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Disaster response in the Philippines

Rebuilding a better future in the wake of typhoon Bopha

Almost two months after Typhoon Bopha slammed the Philippines, survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives. The ILO is helping give communities new livelihood prospects, but renewed flooding has affected aid efforts.

Feature | 25 January 2013
BAGANGA, Philippines (ILO News) – Maritess Diansay, 39, lost just about everything to Typhoon Bopha that ravaged the southern Philippines island of Mindanao late last year, but not the hope that her three children will someday finish school and get decent jobs.

The massive storm, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Pablo, hit land in the Davao Oriental province on December 4, 2012, ploughing a path of death and destruction.

Diansay lives in the town of Baganga, a coastal municipality of some 50,000 where coconut-growing is the economic mainstay. At first, many neighbours sought refuge at her home, but they all had to flee as the wind ripped off the roof and tore down walls.

We found out that most of the affected workers are unskilled labourers."
L.J. Johnson, Director of the ILO Office for the Philippines
“Our house was destroyed. Our sources of income were gone: the coconut trees were uprooted, some of our piglets died,” she recalls, choking with emotion.

In all, coconut growers lost an estimated US$ 150 million, while about 50 million boxes of bananas, worth US$ 4 each, were lost to the tropical cyclone. For many farmers, that meant a total loss of income.

In total, more than a million workers were affected.

“We found out that most of the affected workers are unskilled labourers. Many of them are farmers or unpaid family workers and are vulnerable given their level of skills, low earnings and limited protection and security,” says Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Country Office for the Philippines.

The ILO immediately mobilized its own resources, and received support from partners to implement emergency employment creation and livelihood development programmes, including cash-for-work and road rehabilitation projects, as well as support to indigenous communities.

Urgent action is needed to rebuild communities and livelihoods."
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
“Urgent action is needed to rebuild communities and livelihoods. Workers in vulnerable forms of employment, farmers and indigenous peoples are even more at risk than most to such disasters, and are often forced to accept any kind of work just to survive,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said during a recent visit to the Philippines.

The Australian government's foreign aid agency AusAID and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund are funding the programmes implemented by the ILO together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and government authorities.

But more help is needed. Almost two months after Bopha unleashed its fury on the southern Philippines, recovery efforts have been hampered as torrential rains and flooding continue to hit Mindanao island.

New debris collected, rice fields were flooded and landslides have cut off some roads and damaged bridges.

Maritess is not giving up hope. She now works in one of the reconstruction programmes. “We used to wait for delivery of relief goods or to borrow money to support our needs. Now I am happy to have the chance to earn for my family,” she says.

And about the home she lost, she adds: “It’s just a house, as my husband and I always say. I still have not given up on my dreams, especially for my three children to finish school and to find a decent job someday.”