A Decade of Humanitarian and Development Work in the Philippines

Published: Nov 21, 2023 Reading time: 6 minutes
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© Photo: PIN Archive

We are marking a decade of humanitarian and development efforts in the Philippines, reflecting on our journey since November 2013 when we responded to Super Typhoon Yolanda. Over the past ten years, our colleagues at PIN Philippines addressed challenges, including natural disasters, social conflicts, health and environmental problems, and widespread poverty.

Where it began

Initiating operations in Eastern Samar a week after Super Typhoon Yolanda struck. In response to the widespread devastation, a team from Prague provided immediate aid to affected communities. This team distributed food parcels, provided temporary shelters, and assisted in repairing schools, bridges, and roads.

A decade of impact

Initially focusing on immediate relief, we have shifted our focus towards long-term recovery and development, enhancing agriculture-based livelihoods and local markets. In addition, we work on climate resilience, peacebuilding, social cohesion, health education, and disaster risk reduction.

Enhancing Eastern Samar's Agriculture

In Eastern Samar, post-Yolanda recovery was a daunting challenge. From 2015 to 2019, in partnership with Helvetas and with funding from Swiss Solidarity, we strengthened agricultural systems that rejuvenated the livelihoods of farmers and increased incomes. Our initiative employed a market systems development approach that improved farm production; we connected farmers and local providers with markets, cultivating grassroots resilience.

Raquel Ausa, a coconut farmer, shared her experience, stating, "Through these services, especially in financial literacy, I learned how to manage my money well and increase my income."

Eastern Samar's Cacao Revolution

From 2018 to 2021, with support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we transformed lives by developing the cacao industry in the province. This project invested in capacity building and creating sustainable markets for cacao farmers, setting the foundations for economic resilience.

Mikaela Arre, 63 years old, is one of the small farmers in Eastern Samar provided with free training, cacao seedlings, and farm tools.

"We were interested in cacao because we are vulnerable to disasters. Cacao does not die immediately. Production is easy," she said.

Interventions in Manila

In 2017, addressed challenges faced by internally displaced people in Manila's urban areas. With support from the PIN Club of Friends, workshops and meetings with local governments have resulted in disaster preparedness plans creating ripples of change for residents.

Empowering Lanao Youth

In Lanao Province, we worked to enhance mutual understanding and respect among the youth of different faiths; we work to promote peace and social cohesion and build inclusive communities.

Lanao del Sur's Youth Apprenticeship

After the bloody siege of Marawi in 2017, we initiated a project to enhance the employability of displaced youths through apprenticeships. We steer young Filipinos away from extremist recruitment towards a more resilient future.

"We founded the Butig Youth Movement for Peace (BYMP) for those who are determined to protect their futures and retain peace in their communities," says Misbah Zacaria, a community organiser in Butig.

BYMP leads joint community peacebuilding activities with other local youth groups, enhancing camaraderie, building mutual respect, and boosting self-confidence.

Northern Samar's Access to Renewable Energy

From 2019 to 2022, we worked with partners Entrepreneurs du Monde (EdM) and Malteser International (MI) to bring renewable energy to off-grid communities in Northern Samar. Thanks to the European Union's support, the Renewable Energy Access for Off-grid Communities and Households (REACH) Project, we empowered rural communities with innovative, scalable, and sustainable renewable energy technologies. This work helps fortify homes against climate change impacts. Enabling children to further their education is one of the successes of bringing electricity to Barangay Nagoocan.

"Before, kids would read their modules outside using the light of the stars or the moon, but now children can study inside or play even late in the evening," says Fe Baldoza, Village Captain, Barangay Nagoocan.

Emergency Response and Recovery

Rapid recovery in Eastern Samar

In 2013, we responded to the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Samar, in doing so, becoming a beacon of support. We provided immediate humanitarian aid, and later cash-for-work programmes, school rehabilitation, and livelihood recovery laid the groundwork for resilience, offering solace and solutions to distressed communities.

Vinta's wrath in Lanao del Norte

In Lanao del Norte, where Tropical Storm Vinta wreaked havoc in 2017, we provided support through our Club of Friends and Real Aid programmes. Beyond sanitary kits, we focussed on restoring livelihoods and employing locals for debris clearance. We covered basic needs and sparked a glimmer of hope after destruction.

Marawi's post-war support

When echoes of war in Marawi faded in 2017, we teamed up with local organisations, distributed essentials, provided psychosocial support, and empowered the youth to advocate for tolerance. From school uniforms to sub-grants, our multifaceted approach aimed to rebuild infrastructure and the spirit of Marawi.

Continuing our work in the Philippines

Civil Society and Inclusive Governance

As we move towards our second decade in the Philippines, our initiatives in Mindanao are set to create lasting change. Our governance project, "Strengthening Capacities of Civil Society in Caraga and BARMM for Good Governance," funded by the European Union, runs from November 2022 to November 2024. Collaborating with 30 local CSOs, 4 CSO networks, and 30 LGUs, we provide tailored capacity-building activities and access to financial grants to strengthen CSOs' role in good governance and foster CSO-LGU cooperation and collaboration

"We are grateful for the comprehensive training we received; it was instrumental in shaping us. We developed a concrete plan for our advocacy. We learned communication strategies to help us implement advocacies and achieve our goals," —Mohammad Saad Indar, Vice President of Mindanao Center for Local Governance in Marawi City.

Lifting Lives in the Bangsamoro

Another major project in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) extends to bolstering resilience through the Leveraging and Expanding Agri-Aqua Production (LEAP) project in Bangsamoro (2023-2026). Collaborating with local NGO partners, this project aspires to transform lives in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi by enhancing coffee and seaweed production in the BARMM. Beyond economic uplift, LEAP aims to foster peace, inclusivity, and sustainable agriculture in the Bangsamoro region.

Building Resilience Against Floods

As typhoons frequently batter the Philippines, our sights are set on early action and impact mitigation. From October 2023 to March 2025, supported by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) and our Club of Friends, we will strengthen community response and resilience against floods. By deploying early warning systems for flooding, we endeavour to empower several communities in Caraga, BARMM, Zamboanga del Sur, and Misamis Occidental to face climate challenges.

As we celebrate our 10th year in the Philippines, we remain committed to addressing the evolving needs of the Filipino people. We are committed to being an active actor and partner in the Philippines in addressing humanitarian and development challenges. We came to the Philippines 10 years ago and hope to stay until our support and services are no longer needed. Then would be a sad yet happy time—sad because we will then leave the country, but happy because the country is then capable of addressing its problems and the government is responsive to the needs of its people.

Autor: Zenny Awing