THE ECP DISASTER RESPONSE WORK: December 10, 2013
The Philippines is “the most-exposed country in the world to tropical cyclo0nes or typhoons.” There are accordingly around 19 typhoons that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility in a typical year and 6 to 9 of these usually make landfall.
It is said that it is in times of sorrow and disaster that the best in the Filipino is manifested and practiced. If there is any bright spot to the catastrophic landscape brought about by the destructive typhoons, it is the immediate response of the Filipino people, even those directly affected, wanting to help fellow Filipinos. Donations from all over the country usually come pouring in, not only from the coffers of rich corporations or institutions or enclaves of the rich but more so from millions of simple folks sharing a peso or a kilo of rice just to be able to save or feed others. Volunteerism for rescue and relief operations remain strong, with many volunteers risking and a few even losing their lives to bring much needed assistance to people clutching on the straw of life.
Partnering with typhoon-affected communities to rebuild their lives has always been a part of the social ministry of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) and it has always worked to enhance the positive values and practices, such as bayanihan, ub-ubbo and galatis, that surface during these times of disaster. Yet it is also a reality that the Church’s work has oftentimes resulted in the unintended consequence of creating and/or strengthening dole-out mentality among receiving communities. The ECP has endeavored to address this undesirable phenomenon by crafting a relief response program within the framework of sustainable development. Also in recent years, the ECP has relied more heavily upon the support and action of its members and congregations to be able to do an effective response, a complete reversal of the situations in times past when the Church and its people immediately looked up to the grace of foreign partners and donors for relief assistance whenever disaster struck. At the height of Typhoon Pablo which hit Mindanao in December 2012, the ECP dioceses, institutions and congregations raised more than half a million pesos in relief funds.
Following a more sustainable development approach, the ECP puts more focus on what it refers to as developmental relief and rehabilitation of livelihoods which it does with affected communities when emergency relief responses are nearing conclusion and when most relief agencies are going home. Such approach to rehabilitation work seeks to do away with dole-outs and outright grants. As an aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy [Ketsana] and Peping in 2009, the ECP initiated community loan programs in the municipality of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija and in Licab, Sta. Maria also in Nueva Ecija and the funds that have been loaned out to these groups have been paid, re-loaned and continues to be rolled over to the participating communities with new groups joining in every year. The original fund assistance contributed by the Episcopal Relief and Development and Nippon Sei Ko Kai remains intact and is even growing as soft interests were paid and ploughed back to capital in subsequent loan cycles. When Typhoon Santi [Nari] hit Nueva Ecija in October 2013, Licab was again directly hit. Many houses were damaged and the community, through Annunciation Cooperative, applied for a non-interest loan of P115,000 to rebuild the same. The ECP agreed to the requested repayment period of two (2) years. Earlier, in August 2013, Typhoon Labuyo [Utor] hit the provinces of Isabela, Quirino and Aurora. The congregation of St. Cyril Church in Diduyon, Maddela, Quirino commenced a farm assistance project to enable farmers to re-plant their wiped-out crops. They asked for a non-interest loan of P300,000. These communities have express that for a long time that typhoons have been destroying their lands, they have relied on the grace of outsiders but such reliance has made them more helpless and their self-worth greatly reduced. Hence, they now prefer to do loans instead of outright grants because this helps them maintain and enhance their dignity and self-worth. It is the current policy of the ECP to continually roll over all repayments for these rehabilitation efforts so that the participating communities move from rehabilitation to more longer term livelihood enhancement.
On 8th November 2013, a super-typhoon, which accordingly is the strongest land-falling tropical cyclone ever recorded, hit the central part of the Philippines and turned several regions into a complete wasteland. As of 4th December, the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council [NDRRMC] reported that the number of fatalities from Typhoon Yolanda [international name: Haiyan] has climbed to 5,719, with 1,779 persons still missing and 26,233 others injured. A total of 11.26 million persons or 2.38 million families have been affected, with property damage estimated at P34.37 billion.
In response, a wave of support swept the entire country and many communities, including those previously hit by similar disasters, rose up to offer what they can. The disaster also captured the attention of the international community which immediately responded bringing with them, among others, expertise and technologies un-available in the country to do recovery work in what has become a global effort.
THE ECP RESPONSE
The ECP joined the nation in praying for those whose lives were tragically lost and broken in the ferocious path of the super typhoon. As expected, its congregations responded with dispatch. Cash, boxes of clothing, sacks of rice, boxes of canned goods and other food stuff were donated for the affected communities. [See Annex I for the Partial List of Donations.]
Because of the massive scale of devastation, the ECP not only welcomed but also encouraged the pledge of churches and agencies of the world-wide Anglican Communion, which likewise made immediate offers of assistance. Through the Global Anglican Alliance for Relief and Development, a teleconference was held on 19th November 2013 where the ECP was requested to present its Yolanda response plans to its Anglican partner agencies. Participating in the teleconference were representatives from Episcopal Relief and Development [ERD], Anglican Board of Mission [ABM] – Australia, Primate’s Fund for World Relief and Development [PWRDF], Anglican Development [Diocese of Melbourne].
Using the sustainable development approach, the ECP crafted a relief and rehabilitation program that will be implemented in three phases: a] emergency relief; b] developmental relief; and, c] livelihood rehabilitation.
For the first phase, the ECP established linkage with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines [NCCP] which provided the network and access to appropriate communities urgently needing relief assistance. The first boxes of foodstuff and clothings from various congregations, institutions and dioceses of the ECP were directly brought to the NCCP for immediate dispatch to the affected communities. At that time, there was difficulty bringing relief goods to the most affected areas due to the closure of damaged roads, airports and sea ports and the NCCP was among the few officially-accredited relief agencies prioritized to avail of the limited access.
To get an on-the-ground experience and to discuss with ground staff of NCCP the areas where ECP relief will be focused, two (2) ECP staff person visited Tacloban and Eastern Samar on 25th – 28th November 2013. On 26th November 2013, the ECP sent two truckloads, consisting of 2,200 food packs, to communities recommended by the ground staff of the NCCP, as follows:
29th November 2013
Name of Community Number of Families Served
Amantillo, Marabut, Western Samar : 206
Sto. Nino, Marabut, Western Samar: 155
Catato, Marabut, Western Samar: 160
Lipata, Marabut, Western Samar: 207
Odoc, Marabut, Western Samar: 106
Ferreras, Marabut, Western Samar: 144
Pinalangga, Marabut, Western Samar: 248
Amambucale, Marabut, Western Samar: 128
1st December 2013
Panugmunon, Marabut, Western Samar: 207
Guirang, Marabut, Western Samar: 639
The Episcopal Diocese of Davao, whose territorial jurisdiction includes Eastern Visayas, focused its relief work on Bantayan Island. On 27th – 28th November 2013, it organized a medical mission, led by medical personnel of the ECP’s Bent Hospital in Zamboanga City and participated in by medical professionals from the Anglican Diocese of Sabah. It also distributed 1,500 food packs to Barangays Okoy and Balidbid, both of Santa Fe, Bantayan Island.
The ECP’s relief work has two distinguishing features: a] mobilization of foodstuff produced and processed by its communities; and, b] installation of solar lighting system in evacuation and relief distribution centers.
Disaster food relief usually consists of rice, noodles and canned goods. For immediate and short term relief, these food items may be acceptable but for longer term operation, the effect of these foods on consumers’ health or nutrition becomes a serious issue. Hence, the ECP is mobilizing and using more healthful foods that are produced and processed by its communities, more specifically: vegetable noodles, packed vegetables, camote biscuits and insumix [an easy to cook mix of dried rice, legumes and fish]. To be able to produce one (1) to three (3) tons of these food items to complete a truckload however involves the coordinative work of various communities and households working together and complementing each other – from mobilization of raw materials to actual processing. In fact, these food items constituted only a small portion of the first two truckloads as it took sometime to scale up the food processing operations . These community-prepared and processed foods will however make up the bulk of relief goods starting with the second relief mission in mid-December and onwards.
Lighting has become an urgent need in view of the destruction of sources of power in the worst-affected areas. Every night when it gets dark, affected communities relive the horrors of the deadly storm surges that came in the middle of the night of 8th November. The ECP staff who visited these areas observed that people were congregating on roadsides at night-time to get relief from the lights of passing vehicles. Also, light was needed as protection against possible violence on women and children.
In some areas, generators were in use but these require gas fuel which are in short supply. Hence, the ECP mobilized its competence in community solar lighting systems and organized its first trip to Leyte and Samar for this purpose on 4th December. The solar lighting team also brought with them 200 relief packs for distribution which included hygiene kits that contained, among others, herbal soap produced by an ECP community [see story below]. As of this writing, seven  systems have already been installed in major evacuation centers, as follows:
UCCP Center, Tacloban, Leyte being used as NCCP Field Office
Giit Barangay Center, Giit, Tacloban, Leyte
Seawall Barangay Center, Tacloban, Leyte
IFI Church, Jinamoc Island, Basey, Samar
IFI Sto Nino Church, Poblacion, Marabut, Samar
Balud Barangay Hall/Evacuation Center, Balud, Basey, Samar
Palaypay Barangay Hall, Palaypay, Basey, Samar
Sawa Barangay Hall, Sawa, Basey, Samar
Panama Barangay Hall, Marabut, Samar
(presently being installed)
Carmen Drop Off Center, Carmen, Hernani, Samar
UCCP Church, Porblacion Uno, Hernani, Samar
Drop off Center, Hernani, Samar
Installation of the solar lighting systems was made in the above communities which agreed that when power supply is resumed in their areas, the systems will be transferred to other centers or more remote areas that have yet to be reached by such power supply.
A meeting is scheduled on 16th December to draw up a program for Year 2014. This will be participated in by Ms. Sara Delaney who is currently in the Philippines, consulting with ECP on the disaster response work. The developmental relief and livelihood rehabilitation work shall take two tracks: a] working with specifically identified communities which do not have other partners; and, b] partnering with social enterprises in the affected areas that have been adversely affected. Initial explorations on these two tracks are currently being done.
Meanwhile, two (2) relief delivery operations are scheduled on the third week of December. Also, a plan is being made for the possibility of sending youth and BSA volunteers to Tacloban after Christmas to do a clean-up of debris being hauled off to a dumping site for the purpose of salvaging materials that can be used for house rebuilding. This is being planned in coordination with Tsu Chi Foundation.
Since the ECP is not directly involved in relief distribution, it has no community engagements at the present time that has enabled it to observe and gather stories of people trying to get back on their feet. The inspiring stories it has gathered so far are those that relate to the un-affected communities” efforts to be in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the devastated regions, such as the following:
1] The Amtuagan Community Association of Brgy. Amtuagan, Tubo, Abra has a soap-making enterprise established under the ECP’s Development Program in 2011. This is a small-scale venture owing to the community’s difficulty of access to bigger markets. The road to the community from the town center is open only during dry months. Hence, the women soap makers would make soap only during these months when they can then take passenger jeeps to bring the products either for sale at the provincial capital of Bangued or send them by bus to the Episcopal Church centers [in Bontoc, Baguio or Manila]. When requested to make herbal soap for Yolanda relief, the women did not hesitate to respond positively even if it meant manually carrying the soap products in a one-and-a-half-hour hike from the community to the town center as the road to the community is impassable for motor vehicles at this time. As of this writing, a total of 1,700 pieces of soap have been included in the hygiene kits as aforestated – soaps that were manually transported, without any additional costs, through the shoulders of men and women of Amtuagan who felt it was the least they could do to help the suffering communities.
2] The members of Anunciation Cooperative in Licab, Sta Maria, Nueva Ecija who borrowed a total of P115,000 to rebuild their homes damaged by Typhoon Santi [Nari] in October 2013 resolved to shorten the repayment period from two (2) years to one (1) year to make the borrowed fund available for similar rebuilding of homes in Yolanda devastated areas.
3] The team monitoring the camote processing in Besao, Mountain Province to ensure quality standards reported that in their inspection of the processing in the houses where it was being done, they observed that the women processors are now joined by their husbands. Previously, the latter considered camote processing a woman’s work and had never lent a hand in the activity. However, when they learned that the product was intended as relief for the super typhoon victims, husbands gave their full cooperation and assumed responsibility for the more challenging work of manual pounding or grinding of camote into flour. The monitoring team said those husbands are among the men who usually congregate after farm work for liquor drinking sessions every afternoon. The women processors therefore now have an added reason to be thankful for the opportunity to serve their suffering brothers and sisters.
4] In Caranglan, San Jose, Nueva Ecija where the ECP did a water project some years ago, a woman noticed a truck of the Episcopal Diocese of Santiago carrying sacks of rice that was parked along the highway on its way to Manila. When she learned that the rice was intended for Yolanda affected communities, she asked the driver to wait as she went to her house and got one (1) sack of rice which she donated to the relief effort. She said she also experienced devastation in her community caused by a previous typhoon.