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

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines 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
  • Honourable Domingo, Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, representing His Excellency President Aquino,
  • Honourable Conferido, Acting Labour Secretary
  • ILO constituents from the government, employers’ and workers’ organizations,
  • Distinguished ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps and the international community,
  • Colleagues from the UN Country Team,
  • Development partners and officials from the academe, government agencies, media and civil society,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang gabi sa inyong lahat (good evening to all of you)!
Thank you for joining us tonight and to my American friends – Happy Thanksgiving! Tonight is indeed an opportunity to express our gratitude for your support and partnership.

As you know, we cancelled last year’s event in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which was supposed to highlight the work and progress made in the Philippines to address child labour.

Tonight we reflect on the impact of the events over the course of the last two years.

More than 15 million people were affected by Haiyan, leaving almost 6 million workers stripped of their source of livelihood overnight. Over 2.6 million were in vulnerable employment - forced to accept or create whatever work was available just to survive even before the typhoon.

During the humanitarian phase, the ILO co-chairs the livelihood cluster with then the Department of Social Welfare and Development as chair. The Department of Trade and Industry under the leadership of Secretary Domingo now leads the work on livelihood during the recovery phase for the government.

Working with the government; employers and workers’ organizations; and international partners; we were able to mobilize resources and technical expertise. The ILO as part of the Humanitarian Country Team responded and strengthened emergency employment.

The team immediately hit the ground to support  the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Trade and Industry in placing livelihood and decent work at the forefront of recovery.

Emergency employment programmes guarantee minimum wage, extend social security, health and accident insurance coverage – for most this is the first time for them to be covered as well as to avail of the benefits of social protection, and ensure safety at work through provision of personal protective equipment and presence of an on-site medical support.

More than 50,000 workers and their families were initially assisted through emergency employment in Coron, Northern Cebu, Leyte, Ormoc, and Tacloban.

Through the Humanitarian Country Team and the Livelihood Cluster, more than 800,000 workers and their families benefitted from emergency employment.

From the ILO perspective and our work on recovery, this would not have been possible without the support from the Government of Australia, Japan, Norway, United Kingdom, and the International Maritime Employers’ Council, along with the Humanitarian Country Team.

Emergency employment programmes have now transitioned to labour-resource based community work, skills training and enterprise development. Value chains and essential market needs are taken into account in order to place the community on a sustainable recovery path that is supportive of the Philippine Development Plan.

To your left, you’ll see some of the products from communities rebuilding their lives after the disaster and who are here with us this evening.

Through medium-term local resource based works, skills training and enterprise development, we were already able to reach out to more than 70,000 workers and their families but our work continue.

More than 166,000 individuals or over 830,000 workers and their families gained from skills training and enterprise support with the shift to sustainable livelihoods.

Currently, we are also part of the post-crisis response in Zamboanga and the interventions after the Mayon volcanic eruption in Albay.

The ILO and our partners will continue to develop opportunities to sustain gains and scale up initiatives that have proven successful.

Many see the ILO only as a standard-setting organization. However, the ILO has been around since 1919 and has been a core partner in conflict and disaster settings to ensure livelihood at the forefront of recovery, while promoting decent work and fostering sustainable development throughout the world.

In my previous position with the ILO, I worked to support efforts after the tsunami in Banda Aceh, the earthquake in Haiti, the flood and earthquake in Pakistan, the post-conflict in Afghanistan, as well as the 2007 Global Economic Crisis. The ILO worked with partners to link relief, recovery and development to ensure sustainability.

In addition to placing decent work and livelihood at the forefront of recovery, we have also strengthened our partnership within the Philippines with:
  • the US Department of Labor on child labour. For two years, the Philippines was among the top 10 countries recognized for significant advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.
  • the US Department of State on freedom of association;
  • the European Union on migration and ethical recruitment including the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding in the workplace;
  • the Government of Australia on a people-centred and job-led approach after Tropical Storm Washi and Typhoon Bopha;
  • the Government of Canada on the protection and promotion of migrant workers’ rights in the ASEAN Region;
  • tthe Government of Sweden on gender equality, domestic workers and freedom of association;
  • the Mindanao Trust Fund on peace-building and local economic development with the Bangsamoro Development Agency; and
  • partners under the ILO’s Regular Budget Supplementary Account, which allowed countries to voluntary channel their contributions to disaster affected communities, including the Zamboanga post-conflict and the Bohol earthquake.
The ILO is also grateful to the Consuelo Foundation, SM Cares and ABS-CBN for their partnership and contribution in the campaign against child labour as well as the emergency employment and livelihood response after Haiyan.

Let me also express our continued gratitude to the Rockwell Land and the Lopez Foundation; especially Oscar and Connie Lopez for allowing us once again to use this venue tonight.

Please also join me in giving a warm of applause to our constituents – government, employers’ and workers’ organizations and the ILO staff for their hard work and commitment during the course of a challenging but rewarding period over the last few years.

Many of them are here tonight. I invite you to take the time to talk to them on experiences and challenges faced on the ground.

You’ve also seen the timeline when you arrived at the main entrance, which presents some of the results of our partnership over the past two years.

As I conclude, the short video on the screen will take you to typhoon-hit communities who are now building better, greener and stronger after Haiyan.

Again, thank you for standing with us and celebrating another challenging but productive year. We look forward to your continued partnership.

Lastly, on behalf of the ILO team in the Philippines and our Director-General Guy Ryder, allow me to wish you and your families a happy holidays.

Enjoy the rest of the evening.

Thank you and Mabuhay!