Strengthening partnerships

Opening address at the Strengthening Partnerships: Livelihood at the Forefront of Recovery Following Haiyan

By Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Strengthening Partnerships: Livelihood at the Forefront of Recovery Following Haiyan

Déclaration | Manila, Philippines | 6 août 2015
  • Undersecretary Chato, representing Secretary Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment;
  • Partners from the government, workers and employers’ organizations,
  • Officials and representatives from Japan,
  • Implementing partners from Tacloban, Ormoc, Northern Cebu, Tagbilaran, Negros Occidental, and Coron,
  • Humanitarian and international development partners as well as members of the diplomatic corps,
  • Colleagues from the UN Country Team,
  • Representatives from the academe, government agencies, media and civil society,
  • Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat! [Good morning to all of you]
As many of you know, the ILO team was immediately on the ground after Haiyan to support DOLE’s emergency employment programme.

This was not the first time over my career to respond to such disaster. I was part of the ILO response to the boxing day tsunami, the earthquake and floods in Pakistan and the earthquake in Haiti.

From what I have witnessed first-hand in the next 48 hours after Haiyan, the destruction was massive and it was heart-breaking to witness thousands of lives affected and livelihoods devastated.

Take for instance, the story of 37-year old Lilibeth, whose family was living a life of meagre means before Haiyan. She and her husband were selling fruits to meet the needs of their four children.

The typhoon destroyed their house and small fruit stall. But worse, the storm took the life of her husband and three children. Only Lilibeth and her seven-year old son managed to evacuate to a nearby school.

Haiyan stripped almost six million Filipino workers of their livelihoods. Almost half of them were already in vulnerable forms of employment even before the typhoon hit.

Like Lilibeth, they were forced to accept or create whatever work was available just to survive another day.

Since day one of the response, the ILO supported the government and humanitarian partners to ensure livelihood was placed at the forefront of the initial response.

More than 67,000 workers and their families were assisted through ILO’s emergency employment programmes in Tacloban, Leyte, Northern Cebu, and Coron.

It’s not just about putting much-needed wages or cash into these areas, but also helping workers to develop new skills, to earn a wage – which for many mean receiving minimum wage for the first time - and to access better working conditions including social protection coverage such as social security, accident and health insurance coverage.

These are not just labour rights but also basic human rights that we need to ensure in times of crisis and disaster, but often overlooked during the humanitarian phase. If nothing else, it’s also the law in the Philippines.

Together with our partners, we believe that ensuring decent work for one person can help an entire family and stimulate local economic recovery.

Lilibeth was part of the emergency employment programme to clear and to restore a public hospital in Tacloban.

She was able to provide for the needs of her son, who also returned to school a few months.

During the discussion with the ILO team, Lilibeth said that the work she has done was also a great help for her community.

The ILO has worked with the humanitarian team to ensure that such intervention goes beyond humanitarian response.

Emergency employment programmes have transitioned to medium-term skills training and enterprise development.

The ILO’s approach in Haiyan response is motivated by our four decent work pillars:
  • promoting decent jobs,
  • ensuring rights at work,
  • extending social protection, and
  • encouraging social dialogue, with gender equality as a crosscutting objective.
Like Lilibeth, 52-year old Minerva of Coron, Palawan took on any job to feed her five children. She did other people's laundry or wove sawali mats.

Unfortunately, she lost her house to Haiyan. Her husband, an occasional labourer in construction sites, had to stop working when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Minerva joined one of our carpentry training programmes and earned her National Certification in carpentry. She is part of a community-based organization of Sawali weavers, supported by the ILO’s livelihood assistance programme.

Skills programmes such as the carpentry training helped enhance employability of Minerva in existing job markets.

On the other hand, enterprise programmes build the resilience of vulnerable micro- and small-enterprise owners like the Sawali Weavers in Coron. They were also equipped with skills such as organizational and business planning, business and financial management, and networking.

This played a pivotal role in local economic and social development, and represented a major source of employment.

ILO’s emergency employment, local resource-based work, skills development, and enterprise development programmes have benefitted around 160,000 workers and their families.

Nearly US$11.5 million have gone into wage payments; tools, equipment, and materials procurement; social security, health, and accident insurance enrolment; and vocational skills training and enterprise development.

The ILO is grateful to the Governments of Norway and Japan, the Department for International Development UK, and the International Maritime Employers’ Council for supporting our work.

Let me also acknowledge like-minded partners from the Philippine government through the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Trade and Industry, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Social Security Systems and PhilHealth and the Livelihood Cluster partners such as Save the Children, OxFam, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization.

Let me also express our gratitude to all of you for your continued support and partnership.

As you are aware, the Philippines is the third most disaster-prone country in the world. Around 20 typhoons hit the country per year, affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

To build back better, we need to ensure that people affected by disasters will not fall as victims again of another tragedy by providing safe and decent working conditions and extending social protection coverage.

The cooperation among government, employers’ and workers’ organizations, international and humanitarian partners, non-government and peoples’ organizations, in working for preparedness, relief, recovery, and development is more crucial than ever.

Today we convene to look back on our experiences in the Haiyan post-disaster response.

Our discussions will be an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and to see how different approaches and lessons learned can move us further.

Again, thank you for standing with us. We look forward to your continued partnership, to ensure livelihood at the forefront of disaster response and recovery.