Keynote address at the Working out of disasters: Livelihood at the forefront of recovery, ILO year-end event and partners appreciation

By His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, delivered by Secretary Gregory Domingo of the Department of Trade and Industry at the Working out of disasters: Livelihood at the forefront of recovery, ILO year-end event and partners appreciation, Rockwell Tent, Makati City, Philippines, 27 November 2014

Statement | Rockwell Tent, Makati City, Philippines | 26 November 2014
I am honored to speak on behalf of the President. Allow me to share with you his message for this occasion:

For almost a century now, the International Labour Organization has sought to empower people all over the world, affirming a fundamental truth: that the pursuit of justice in labor, is critical in ensuring prosperity, peace, and progress for all. This year, we focus on a specific aspect of this pursuit, through the theme: “Working out of Disasters: Livelihood at the Forefront of Recovery.” This goes back to the origins of the ILO, an organization born in the aftermath of the first World War. At the same time, it is particularly significant to the Philippines, in light of the typhoon that devastated a large portion of our country one year ago: Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda.

The Philippines is no stranger to disaster; the country welcomes over 20 typhoons every year. Recent memory brings to mind Typhoons Washi (Sendong), Bopha (Pablo), and Haiyan, the last of which is considered by many as the strongest storm to every make landfall. Haiyan was unprecedented in scale: it affected 44 out of our 81 provinces, severely affected 1.47 million families, and damaged 1.17 million homes. It forced the cessation of productive activities and resulted in the loss of employment and incomes.

The extent of the devastation galvanized everyone into action: from government, to our international partners and friends, down to the citizenry, everyone did their utmost to extend assistance to Haiyan’s survivors. In the immediate aftermath: roads and infrastructure were cleared, relief and humanitarian teams from the public and private sectors were deployed, and critical needs, such as food, water, shelter, and electricity, were met.

In the aftermath of Haiyan, government knew that we could not simply seek to rebuild what had been damaged and lost. That would mean returning to the vicious cycle of destruction, relief, and reconstruction; it would mean that we had not learned from the painful lessons of this disaster, and that we were content with myopia, rather than resolved to seek out long-term solutions. The objective: to build back better, restoring communities not only to their former conditions, but ensuring that they were more prepared, more resilient, and more inclusive. Part of this includes the need to empower Haiyan’s survivors to recover from the economic damage that the typhoon had wrought, and to regain control of their lives. As such, livelihood also plays a central role in this plan to build back better.

Short-term employment, or emergency employment, was an important part of government’s response. Our Department of Labor and Employment, together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the International Labour Organization, and the United Nations Humanitarian Country Team, set standards to ensure that worker-beneficiaries would receive 100 percent of the regional minimum wage, orientations on basic occupational safety and health, Personal Protective Equipment, and social insurance. This followed our shared conviction: not just any work would do; we need to maximize every effort to help our countrymen.

In just 49 days, from November 18 to December 31, 2013, a total of 31,969 workers in 11 provinces in four regions were hired under the emergency employment of DOLE with a budget of 2.5 millions dollars. The ILO, which partnered with the DOLE, also hired 3,029 workers in these provinces with a budget of over 270 thousand dollars. These workers participated in the clearing of streets, de-clogging of canals, clearing and basic repair of schools or clinics, debris segregation and materials recovery and recycling of debris into construction materials. Our Technical Education and Skills Development Authority likewise provided on-site training to address the expected demand for skilled workers for the repair, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of infrastructure.

For 2014, livelihood assistance and emergency employment was provided by different agencies under the Livelihood Cluster of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery led by the Department of Trade and Industry. As of October 30, out of a targeted 44,778 beneficiaries, 33,338 have already been given livelihood assistance by DOLE, while 11,440 are currently being assisted by the agency. For its emergency employment program, out of a target of 34,692 beneficiaries, 96 percent or 33,283 have already benefited. More than 90,000 beneficiaries have been registered under the DSWD’s Cash for Work program. 12,843 beneficiaries have graduated from TESDA’s Vocational Educational Technical Skills Training and Capacity Development Program, while 2,692 are undergoing training.

All these are part and parcel of the Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program, which aims to achieve inclusive, sustainable business and livelihood and areas affected by Yolanda. Emergency employment and short-term programs will be replaced by skills enhancement and sustainable livelihood and economic initiatives to create long-term employment. Every industry—from agriculture, to services—will benefit from specific and targeted initiatives. The private sector will play an important role in this, as government engages them to generate more employment in different industries across the affected areas. Priority industry clusters will be identified and provided with access to necessary technology and financing, and possible assistance from “big brother” firms, which can help local micro, small, and medium enterprises to become part of global value chains.

We could not have done this—the Philippines could not have taken such significant strides in building back better without the assistance provided by the ILO, and other partners and friends from across the globe, including our international development partners, and the Governments of Australia, Norway, Japan, and United Kingdom, among many others. I understand that in Yolanda-affected areas alone, about 13,000 people have benefited from your partnership with our government, with an additional 66,000 family and community members indirectly benefiting from the projects implemented in regions 4B, 6, 7, and 8. Your work has helped disaster-affected communities in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Leyte, and Bohol, as well as those displaced by the Zamboanga conflict, to rebuild their lives. There is no doubt that we will learn from our friends and countrymen here, who have gotten back on their feet and rebuilt their lives and communities.

Events like this show that your support and partnership has not waned, and that you are will continue to walk with the Filipino people towards realizing stronger, more revitalized, more resilient communities. More importantly: they show what genuine compassion and solidarity can redound to—what challenges we can overcome when we stand shoulder to shoulder. As we near the end of this year, and welcome a new one, let us not forget our resolve, renew our partnership, and reaffirm our determination to uplift our fellow men.

Thank you, and good evening.