to disasters than to be held hostage by the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities every time a typhoon, storm surge or earthquake hits.”


The government has yet to decide whether it will launch an insurance scheme for all or some of its 1,500 or so municipalities and, if so, what form it would take and how it would be funded.

But Jerry Velasquez, UNISDR’s head of advocacy and outreach, told Thomson Reuters Foundation the PRISM proposal had been developed in response to interest from Manila.

“There is still a lot of focus on response and (reducing) mortality (in the Philippines). The number of people dying in disasters is going down, but the real challenge is economic losses,” he said by phone from the Philippine capital. “Insurance is a means of shifting the focus from saving lives to also saving money.”

According to global financial consultancy firm PwC, the Philippines has one of the lowest insurance penetration rates in the world as measured by premiums as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), at about 1 percent.

The reasons for this include premiums that are too high for many people to afford and low awareness about how insurance works, Velasquez said.

Under the PRISM proposal, the payment of claims would not be based on actual losses but on a pre-agreed amount when a specific trigger, such as the amount of rainfall or wind speeds, tops a certain pre-agreed threshold.

“Once one trigger has been exceeded, a payment will be made through the scheme manager to the local government unit and this can be used for rescue, relief, recovery or rebuilding depending on needs assessments,” said Ernst Rauch, head of Munich Re’s Corporate Climate Centre.

The scheme could become a key part of a broader national catastrophe risk management programme, and insurance cover could be adjusted to reward disaster risk reduction efforts undertaken by municipalities, Rauch added.


One major question, however, is how local governments would pay the premiums for disaster risk insurance.

The country’s Climate Change Commission Secretary Lucille Sering said any such scheme should operate through the Government Service Insurance System, and local authorities could tap a 1 billion peso ($22 million) government-backed disaster fund to help them purchase insurance cover.

“We have an existing fund already under the law - the People's Survival Fund (PSF) - that can be used to subsidise the initial premium of risk insurance,” Sering told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We just need to ask the government for it.”

The PSF, which is appropriated annually, is intended to assist local governments in their efforts to adapt to climate change and reduce disaster risk, including projects to manage water resources, make agriculture more resilient, protect health and develop infrastructure, Sering explained.

Speaking at the Manila forum, Senate President Franklin Drilon said insurance would protect “individuals and communities from financial suffering in the aftermath of natural disasters”. “But we can all agree on the fact that insurance is not a silver bullet for risk management and risk reduction,” he added.

Philippine policy makers should examine disaster risk insurance carefully, since it “is something that is new to many of us”, Drilon urged. He expressed concern that it might be difficult to agree on such a “paradigm shift” within the few months before the start of the next storm season.

UNISDR’s Velasquez said Typhoon Haiyan and any subsequent initiative by Manila to trial catastrophe insurance on a large scale could mark a “turning point” in the involvement of the financial sector in disaster risk reduction at local government level.
“We would like (the Philippines) to lead the whole world in terms of this kind of innovation,” he said.
Imelda Abano is a freelance contributor for the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Manila. AlertNet Climate staff writer Megan Rowling contributed additional reporting and writing.


Philippine authorities urged to climate-proof cities, coastal areas

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 22 Jan 2014 09:53 AM Author: Imelda V. Abano
    A man sits on the roof of his house, which is submerged by floods caused by tropical depression "Agaton", in Butuan on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, Jan. 21, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Philippines urgently needs to improve the ability of its cities and coastal areas to cope with climate change and minimise the risks from extreme weather events, such as powerful storm surges, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, experts say.

Worsening climate impacts in the Southeast Asian nation - from droughts to stronger and more frequent typhoons, increased flooding and sea-level rise along the coast - can no longer be ignored, according to a study of 12 cities released in mid-January by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Foundation.

Growing climate risks must be a signal for the government to pool its resources, including funding for climate-appropriate technology, skills, infrastructure and systems, to reduce the impact of related disasters, the study said.

It was released two months after Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) devastated the central Philippines, leaving more than 6,000 people dead, millions homeless and causing almost 600 billion pesos (around $13 billion) in economic damages.

“No one knows where the next big typhoon will hit, so all cities should prepare ahead,” WWF-Philippines Vice-Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said in a statement. “Relocating roads and communities to high ground, constructing seawalls, coastal barriers and establishing evacuation safe-zones will cost millions. But will you really put a price tag on Filipino lives?”


The study looked at the economic vulnerability to climate impacts of the four disaster-prone cities of Angeles, Batangas, Naga and Tacloban, as well as Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Dagupan, Laoag and Zamboanga.

It said geo-hazard maps show the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban, for example, is highly susceptible to both flooding and landslides.

“No one can define the scope and sequence of climate change with absolute certainty. That being the case, adaptive capacity becomes an essential asset,” the study said. “An investment in societal reserves – in the form of both human and financial capital – provides one reactive buffer to unforeseen circumstances.”

A key recommendation was to “climate-proof” local infrastructure, for example by moving coastal roads and communities to higher ground, improving drainage systems and investing in natural solutions like mangrove forests.

The Philippines sits along the Pacific typhoon belt and experiences an average of 20 typhoons a year. It is identified as the third most vulnerable country to climate change and extreme weather events in the World Risk Report 2012, issued by the United Nations University Institute of Environment and Human Security.

The WWF study emphasised that growing population and urbanisation trends mean that as a city’s footprint expands, its dependence on external resources increases too.

“With an increasing trend of rural to urban migration, more people are exposed to risk,” the Philippines' Climate Change Commission (CCC) Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering told Thomson Reuters Foundation after the launch of the report.
“Cities - especially growth centres like Manila, Cebu, Cagayan De Oro, Baguio and Tacloban -  are not really planned around their vulnerabilities,” she said. “These cities need to understand climate change adaptation and how they are vulnerable to natural disasters.


Sering urged local governments to include climate change adaptation policies in their development strategies. Two existing laws on climate change and disaster risk reduction and management “must be seriously integrated in their local planning”, she emphasised.

In recent years, the national government has begun to shift from reactive policies to a more proactive stance, with climate impacts now considered in all planning, Sering said.

Current projects and programmes are focused on climate change adaptation, disaster reduction, promotion of low-carbon development based on renewable energy sources, solid waste management and climate-proofing of infrastructure.

Other programmes implemented last year include vulnerability assessments of different sectors, especially agriculture, and the scaling up of an “eco-town framework” to build sustainable towns such as on Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, one of the country’s poorest areas.

The government is also pushing for a bill that would incorporate climate change and disaster risk reduction issues into decision-making on land use, Sering said.

“We are faced by so many challenges, but time is running out and we need to protect the country and the people from climate hazards, resource scarcity and damage to ecosystems,” Sering stressed.

Disaster risk reduction experts hope that a change in the national budget, ushered in at the end of 2013 after the typhoon, will make more funding available to protect people and property from natural hazards. The Calamity Fund, most of which was earmarked for response after a disaster, has been replaced by a new $293 million National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.   

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who is a champion of climate and disaster risk management in the Philippines, called for local climate action plans to make cities more resilient.

“We should have learned our lessons from Typhoon Haiyan. We need to plan more at the local level, prepare our people and strengthen our disaster risk management in order to minimise hazards,” said Salceda, who is also co-chair of the U.N. Green Climate Fund.

Salceda called on local governments to protect communities through measures like installing early warning systems, upgrading weather forecasting equipment and disaster planning for villages before, during and after extreme events.
“Disasters can be an opportunity for us to look back and plan for the future of our communities,” Salceda said. “The goal of governance in disasters is to allow development to proceed in the midst of all the uncertainties and risks.”
Imelda Abano is a freelance contributor for the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Manila.

“Insurance is a means of shifting the focus from saving lives to also saving money.”

-So where did the aid money go and how effective was it?

Your Money -or Your Life?

Typhoon Preparedness Guide



What To Do Before A Typhoon

  • Inspect your house if necessary repair/fixing is needed. (eg. Roof, doors, windows, ceilings)
  • Before typhoon strikes, you must clean up your house’s drainage system so it won’t get clogged up.
  • Store an adequate supply of food and water that would last for a few days. Canned goods are ideal especially if cooking is not possible.
  • Put everything in your house in an elevated position especially items that generate electricity so that water won’t penetrate into them in case floodwater rushes inside your house.
  • Harvest crops that can be yielded immediately.
  • For fishing folk, place boats in a safe area.
  • If you are living in a lowland, hazard prone and/or risked areas, the ideal resort is to evacuate as early as possible.
  • Always keep flashlights, candles, and batteries and first-aid supplies available.
  • It is important as well to have an available transistor radio (battery – powered incase power supply will be unavailable) so you can be updated about the typhoon and its current location.
  • Frequently listen to your local radio, television or visit Weather Philippines for storm advisories on the progress of the typhoon.


What To Do During A Typhoon

  • Stay inside the house and keep calm. Postpone any travel.
  • Monitor to your local radio, television or visit Weather Philippines for storm advisories on the progress of the typhoon.
  • In case of flooding, turn off the main sources of electricity to prevent electrical accidents.
  • Avoid wading through flooded areas to avoid water-transmitted diseases.
  • Do not operate any electrical equipment during a flood.
  • Do not use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded.
  • Keep an eye on lighted candles or gas lamps.
  • Heed the advice of the local authorities if they ask you to evacuate your area. If there is a need to move to an evacuation center, follow these reminders:
    • Evacuate calmly.
    • Close the windows and turn off the main power switch.
    • Put important appliances and belongings in a high ground.
    • Avoid the way leading to or along the river.


What To Do After A Typhoon

  • Monitor to your radio, television or visit Weather Philippines for storm advisories on the progress of the typhoon.
  • Check your house for damage and make necessary repairs at once. Avoid scattered debris especially tin and lumber as there may be rusty nails protruding.
  • Wear proper safety gear and equipment when working in hazardous areas.
  • If your house was damaged, make sure that it is already safe and stable when you enter.
  • Have a knowledgeable person inspect electrical connections before using electrical appliances.
  • Watch out for live wires or outlet immersed in water.
  • Report damaged electrical cables and fallen electric posts to the authorities.
  • Beware of dangerous animals such as snakes that may have entered your house.
  • Boil water before drinking it to avoid diseases.
  • Avoid contaminated food resulting from the lack of electricity and refrigeration.
  • Do not let water accumulate in tires, cans or pots to avoid creating a favorable condition for mosquito breeding that can cause dengue.

Preparing for Hagupit
Cleaning Up
Hagupit - Tropical Depression 22W
2013 November Typhoon
Typhoon Haiyan -One Year After

Garden Diary
2013 index


Project Land

Trevor Batten
 <trevor at tebatt dot net>
 Baclayon 2014