In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as "Yolanda", struck parts of the Philippines causing more than 8,000 deaths. It was the country’s reportedly worst ever natural disaster. On the islands of Cebu, Coron, Leyte, Samar and Panay, in addition to the huge loss of life, people also suffered severe economic losses.
As early as December 2013, the ILO set up emergency employment programmes in areas hit hardest by Haiyan. Following a rapid assessment on damages and jobs losses, clearance and cleaning works began as well as labour-based rehabilitation of community assets, infrastructure and the environment.
The ILO supported the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) of the Philippines in creating temporary jobs to help improve living and working conditions for the victims of the super typhoon.
Working closely with the British, Japanese and Norwegian Governments, NGOs and those affected on the ground, ILO activities brought much-needed immediate income and guaranteed minimum wage, social protection and safety and health to thousands of workers who had lost their livelihoods, while also ensuring better opportunities for affected communities in the longer term.
Last September, an ILO team went to the Philippines to see the impact local ILO programmes have had on livelihoods, jobs, incomes, social protection and vulnerable groups like indigenous peoples.
PLANTING THE SEEDS OF THE RECOVERY On the island of Leyte, thousands of people whose lives depend on agriculture are still trying to cope. It wasn't only that farm fields cultivated for years were destroyed; farmers who knew only one way to provide for their families lost their livelihoods. But now there is new hope in the mountains and farm fields.
Quick facts about the Philippines
- With an average of 20 typhoons a year, the Philippines is the third most disaster-prone country in the world. In recent years, storms have been getting stronger and more deadly.
- Helping stricken communities build back better, the ILO has been especially active over recent years in the Philippines, including responses to Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Bohol earthquake, civil unrest in Zamboanga and Typhoons Washi and Bopha.
- At least 14.2 million were affected when Super Typhoon Haiyan struck on 8 November 2013, including 5.9 million workers whose livelihoods were destroyed or disrupted.
- 2.6 million of these workers were already in vulnerable employment and living at or near the poverty line before the typhoon
- Since November 2013, more than 15,000 people were directly supported by the ILO and its partner organisations in the Philippines.
- This is equivalent to about 76,000 family and community members who benefited indirectly from the ILO Haiyan project.
Building back better and greener One of the most urgent challenges was restoring a way to make a living for nearly six million people who were affected by the typhoon. Emergency employment programs were set up in the hardest hit areas. Now, a year after Haiyan, people have new job skills, and enterprises are beginning to emerge from the devastation.
Building back with decent work ILO programmes have not only created thousands of jobs but also tried to make them safe and decent.
Near San Isidro, on the Philippine island of Leyte, workers repair a 3 km long feeder road. The communities along the road are among the poorest in the province, which was hit particularly hard by Typhoon Haiyan.
“Soon, this road will make things easier for us,” says Rosalina Ando, 35, one of the farm workers involved in repairing the farm-to-market road. “We are thankful for being given the chance to earn while helping our community.”
The road will connect farmers to markets and allow children to go to school in one of the remotest parts of the island.
A road roller has been abandoned on the embankment of the feeder road. It has become a symbol for earlier - failed - efforts to repair the road with heavy machinery: when the machine broke many years ago, nobody here was able to repair it. Its only purpose today is to serve as a playground for the children from the nearby communities.
But the road works not only highlight the advantages of the ILO’s labour-intensive approach replacing heavy machinery by manual labour.
The ILO team arrived in San Isidro just as workers building the feeder road were receiving their wages at the town hall – 260 pesos a day, which is above the country’s minimum wage for unskilled workers.
Rogelio Quiseo, 52, says the 15-day work would allow him to buy food for his family. “I’ve been struggling to provide for the needs of my family since the typhoon struck. I could not go back to farming right away.”
Social protection for all
Besides paying a guaranteed minimum wage, this meant giving workers access to social security benefits and ensure their safety and health at work on all ILO projects after Haiyan.
In Ormoc, we met workers rehabilitating the City Health Office, the administrative and operational center of the local public health system. We talk to Emelda Candelario, 46, and Carlon Cayudong, 30, about social security.
“When I was working in Manila, I would earn 2,500 pesos per month. The work was o.k. because my bosses were kind, but I was not covered by social security”, says Emelda Candelario, 46, one of the construction workers in Ormoc.
Carlon Cayudong rejoins her: “Now I am earning more money with free insurance. This is why I am really grateful to be on this project”.
|Safety first for construction worker, Emelda Candelario |
The workers also benefit from strict safety rules at work. The sign “Safety First: Be careful, be aware, be safe” was respected: Here and on all other sites the ILO team visited in Leyte, workers wore gloves and used protective equipment.
“The idea behind our programmes was to ensure that the traumatic experience of Typhoon Haiyan was not followed by another one which is being left vulnerable and exploited. These workers should not become victims again as they start to rebuild their communities and their jobs should be as safe and decent as any other job”, explains Jonathan Price, Chief Technical Adviser of the ILO recovery programmes.
“What’s more, the wages inject cash in the local economy, strengthen the purchasing power of the poor and allow small investments by setting up a small business”, he adds.
Susan Ang, the mayor of San Isidro, who was present when the wages were paid to the feeder road workers in her town hall, is already thinking about the future: “We hope that the ILO will continue to help us becoming more resilient to future storms”.
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| Susan Ang Yap, Mayor, San Isidro, Leyte, The Philippines |
After the storm, helping the most vulnerable ILO programmes have focused on poor and displaced people, and more particularly indigenous communities.
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Most people associate Haiyan with the destruction of Tacloban City as the town bore the brunt of the super typhoon. Only few know that Haiyan also devastated farther away places like the island of Coron.
The ILO team visited two projects on this paradisiac island which offers to tourists the ultimate outdoor and diving experience. But for indigenous and other poor communities here, the storm which hit Coron in November 2013 was rather a traumatic one.
Human beings, houses, livestock, boats, fishing gears and seaweed farms of the community were washed away when the typhoon hit the remote municipality of Malawig. Connected with a dirt road which is not accessible during the rainy season, we had to take a three hour boat ride to join the Tagbanua indigenous peoples there.
We meet with parents who lost their children during the storm – they can still hardly speak about what happened to them in November 2013.
Others were somewhat luckier. “We heard about the typhoon but did not know that it would be so powerful. Finally, my mother-in-law convinced us to evacuate…so only our boat was heavily damaged by the typhoon”, says Sinjin Capriano, a 29 year old fisherman.
The storm also devastated the sanitations system.
Thanks to the ILO project, 60 fishermen and 30 support workers now learn to build biogas digester septic tanks connected to household communal toilets, rainwater harvesting tanks with hand washing facilities, and bio-sand filters to produce safe household water.
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“Water supply was a problem here as the pipeline connecting us to a sources was damaged by the typhoon…but now we build water tanks in the school”, says Elsie Ramirez, a 39 year old inhabitant.
Ramirez and many others here do not think of leaving the place. “I grew up here, and this is where I built my family. I feel we are safe here despite what has happened”.
With their new skills the fishermen could later be hired in nearby communities like Guadelupe for the construction of similar low-cost water supply and sanitation systems.
Weaving the walls for a better future
In the municipality of Guadalupe, a new ILO project develops Sawali production for typhoon Haiyan affected, indigenous and other poor families together with a local NGO. Sawali are woven split bamboo mats used in the Philippines to construct the walls of the all types of low cost housing that you can find all over the country.
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The Guadalupe Community Sawali Enterprise Development Project has two components: the construction of the Sawali Livelihood Centre where the products of the weavers will be exhibited, and the production of Sawali mats and other handmade artisanal bamboo products at a nearby site.
The Sawali weavers cut, split, hammer and skin the bamboo before they pass it on to the weavers. The final product is sold in roles of 10 by 2 meters for 1,200 pesos each.
“When the ILO arrived we felt thankful, we did not have a permanent job before. Now, we have a more stable source of income”, says 65 year old Elconida Delos Angeles, a mother of eight children.
The day we came to the project site, the local coordinator and the Haiyan coordinator from Manila discussed how to make sawali production a business that can stand on its own and provide enough income to the workers in the long run.
The outcome of this discussion will be important for the weavers but also the long-term sustainability of the project. The final income of the weavers will depend on the successful marketing of the bamboo mats and other products.
Productivity has already doubled following the construction of a sheltered production site – before the weavers were not able to work during the three to four hours of rain per day.
What’s more, weavers like 65 year old Elconida Delos Angeles know the value of their product now: “Before we did not know the market price of our products. We were not aware if we were making profit or not”.