Kalahan Forest Reserve
In 1971, the Philippine government passed Forestry Administrative Order No. 62 in an attempt to curb national resource deterioration and human displacement caused by increasing deforestation at the hands of agriculturalists and loggers. This administrative order initiated community-based forest governance systems in the Philippines. Shortly after in 1972, the government signed over to the indigenous Ikalahan people legal ownership of their ancestral lands. This step, eventually led to the creation of the Kalahan Forest Reserve.

Deforestation and Land Rights

Five villages of Ikalahan people, located in the northern part of the Philippine island of Luzon, convened to form the Kalahan Educational Foundation (KEF) to claim community ownership of 15,000 hectares of forested land. A memorandum from the federal government allowed the Ikalahan people to manage this land in exchange for the protection of a local watershed. This memorandum set a precedent for future indigenous land tenure rights cases.

KEF Forest Stewardship

Deforestation in the Philippines continued to rise following the 1971 government order, but on the Kalahan Forest Reserve, forest cover is increasing. The KEF executes a multifaceted approach to responsible forest stewardship. The KEF is under the leadership of spokespeople from nine communities within the reserve. It also includes youth and local government representatives. One division of the KEF ensures the local watershed remains unpolluted by wastes. Another oversees research and management of the forest and natural resources. This faction encourages responsible planting, harvesting and crop selection practices among farmers on the reserve. It also investigates forest resource improvements and agroforestry potential and manages land use and land allocation among local families.

Increased Access to Education

Also, the KEF established the Kalahan Academy. It is a facility dedicated to providing Ikalahans and other local children a formal education up to the 12th grade. The Kalahan Academy teaches its pupils about the sustainable forest and natural resource management and focuses on preserving indigenous Ikalahan culture. The academy encourages graduates to pursue a college education, after which many return to work as academy faculty and staff or in local government offices. Others find jobs outside of the Kalahan Forest Reserve, which alleviates local resource pressure and diversifies the communities’ economic opportunities.

Expanded Economic Opportunities

The KEF also established the Mountain Fresh product line. This product line includes preserves made from sustainably harvested indigenous plants like guava, hibiscus and ginger in local markets. Mountain Fresh preserves struggle to expand its market access due to transportation, marketing and raw material resource constraints, but institutional aid from NGOs like the Federation of Peoples’ Sustainable Development Cooperative helps the company to surmount these challenges. Other economic opportunities fostered by the KEF include the sale of sustainably harvested orchids and timber from agroforestry plots. Furthermore, the KEF Board of Trustees hopes to capitalize on carbon trading schemes. In 2002 alone, the Kalahan Forest Reserve sequestered over 38,000 tons of carbon. As the amount of forest cover on the reserve increases, so too does its potential to capture carbon.

Following the legal recognition of their indigenous land rights in 1972 by the Philippine government, the KEF instilled a conservation ethic among the Ikalahan people on the Kalahan Forest Reserve through sustainable forest stewardship practices and educational and economic opportunity. The profits from the KEF’s sustainable enterprises and the economic opportunity generated by formal education contribute to the improving quality of life for the Ikalahan people through local improvements and access to infrastructure, healthcare and education.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

Assist the PhilippinesIn the Philippines, almost 17% of the population lives under the poverty line, for a multitude of economic, social and geographical reasons. Combating poverty throughout the Philippines, in both the bustling metropolises and isolated villages, requires significant organization, scalability, effort and adaptability. International Care Ministries (ICM) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that rose to the challenge to assist the Philippines by providing aid to the most destitute and financially anemic beginning in 1992, and it has continued to do so ever since.

When Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed an “enhanced community quarantine” in response to COVID-19, life changed dramatically for those people whom ICM designates as “ultra-poor.” To assist the Philippines and these people and families who live on less than 50 cents a day, ICM has reached out in significant and measurable ways.

The Problem

For many Filipinos, the quarantine has been devastating. In more remote areas, for instance, restricting travel also restricts job opportunities. In late June, the National Economic and Development Authority predicted that 12 million people would be out of work in the Philippines by year’s end, which is over one-tenth of the country’s population.

Having a reliable income can be the difference between manageable food security and malnutrition for countless Filipinos. For some communities, such as those in the persistently poverty-stricken Bangsamoro and Bicol regions, the continued loss of income opportunities means rising hunger, which can also foster dangerous situations in areas more vulnerable to violence.

ICM’s Shift

Because of International Care Ministries’ history in the Southeast Asian archipelago, the organization was able to shift its focus and utilize an already well-developed system of local volunteers and aid to assist the Philippines in combatting the effects of COVID-19 on the ultra-poor. Regional locations where ICM already had a foothold, like the Visayas and Mindanao, received significant emergency assistance. As of the end of September, ICM had delivered more than 14 million meals to hungry Filipinos.

The CEO of ICM, David Sutherland, sees the NGO as a way to reach those who are currently being overlooked, particularly through ICM programs such as the Rapid Emergency and Disaster Intervention (REDI) system. “We estimate that 8 million poor people live in areas where ICM operates, so that means ICM has already distributed food to more than a third of poor Filipino families across vast areas of the country,” Sutherland said.

Partnered Impact

ICM has also partnered with the Filipino Department of Health to assist the Philippines in feeding nearly 20,000 malnourished children. In addition, ICM has distributed more than 350,000 gardening kits and 130 million seeds to help poor Filipinos grow their own food. Capitalizing on the breadth of its connections in the Philippines, ICM distributes both general and selective aid. It actively looks to connect with families and children most at risk of starvation or facing critical levels of malnourishment. Calls for help can even come in the form of texts. That way, local volunteers and pastors, partnering with the government, can direct aid where it is most needed.

The alleviation of hunger in the short term is essential for communities to survive in the days to come. However, the propagation of farming and gardening initiatives signals a long-term plan to create a steady supply of nourishment. As the effort continues, larger problems remain. Still, this partnership between ICM and the government has been a saving grace for millions around the Philippines.

– Alan Mathew
Photo: Unsplash

Youth Hunger in the PhilippinesHunger in the Philippines is a rampant issue. Food insecurity affects 64.1% of total Filipino households. Further, an estimated 5.2 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger, hunger due to lack of food to eat, at least once in the past three months. One issue in particular is the increasing rate of youth hunger in the Philippines. Two in every 10 (19.1 %) Filipino children aged 0-59 months old are underweight. Additionally, three in every 10 (30.3%) of children the same age are stunted in growth. All of this is due to food insecurity. Due to these numbers, many organizations have stepped up to reduce youth hunger in the Philippines. Here are two organizations included in this fight against food insecurity in the Philippines.

Youth Hunger in the Philippines

One of the organizations making a tangible impact on youth hunger in the Philippines is Destiny Ministries International. One of its pastors, Ariel Tenorios, based in the City of Calamba, Laguna, has spearheaded a campaign to feed homeless youth on the streets. He also raises money to give aid packages to these malnourished children. His work has spread throughout the provinces to the General Santos City/Mindanao areas. Tenorios has helped children during the COVID-19 pandemic by provisioning meals to college-aged students and families struggling with food insecurity. To distribute these resources, his team goes from family to family in the poorer areas and gives out bags of food to those in need.

Another way in which Destiny Ministry International helps youth hunger in the Philippines is through social media. So far, the organization has been able to help hundreds of children and families struggling on the streets. One big issue during this time is mental health, with a lot of the youth on the streets struggling with anxiety and depression. Through its work, the organization has helped rehabilitate those in need. For example, it can help people work through suicidal thoughts by providing for their needs.

A Personal Touch

Norita Metcalf knows what is like to help out in these areas. Metcalf was born in the Philippines, living in the province of Cavite from birth to the age of 21. While she currently lives in the United States, she still works with various churches and organizations that focus on youth homelessness and food insecurity in the Philippines. Metcalf takes frequent trips back to the Philippines to help in both tangible and remote ways.

On her most recent trip to the Philippines, aiding Destiny Ministries International, she saw another level of poverty. She described cardboard houses, multiple stories high, that people made to give families some form of a roof above their heads, even if it is as thin as cardboard. This showed Metcalf a new level of poverty than what she personally experienced as a child in the Philippines. While there, she helped fundraise and pass out food to address this problem.

Destiny Ministries International

However, the work of Destiny Ministries International has helped make a tangible difference. Metcalf describes the ways in which people struggled not only with food insecurity but also mental health issues resulting from malnourishment and poverty. The provision of funds and food go a long way for these people. Many college-aged youths on the streets told Metcalf about the feeling of hopelessness associated with the lack of food. Even a small glimmer of hope resulted in the subsiding of suicidal thoughts and depression, thanks to the aid of Destiny Ministries International. Overall, its work has helped hundreds and reduced food insecurity for families struggling during the pandemic.

Children International

Another organization that has aided with youth hunger in the Philippines is Children International. This organization has sponsored over 43,000 kids and 14 community members for over 37 years. It helps tackle malnutrition through screening every child and identifying those who need intervention. Additionally, monitored supplemental feeding in community centers help these children regain their strength and correct their weight-height ratio. Children International also aids parents through nutrition classes that teach about healthy meals on limited budgets, so that children will not remain malnourished.

Through its community centers, such as the Kaligayahan Center (meaning “happiness” in Tagalog), the organization serves thousands of children in different areas. In this center alone, it provides medical and nutritional services to more than 5,100 children. The work that this organization does therefore helps to combat youth hunger in the Philippines. As a result, it helps stop the early deaths and malnutrition that Filipino youths often suffer through due to malnutrition.

Looking Forward

These two organizations demonstrate two different ways to fight impoverished conditions and youth hunger in the Philippines. The stark statistics on how many are affected show that stepping up to the challenge is a necessary step toward change. However, the fight is not done with just these two organizations. As demonstrated by Metcalf’s story, food insecurity is a serious issue that needs a coordinated response in the Philippines.

Kiana Powers
Photo: Flickr

Encompass Reaching the Philippines
Many people know about large aid organizations like the World Food Programme, Oxfam and HOPE International. Often, young non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fly under the radar while still fostering social and economic growth. Encompass: Reaching the Philippines established in 2019. This young NGO has started several projects aimed at reducing food insecurity and improving opportunities.

Poverty in the Philippines is almost overwhelming, and certainly so by U.S. standards. The Asian Development Bank believes that roughly a sixth of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2018, while 2.9% of Filipinos lived below the international poverty line of $1.90. Poverty directly impacts food security. About 13% of the people are undernourished, with stunting affecting around 30% of young children.

Several organizations are helping the Philippines reduce food insecurity in various ways. Encompass: Reaching the Philippines is taking a sustainable approach to building economic and food resilience. Dr. Paul Helton, associate professor of Psychology at Freed-Hardeman University, started Encompass in 2019 after several trips to the country. This faith-based organization has funded several community start-ups and social development projects.

The Need for Engagement

The Philippines has a long history with the United States. Since 1946, the U.S. has aided in the development of economic growth, education, infrastructure, environmental protection, health and government in the Philippines. In 2018, the U.S. invested $275 million in aid to the Philippines. As a result, the U.S. and the Philippines maintain an important partnership in development, trade and security.

The Helton family similarly has a history with the Philippines. Helton lived there for two years as a child and has traveled back to the country several times throughout his life. After one recent trip, he noted the need for engagement. We “have to do more than wait for them to ask us” for help, he told The Borgen Project. The Filipino people “can be in dire need and still not ask you,” since their culture frowns on asking for outside assistance. He said this creates a cycle of harm, where their economic positions and health decline, and yet they refrain from asking for help.

Help from Encompass: Reaching the Philippines

In light of this, Helton founded Encompass: Reaching the Philippines to find and meet community needs. It currently operates a feeding program for children in two locations, feeding about 60 kids weekly. Helton has also helped out individual families with food, dental and medical supplies, including a full-body wheelchair for a 21-year-old suffering from cerebral palsy. His family can now take him to the beach or to church without difficulty.

Encompass also helped a family of four with the capital costs of starting a pig farm. Helton informed The Borgen Project of the success of the pig farm. Despite a virus killing a few of the animals, about a year after its inception the operation is almost self-sufficient. COVID-19 delayed its self-sufficiency, but Helton is confident it will meet that goal in the near future. This farm, he said, would provide revenue to the family and the community at large. Interestingly, manure is the farm’s most lucrative product, as locals buy it for fertilizer.

The Emotional Impact of Poverty

Commenting on the emotional impacts of poverty, Helton told the story of a family trying to send their daughters to college. As college loans are not readily available and the several hundred dollar tuition was not something the family could front at once, they turned to a loan shark. After their oldest daughter graduated, she took a teaching job in Hong Kong and contributed to her sister’s college fund, as the family eked out loan payments. Helton said existence in the Philippines, for many, is a day-to-day endeavor.

Future Plans for Encompass

Encompass has plans to further its support to families and communities. Some of its funding went to buy a piece of property, on which the locals constructed a community center and may eventually build a church. The organization is looking at assisting an aquaponics startup as well.

Again noting Filipino culture, Helton said that he founded Encompass: Reaching the Philippines not because the Filipino people asked, but because some people in the U.S. noticed the need for a “proactive organization” in the country. Its efforts have certainly been proactive and will undoubtedly continue to make small-scale, definitive progress.

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in the Philippines
Factors such as educational status and public health expenditures have impacted life expectancy in the Philippines, a tropical nation located in the Pacific Ocean. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in the Philippines.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Philippines

  1. General statistics: Life expectancy in the Philippines at birth increased to approximately 71 years in 2018. The mortality rate among both adult men and women has similarly decreased over time. The mortality rate for adult men decreased from about 308 deaths per 1,000 in 1960 to 235 deaths per 1,000. In addition, the mortality rate for adult women also decreased over time from approximately 262 deaths to 131 deaths per 1,000 adults.
  2. Socioeconomic and educational status: Many older Filipinos have reported better health, enhanced community participation and greater financial stability. Older Filipinos also explained that they had the ability to have enhanced stability later in life. Yet those with higher socioeconomic status reported more enhanced quality of life than those of lower socioeconomic status.
  3. Disease: The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the leading cause of death in the Philippines was cardiovascular disease. This caused about 35% of all deaths. Communicable maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions caused approximately a quarter of all deaths. Cancer caused another 10% and injuries 7%.
  4. Premature deaths: The risk of premature deaths as a result of non-communicable diseases (NCDS) has remained fairly constant over time at more than 30% in males. The risk of premature deaths in females was more than 20%. The WHO expects a similar trend over time until approximately 2025.
  5. Risk ractors: Risk factors specifically relevant to life expectancy in the Philippines include obesity, raised blood pressure and tobacco use. The percentage of the population that is obese has increased slightly over time, with higher projected linear trends by 2025. In contrast, the percentage of the population with raised blood pressure has remained mostly constant over time, with a similar projected linear trend. However, the percentage of the population that smokes is expected to decrease over time, with the greater change being predicted in males.
  6. National system response: The Philippines has implemented drug therapy in order to prevent both heart attacks and strokes. More than half of all health facilities reported implementation of cardiovascular disease guidelines, and many primary health care centers explained that they offered cardiovascular disease risk stratification. Four out of six of all essential NCD technologies were “generally available,” whereas 40% of essential NCD medicines were “generally available.” This is an example of how medical care can improve the life expectancy in the Philippines.
  7. Housing quality: A study conducted in Iloilo in the Visayas region of the Philippines analyzed what impacts childhood survival. The researchers examined factors like housing construction supplies and toilet services. Children from housing of higher quality had a higher likelihood of living to five years old than children from housing of relatively lower quality. As such, socioeconomic status determines life expectancy in the Philippines to some extent.
  8. Public health expenditures: From 1981 to 2010, health expenditure per capita increased by approximately 6.49%. GDP also increased by about 11% on average. At the same time, infant and under-five mortality rates decreased. In addition, life expectancy increased. 
  9. Education expenditures: In a study conducted in 2009, only 3% of government expenditures were allocated toward education. The researchers found that “Philippine provinces could use 52% of their budgets to attain current levels of human development indicators.” Ultimately, the researchers determined that increasing government spending toward education would increase life expectancy in the Philippines.
  10. Immunizations: An essential factor in lowering both morbidity and mortality is the sufficient implementation of universal childhood immunizations. In 2003, only 69% of Filipino kids were sufficiently vaccinated. Mothers with less education and who attended only four antenatal visits were found less likely to fully immunize their children.

Life expectancy in the Philippines is a complex issue. Greater awareness of the factors that affect it could contribute to better health outcomes and, consequently, higher life expectancy in the Philippines.

– Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has a fairly high poverty rate with more than 16% of the population living below the poverty line. Because of the many people reliant on agriculture for an income and inequality in wealth distribution, about 17.6 million Filipinos struggle to afford basic necessities. From 2015 to 2020, the rate of poverty declined from 21.6% to 16.6%. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte aims to reduce the rate of poverty to 14% by 2022. Through its strategy, AmBisyon 2040, the Philippine government plans to eradicate extreme poverty by 2040. Furthermore, the government has implemented various programs and reforms to reduce poverty by targeting education, healthcare and the overall economy. Here are five ways the program is combating poverty in the Philippines.

Combating Poverty in the Philippines

  1. Greater Access to Education: A factor of systemic poverty is a lack of access to education in impoverished areas. People gain basic skills and increased job opportunities through education, which can help to combat poverty in the Philippines. Therefore, the Philippines signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in 2017 to encourage more people to enroll in higher education and to address the issue of education inequality. The government subsidizes the cost of tuition for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) students as well as other expenses such as school supplies. Private institutions also have access to a tuition subsidy. The Act aims to decrease the number of dropouts in higher education and promote the idea that higher education is available to all.
  2. Greater Access to Healthcare: In an effort to improve the healthcare system, President Duterte signed the Universal Healthcare Act in February 2019. The UHC Act provides access to the full spectrum of healthcare by enrolling citizens in the National Insurance Program and granting health coverage to all. While healthcare is not completely free, those in poverty will have more access to health services. To ensure the effectiveness of healthcare, the Act will form the Health Technology and Assessment Council (HTAC). The Council will consist of health experts who will assess health developments, such as technology, vaccines and other advancements. Additionally, the Philippines will allocate more funds to PhilHealth, which will improve the quality of service and lower the cost of medicine.
  3. Family Aid: To further efforts to support citizens, the government implemented the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 2007. The 4Ps is is a conditional cash transfer program for impoverished households. The program gives households grants so long as they meet certain requirements, including keeping the children in school, having regular health check-ups and having parents or guardians attend Family Development Sessions. The 4Ps program benefits about 20 million Filipinos, 9 million of whom are children. Therefore, the program reaches about 20% of the population with the goal of greater poverty reduction.
  4. Economic Improvement: With the goal of reducing poverty by strengthening economics, President Duterte signed the Rice Tariffication Law in February 2019, amending the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996. The Law places a 35% tariff on imported rice with the goal of prioritizing local rice production for the population by stabilizing the supply. The tariff also aims to benefit local farmers by creating a more efficient and competitive agricultural system.
  5. Build, Build, Build: Additionally, the Duterte administration created the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan in 2017. The initial goal of the program was to complete 75 projects, but Duterte revised the plan to instead target finishing 100 projects. Some projects include new public transportation and airport renovations. The government has put about 34% of the projects into action and is expecting to complete 56% by 2022. By 2019, the government had completed two of the initial 75 projects. With support from loans, the Philippines will rely on Build, Build, Build as a strategy to aid the country in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s hope is that combatting the effects of the pandemic by improving the country’s infrastructure will stimulate the economy and create more jobs. However, the program has received criticism due to its slow execution as a result of underspending.

Unfortunately, poverty is expected to increase in the Philippines because of the coronavirus crisis. This will lead to a decrease in consumption growth and further income losses. Therefore, greater efforts are necessary to combat poverty in the Philippines amid the pandemic, which has hit the impoverished the hardest.

Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

American ExportsThroughout the past several decades, nations in Southeast Asia have seen significant declines in extreme poverty rates. As poverty has fallen and these nations have developed economically, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has become the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner. While the United States does rely heavily on this region for imports, trade with ASEAN also supports American exports and bolsters nearly 346,000 American jobs. The following five countries in Southeast Asia are critical trading partners and demonstrate the economic benefits that can coincide with a decrease in extreme poverty:

1. Malaysia

Malaysia has been extremely successful in reducing poverty throughout the past several decades. According to the United Nations, “… in 1970, 49.3% of Malaysian households were below the poverty line.” As of 2015, the figure had fallen to 0.4%. As poverty has fallen, Malaysia has also grown economically, developing profitable manufacturing, petroleum and natural gas industries.

As the country has reduced poverty and developed economically, it has become an important trading partner to the United States. The United States imports electrical machinery, tropical oils and rubber from Malaysia. It also exports soybeans, cotton and aircraft to the nation. In total, the trade between the two nations totals around $57.8 billion each year and supports nearly 73,000 American jobs.

2. Thailand

Thailand is another country that has seen impressive levels of poverty reduction in recent decades. According to The World Bank, poverty rates fell from around 65% in 1988 to under 10% in 2018. The nation has also evolved economically, developing large automotive and tourism industries as poverty rates have fallen.

Trade between the United States and Thailand has steadily grown, totaling $48.9 billion in 2018. When analyzing imports, the United States relied on Thailand for machinery, rice and precious metals. In terms of exports, the United States provided the nation with electrical machinery, mineral fuels and soybeans. In total, the exports to the nation supported nearly 72,000 American jobs. Additionally, exports to Thailand have been increasing in recent years, growing nearly 14.5% from 2017 to 2018.

3. Vietnam

Vietnam is perhaps one of the most astounding examples of poverty reduction and economic development. The World Bank reports that “the poverty headcount in Vietnam fell from nearly 60% to 20.7% in the past 20 years.” As it has done so, the nation developed one of the most rapidly growing middle classes in Southeast Asia, became a center for foreign investment and developed key industries in electronics, footwear and textiles.

While the United States has come to heavily rely on Vietnamese imports, Vietnam is also a rapidly growing market for American exports. In fact, American exports of goods to Vietnam increased by 246.9%, and American exports of services to the nation increased 110% since 2008. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, “U.S. exports of Goods and Services to Vietnam supported an estimated 54,000 American jobs in 2015.”

4. Indonesia

Though the nation still has significant progress to make, Indonesia is another nation that has seen a reduction in extreme poverty rates. Since 1990, the nation has managed to half its poverty rate and make significant economic advancements. Currently the largest economy in Southeast Asia, the nation has developed notable industries in petroleum, natural gas, textiles and mining.

Trade with the nation totaled around $32.9 billion in 2019. While the United States imported apparel and footwear from the nation, it also exported soybeans, aircraft and fuels to Indonesia. In total, American exports to Indonesia are growing, increasing 19.1% from 2017 to 2018 and supporting nearly 56,000 American jobs.

5. Philippines

While poverty is still an issue in the Philippines, it has seen significant declines in recent years. According to the World Bank, poverty fell from 26.6% to 21.6% from 2006 to 2015. The nation has also made significant improvements in developing industries outside of agriculture. While agriculture composed nearly one-third of the nation’s GDP in the 1970s, it currently represents 9.3%, split between an emerging industrial and service sector.

Trade with the nation currently provides $29.6 billion each year, and exports to the Philippines grew 3% from 2017 to 2018. Mainly, the Philippines relies on American exports for electrical machinery, soybean meal, and wheat. Overall, exports to the Philippines support an estimated 58,000 American jobs.

Affecting nearly one in five American jobs, international trade is a critical part of the American economy. As demonstrated by Southeast Asia, a reduction in global poverty rates not only contributes to global economic development but also supports the export industry and American jobs.

– Michael Messina
Photo: Pexels

sustainable development in the philippines
The Federation of Peoples Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC) is a group of 154 cooperatives and civil society organizations in the Philippines — focused on improving the lives of marginalized people. They provide financial support, technical training and partnership opportunities to local business enterprises to promote self-reliant, sustainable and peaceful communities.

Origins of the FPSDC

The FPSDC grew out of the Partnership for Development Assistance in the Philippines Incorporated (PDAP) and its Central Loan Fund (CLF). Filipino and Canadian NGOs established the PDAP in 1986 to aid local organizations in the development of autonomous communities of marginalized peoples in the Philippines. The CLF facilitated financial assistance relationships among PDAP member organizations. In 1998, 21 PDAP NGOs and cooperatives expanded the CLF to create the FPSDC.

The 4Ps

The FPSDC names “People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace” as the canons of sustainable development in the Philippines. Their efforts focus on providing local businesses fair market access and sustainable growth opportunities to promote local prosperity and instigate social change — which in turn, engenders peaceful communities and inter-community relationships. The FPSDC gives member organizations the tools to develop self-reliant economic and social support within marginalized communities in the Philippines.

FPSDC Services & Digital Presence

FPSDC offers five unique services. The cooperative housing service promotes sustainable development in the Philippines through the construction of affordable and environmentally-conscious homes, in food-secure communities.  The product distribution and marketing service helps local businesses enter competitive markets and encourages their commitment to environmental and social consciousness. The federation places particular emphasis on expanding opportunities for farms like Farms and Cottages, which the FPSDC helped to introduce to 457 supermarkets in Manila.

The socialized credit service offers a variety of loans to help businesses committed to job creation and sustainable development in the Philippines generate and reinvest money. The investment facility service manages organizations’ investments in marginalized communities. Their main goal is to help optimize wealth generation for both the financiers and the communities.  Finally, the institution-building service helps FPSDC organizations expand their institutions and their influence in marginalized Filipino communities.

In conjunction with the RedRoot Artists Cooperative and the Cooperative Development Authority, the FPSDC created a website to disseminate products made by cooperatives in the Philippines. E-cooptrade.coop, for example, markets primarily locally produced and organic products. The website also promotes local social organizations.

FPSDC Co-op Ville

The FPSDC continues to build a cooperative housing development in Barangay Mambuaya Cagayan de Oro City as a resettlement community for victims of Typhoon Sendong. A massive typhoon struck the Philippines in 2011 from December 16 to 18 — killing more than 1,200 people and leaving more than 60,000 homeless. The FPSDC Co-op Ville houses 130 families on 2.5 hectares of land in addition to a multipurpose hall, courtyard, health center and education center. The federation is now building a bed and breakfast in the village to serve as a self-reliant business opportunity for the community.

Empowering Communities to Prosper

The FPSDC organizes, connects and offers financial and marketing support to enterprises committed to the sustainable development of marginalized communities, in the Philippines. The opportunities provided by the federation put power in the hands of the people it serves. These opportunities then foster independent, prosperous and sustainable communities among the most disadvantaged people in the Philippines.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters in the Philippines
Every year, hundreds of natural disasters are reported worldwide. In 2019, 409 natural disasters occurred, many in the Asian Pacific region. Natural disasters in the Philippines are quite common and they pose great difficulties for islands with large populations and vulnerable infrastructure.

Geography of the Philippines

The Philippines is one of highest-risk countries for natural disasters. The nation’s location exposes it to storms that lead to floods, mudslides and typhoons. Additionally, the presence of offshore trenches such as the Manila Trench puts the Philippines at risk for tsunamis. Unfortunately, the list does not end there. The Philippines is also on top of the Ring of Fire, a path in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where there is a high risk for earthquakes and active volcanoes.

Infrastructure

The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, which poses many challenges to improving infrastructure. Natural disasters also disproportionately impact infrastructure in poverty-stricken areas. That being said, in the past decade, the Filipino government made strides to improve infrastructure and make the nation more disaster-ready.

In 2020, nearly a quarter of the Filipino government’s budget was allocated for infrastructure. President Rodrigo Duterte hopes to allocate 6% of the nation’s GDP to infrastructure by 2022. His “Build, Build, Build” program has played a large role in this increase of funds, which will be allocated to projects such as the Manila subway and other modes of transportation, water resources and energy.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has outlined $2.5 million in funds being used for infrastructure projects in the Philippines. GFDRR focuses on understanding and reducing disaster risk, strengthening governance and improving recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. GFDRR currently has three active projects in the Philippines. First, the “Support to the Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient Tourism Project” is set to be complete in June 2021. The second project is “Philippines Disaster Risk Financing,” scheduled to be complete in August 2020. Finally, the “Support to the Earthquake-Resilient Greater Metro Manila Program” is set to be complete in September 2021.

Poverty Reduction

According to the World Bank’s October 2019 report, the Philippines is expected to sustain its progress in poverty reduction. The Philippines’ GDP growth was roughly 5.8% in 2019 and is expected to reach 6.2% by 2021. Many believe this growth is tied to transportation infrastructure among the Filipino islands. According to the 2013 Philippines Human Development Report, economic integration will be key to creating sustainable growth throughout all of the Filipino islands and reducing poverty in rural areas.

The main production sectors in the Philippines are electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, food processing, petroleum refining and fishing. Agriculture is also a significant sector; however, self-employed farmers are the most susceptible to geographic hardships from natural disasters. Additionally, many farmers struggle due to a lack of insurance, inadequate post-harvest facilities, inadequate irrigation techniques and limited access to the market as a result of poor transportation services.

To address these problems, the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 plans to expand economic opportunities for those engaged in the agricultural sector, especially small farmers. This plan aims to get rid of irrigation fees for small farmers, pass the National Land Use Act to protect important natural lands, implement the Agrarian Reform Program to distribute land to landless farmers.

Conclusion

The Philippines is still considered at third world country according to its GDP, human development index, life expectancy and infant mortality rate. However, while the Philippines still has many structural issues inhibiting its growth, its progress over the last decade has been momentous. Equipping islands to handle natural disasters in the Philippines and supporting farmers are two key ways the country can reduce poverty and improve livelihoods.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Domestic Workers
In high-income countries, many households rely on dual-income earnings, creating a market hungry for domestic labor to help with childcare and housekeeping. To fill these roles affordably, families rely on the low wage labor of women from developing countries. Many of these domestic workers come from the Philippines and emigrate to wealthier countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. A significant portion finds work in the United States as well, making up 15% of American domestic workers. This labor export has become extremely vital to the Philippine economy, accounting for about 9% of the country’s total GNP. Although this model has remedied economic hardships for many Filipino families, the human sacrifices of this work are undeniable. Many of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers must part with their children, endure grueling professional demands and become vulnerable to exploitation in their host countries.

Demand for Migrant Labor

While Filipino men tend to migrate for jobs in construction and transportation, women often work as caretakers and domestics. On average, the remittances of male migrants are double those of female migrants, who frequently fill lower-paying positions. However, working abroad is an opportunity accessible mostly to Filipinos with some preexisting class privilege. Some of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers leave behind high-level jobs in their native country, their skills and education making them more attractive to foreign employers. Even so, the wages at more menial jobs abroad dwarf the women’s earning potential at home.

Benefits to the Philippines

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reports that 1.2 million migrants work abroad each year and sent home $27 billion in remittances in 2014. This inflow of remittances is the third highest in the world, only ranking below India and China. When the capital from these remittances enters the national economy, families often invest in natural disaster relief, education and real estate. Exporting labor has also helped narrow the wealth gap, growing a more prosperous middle class. Nationalist rhetoric celebrates foreign labor and individuals who work abroad are praised as “new heroes.” The Philippine government even presents awards like the Model OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) Family of the Year Award to honor the sacrifices of specially dedicated migrant workers.

Personal Sacrifices and Children Left Behind

Despite the earning potential and social honor of working abroad, there is often a heavy emotional cost. Ironically, many Filipino women who leave home to provide childcare in the developed world must leave their own children behind. In the words of Manuela Peña, chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, “It is quite easy to become a successful overseas Filipino worker in terms of economic achievement, but we found out it is difficult to maintain family relations and turn (the life of a migrant worker) into success.”

Migrants frequently leave children with family members and childcare workers who do not have the means to work abroad. For workers who are undocumented in their host countries, shuffling back to the Philippines for regular visits is impossible and family separation can last for years. After returning for retirement, many workers spend their retirement caring for children of relatives who work abroad, so that the next generation of mothers and fathers might provide for their families through remittances.

Exploitation and Fair Treatment

Many of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to scams and exploitation. Recruiters can charge exorbitant fees, employers can provide poor working conditions and workers can receive unfair payment. The Philippine government has made some infrastructural and policy changes to grapple with these issues. Protections require that employers use standardized employment contracts, cap recruitment fees at reasonable rates and ban deployment to countries with records of poor migrant treatment. In 2012, the Philippines negotiated a groundbreaking $400 monthly minimum wage for Filipino domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

NGOs like Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Inc. help migrants maximize their savings through entrepreneurship, providing microloans and financial literacy education. This model of social entrepreneurship stimulates local economies, promotes community development and provides a lucrative alternative to migration.

The loans that the Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation distributes range from ₱3000 to ₱1 million. Borrowers have used the loans to expand their small businesses by employing additional staff, investing in newer machinery and buying vehicles. As of the 2017 annual report, the organization held multiple training events in Davao City and Butuan City, educating participants on family rights, entrepreneurship and business management.

In Conclusion

The Philippines’ labor export model has done much to lift families to comfortable middle-class lives. Many Filipinos now have greater access to capital and education because of the remittances that family members send. However, sacrifice and family separation remain as harsh byproducts. Fortunately, the government has put regulations in place to improve fairness and quality of life for the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers.

– Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Flickr