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COP 21

How Philippines recovered from disaster through decent work

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, and as climate change exacerbates weather-related disasters around the globe, the ILO is working with local communities to make them more resilient to future storms. At the forthcoming Paris Climate Conference (COP 21), the ILO will advocate that the climate change and decent work agendas are mutually supportive.

Feature | 23 November 2015
In November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan tore through parts of the Philippines, killing thousands of people. It was one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded. The people in the islands of Cebu, Coron, Leyte, Samar and Panay suffered serious economic losses in addition to the devastating loss of life. At least 14.2 million were affected, including 5.9 million workers whose livelihoods were destroyed or severely disrupted by the country’s worst-ever natural disaster.

As early as December 2013, the ILO had begun to work with the Philippine Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) to put emergency employment programmes in place in the areas hit hardest. These programmes created temporary jobs for victims of the super typhoon, providing much-needed immediate income and guaranteed minimum wage, as well as securing social protection and safety and health coverage to the thousands of workers affected. They also ensured better long term opportunities and enhanced resilient to future storms.

After the storm, the ILO worked with local communities to build back “better and greener” using interlocking compressed earth blocks (ICEB) made of a mix of lime soil, cement and water. ICEB is better because lime soil makes denser and stronger blocks than concrete; it ensures that the newly-built housing has a resistance level that exceeds the UN standard for shelter reconstruction after natural disasters. It is greener because people don’t have to resort to the old practice of stripping sand from the island’s beautiful beaches to make blocks, and thereby helps to preserve a valuable natural resource.

Changing Climate: Changing Lives
An alliance of local fishermen now manages the ICEB-making facility. Each member of the alliance gets a small sum of money and are trained how to invest it in the enterprise. “They hired their own carpenters, they bought their own materials, they built up their workstations... the game changer here for the fisher-folk, the farmers, the women, the youth and senior citizens, is to give them the opportunity or the option to become entrepreneurs,” says Alan Monreal, the programme manager with DAMGOInc., a local NGO that helped the ILO implement the project.

Other people affected by the super typhoon were trained and paid by the ILO’s programmes to build transitional housing, which symbolized a new start for families who lost everything while offering an opportunity to learn new job skills. Workers were paid a basic wage and provided with health insurance and social security protection. Some were trained in construction skills and paid to repair public buildings that were damaged by the typhoon. Over one third of these were women, new to the traditionally male-dominated construction field.

The chance to earn an income and learn new job skills changed the lives of those devastated by the Typhoon.

Before the Storm: The ILO helps farming communities in southern Philippines

Long before the storm, the ILO was already at work in the southern part of the country helping to increase farming communities’ socio-economic resilience to climate change in the province of Agusan del Norte.

Through the Climate Change Adaptation Demonstration Project (CCAP) and Climate Resilient Farming Communities in Agusan del Norte Through Innovative Risk Transfer Mechanisms, the ILO collaborated with UN agencies and local and national partners to establish financial safety nets for those affected by climate disasters and assisted corn and rice farmers to diversify their livelihood base and thereby reduce their risk of exposure.

These projects were part of the broader joint UN Programme on Strengthening Institutional Capacities to Adapt to Climate Change, which aimed to mainstream climate risk reduction in key development, planning and regulatory processes, and enhance the capacity of key national agencies, local governments, and communities to undertake climate resilient development. The Programme was a success insofar as climate change was fully integrated into the Philippine Development Plan and identified as a top priority area for budgeting, among other accomplishments.