Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy
Natural disasters are a major threat to all, yet even more so when electricity is absent. Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy and TekPaks to better endure hurricanes. Renewable solar energy has been on the rise for those in poverty, due to its inexpensive and environmentally-friendly aspects. A group of strong Filipino women is taking charge to bring solar energy and life-saving technology to their town.

Learning From Experience

In 2013, tropical cyclone Haiyan hit the middle of the Philippines, killing 6,000 and displacing 4 million. With winds reaching 195 miles per hour, this was one of the biggest and most powerful typhoons ever recorded. One town, Marabut, managed to have zero casualties due to its evacuation plan. The town did not have a designated building to go to for safety. As a result, residents had to find shelter in a cave.

The Tinabanan Cave has provided shelter for centuries and is 32 feet high. When the typhoon hit, more than 1,000 people made the trek up a stairless hill to safety. Lorna dela Pena was alone in Marabut when the super-typhoon struck. She described how her “grandfather’s dream was for it to have stairs” when questioned on the evacuation, as Reuters reported. Building stairs and implementing solar energy became a priority after the tropical disaster.

The Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) trained Lorna dela Pena and Azucena Bagunas, both from Marabut, as solar scholars. They use their training to educate their community and implement vital technology.

TekPaks “Light” the Way

TekPak is a portable solar energy generator, which prepares communities for disasters preemptively. It is capable of powering phones, lights, kitchen appliances and more. The portable feature allows for easy evacuation and installation. Counting the number of people evacuated and communicating are greatly improved as well.

ICSC developed TekPaks and utilized them for storms since its first introduction. Azucena Bagunas described how ICSC used TekPaks “to power a nebulizer when someone had an asthma attack.” Additionally, it trained Pena and Bagunas on how to use TekPaks and educated others on its benefits.

Since electricity is a luxury for those in poverty, solar energy raises more ideas on its use, like harnessing solar energy as a replacement for coal energy. Not only is solar energy cheaper than coal, but it is safer as well. TekPak technology spread across the world for energy solutions and its new versions bring greater success.

Women Warriors in the Philippines

Bagunas and Pena work to educate and improve their community’s quality of life. Their women-led TekPak training sessions in their town make great strides to efficient evacuation drills and protocols. Women and children are among the most vulnerable to disasters, making solar energy a vital initiative.

Natural disasters disproportionately affect women since they “are more dependent on accessing resources that may be impacted.” Domestic work that women endure doubles during a disaster. Further, “women remain susceptible to poor health outcomes, violence and inequalities in all stages of a disaster,” according to Women’s Agenda. Solar energy provides solutions to many problems women face during and after natural disasters.

The use of solar lights rather than oil lamps has been extremely beneficial for the women in Marabut since it prevents crossing the sea for fuel. Collecting water after dark is hazardous for women yet once again, solar energy improves the task.

A Bright Future

Solar energy brings affordability and renewability together. Electricity is vital for the development and quality of life in communities. Solar energy provides a unique opportunity for those far away from power grids to have power. Ending extreme and energy poverty starts with basic necessities.

Women in the Philippines like Pena and Bagunas provide education and innovation to natural disaster victims. With the continuation of their work, the future of solar energy is bright.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Reopening Schools in the Philippines
The Philippines has had school doors’ closed for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines’ Department of Education is wary of potential spikes in COVID-19 cases. However, it also believes that reopening schools in the Philippines and re-introducing students to in-person education models are beneficial to students’ future education and eventual economic earnings.

Education in the Philippines

The government mandated that all Philippine children receive a minimum of 12 years of education. Students in Filipino public schools must graduate from elementary school, junior high school and high school.

Private education institutions in the Philippines typically produce students with high reading comprehension levels and excellent understandings of basic science and math concepts. In contrast to the quality of private education in the Philippines, public schools fall drastically short of meeting educational goals.

A 2018 study focused on high school-aged students from 79 different nations and found that public Filipino schools rank last for reading comprehension. The gap in educational quality between the Philippines’ private and public schools is because the Philippines’ public schools receive extremely limited funding.

Public schools in the Philippines also struggle to maintain running water and basic hygiene supplies. Many of the issues with school upkeep stem from a lack of funding. In the past decade, the Philippines’ government has spent less than 5% of the country’s overall GDP on public education annually.

Impacts of COVID-19 and Poverty on Education

The COVID-19 pandemic halted education worldwide, and the Philippines was not an exception to this rule. As of January 2022, the Philippines recorded more than 2.8 million positive COVID-19 cases.

To avoid spreading the virus to students, their families and their communities, schools in the Philippines halted all in-person classes. It would be beneficial for them to reopen soon to counteract the damage to education.

The Philippines closed its borders and all public and private businesses made workers operate remotely if possible. Additionally, school plans and teaching methods changed.

The Philippines’ government’s plans for remote public educations were difficult for many families. The plans demanded access to technology and resources many students and their families do not have. Most schools began operating remotely and in some areas, the government and schools coordinated efforts to present lessons on television as the internet is not always reliable in the rural Philippine regions. Even with all the efforts that the Philippines’ government made, Filipino students, four out of 10 at least, do not have proper access to technology to continue with remote education systems.

Many families cannot afford the essential technologies necessary for the new way of learning and working. The average salary in the Philippines is $3,218 per year. With such a low salary, technology updates are not an immediate need in comparison to other essentials. It is not surprising that schools and families have struggled to provide children with the education they deserve. Reopening schools in the Philippines would support the future endeavors of children.

What Does Reopening Schools Mean for Children in the Philippines?

The Philippines had remarkably low records of positive COVID-19 cases for several months, but a spike in cases occurred at the beginning of fall 2021. Since then, the number of positive recorded cases has decreased again. According to the U.S. News, the government believes that it has developed the proper methods to keep the number of positive COVID-19 cases low for most, if not all, public work environments and schools.

In the Philippines, inadequate education has been a clear reason why Filipino citizens live in poverty. Many employers in the Philippines refuse to provide job opportunities to people who do not make it through all mandated education levels. Without education, people may have a challenging time obtaining jobs, resulting in a continuation of the cycle of poverty.

Furthermore, the higher-paying jobs in the Philippines require advanced degrees. The Asian Development Bank has predicted that the pauses in children’s education will decrease Filipino students’ future earnings by $1.25 trillion. Schools in the Philippines are crucial to fixing this expected drop in income.

Returning the children to their education will preserve more opportunities to increase future earnings. Reopening schools in the Philippines is coming at a critical time as Filipino students are not reaching the global benchmarks. Bringing students in on a volunteer basis right now could increase the students’ chances of escaping poverty.

Improving Education Inside the Home

Education is vital to a child’s chances at a future with higher wages than a peer without an education. To stay on this path and continue a children’s education and promote education in the home as well, Filipino-based organizations have been working to bring technology into the hands of children outside the classroom. Not only will this encourage education for children, but should the Philippines deem in-person classes unsafe again, the children will have the tools to continue with their studies and not lose any more future wages. This has been coming about in two major ways: one is with the assistance of Microsoft in the Philippines, but the other is with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Microsoft Philippines and Felta Multi-Media Incorporated

Microsoft Philippines and Felta Multi-Media Incorporated partnered in 2015 to begin an initiative to put technology in the hands of schoolchildren. Their goal was, and still is, to help motivate the children to continue their education both in schools and at home. The partnership designed the technology so that it is safe with children (i.e. waterproof) and has features perfect for exploring outside of the classroom, such as specialized cameras and educational programs. These pieces of technology are the kinds that are best for helping children grow intellectually even if school doors remain closed.

The BEACON Project

The second method to improve a child’s access to technology and enhance their education is with a partnership between USAID and the Philippines’ government, called the Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project. The partnership is working to improve internet access across the nation’s rural regions, which will improve the children’s ability to attend classes remotely. The project should take five years to implement. Nonetheless, as soon as the project is in full swing, internet connectivity for children in rural areas will provide access to online education platforms used in the at-home schooling models. The ability to attend classes remotely and improve a child’s chance at a future full of more opportunities will grow exponentially with the increased internet connectivity and the availability of Microsoft and Felta technology.

The two together promise great things for a Filipino child. If schools cannot open in-person, such as is the goal, then they will be able to open remotely with the improved technology access, thus improving a Philippine child’s chances to build a career and avoid poverty.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

From November 29 to December 1, 2021, the Philippines vaccinated 7.6 million people in three days. This was part of a mass vaccination campaign called “Bayanihan, Bakunahan.” The intense Philippines vaccination drive exceeded expectations by about 200,000 vaccines. A second wave of the “Bayanihan Bakunahan” campaign ran later in December.

According to Our World in Data, the Philippines lags behind the global average for the vaccinated population. However, the Philippines vaccination drive shows a stark improvement from the beginning of the year.  At that time, vaccines were scarcely available. The government hopes to have 77 million fully vaccinated. Filipinos by the end of the first quarter of 2022. Here are some facts about the Philippine’s mass vaccination program.

The Philippine’s Mass Vaccination Program

  1. COVID-19 Vaccines: The Philippines has approved eight COVID-19 vaccines for usage. The vaccines include Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Vaccines from other countries include China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik V, the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca and India’s Bharat BioTech. The vaccines range in efficacy from 51% to 95%, but the Philippine government encourages vaccination by any brand despite variance in efficacy. The vaccine variety helps ensure there is vaccine availability in the case of delayed shipments or shortages. The Philippine government purchased most of these doses from their respective producers. It also received more than 53 million doses through the COVAX initiative.
  2. Vaccine Access: There was easy access to vaccination due to 8,000 vaccination centers being open across the Philippines. Even during Typhoon Odette, which hit during the Philippines vaccination drive, the Department of Health vaccinated millions of people. To hit the government target of fully vaccinating 77 million Filipinos by the end of March 2022,  local vaccination centers have extended their hours to remain open on weekends.
  3. Vaccine Hesitancy: Vaccine hesitancy has been decreasing in the Philippines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Filipinos have been concerned about the safety of the vaccine due to a controversy over the government rollout of a dengue vaccine in 2017. With time, seeing that adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare, people are becoming willing to get vaccinated.

Lagging Vaccination During Philippines Vaccination Drive

Vaccination rates in the Philippines still lag behind the rest of the world. The pandemic pushed millions of Filipinos into poverty. The Philippines Statistics Authority reported 3.9 million more people living in poverty since 2018. Some blame the pandemic lockdowns. These reduced economic demands and therefore jobs. However, as a result of the Philippines vaccination drive, cases have been dropping so the government has been able to ease restrictions. While the Omicron variant may disrupt this progress, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has encouraged vaccination as the best protection against illness and death from COVID-19.

Expanding Vaccination Access

One next step for the Philippines is to expand vaccination across all population groups.  Another step is to begin providing booster shots to the fully vaccinated. On December 22, the Philippines approved the Pfizer vaccine to vaccinate children aged 5-11. The government also recently shortened the interval between the second and third doses, which will allow people to receive a booster dose after three months.

The Philippines vaccination drive has increased interest in vaccination. This interest has kept many temporary vaccination sites opened during the drive stay open. With President Duterte’s adamant pleas for Filipinos to get vaccinated, similar vaccination drives will likely take place again and inch the country closer to herd immunity.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Flickr

Philippine Internet Access
On October 28, 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) officially announced its new project, Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON). USAID is partnering with the Philippine government to expand Philippine internet access to bridge the digital gap in the Philippines.

About the Philippines as a Developing Country

Although the Philippines enjoys a high literacy rate and strong human and natural resources, the country still ranks only slightly higher than 0.7 on the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI, which weighs factors including life expectancy, education and GDP, considers any country under 0.8 a developing country. The Philippines is 111th of 189 countries ranked in the index. USAID has partnered with the Philippines for decades to improve the Philippines’ status on the HDI. BEACON is its latest initiative in that work even though expanding internet accessibility is difficult in most developing nations.

Internet Accessibility in Developing Nations

The World Bank has declared internet access a fundamental human right in all nations alike, regardless of their development status. With that said, the World Bank also estimates that, currently, only 35% of the population in developing countries has internet access.

Using this statistic, the World Data Lab has created a secondary comparison for individuals living in poverty without internet access. Those living with this criteria live in the framework of “internet poverty.” Living in internet poverty, one cannot afford the minimum reliable internet, which is 1.5 gigabytes of internet download speed per month. This notion of internet poverty equates to the extreme poverty line, where an individual lives off of $1.90 per day.

Internet Accessibility in the Philippines

Besides not being a widespread commodity, the internet in the Philippines is extremely slow. In 2020, the country ranked 119th of 139 countries for mobile speed and 106th of 174 countries for broadband speed.  One of the reasons the internet in the Philippines is limited is because only two companies — Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and Globe — currently provide internet connectivity and services. This contrasts with the dial-up era when over 300 independent companies provided service in the Philippines. As a result of having just two providers, internet service costs in the Philippines are some of the highest in the world.

Congressional Holdup

There are many Philippine congressional bills to improve the internet in the Philippines, specifically the Better Internet Connection Act. This Act requires the Philippine internet-providing companies to provide a minimum speed of 10 megabytes of internet access per second to all subscribers’ devices. However, unfortunately, this bill has remained in Congressional review. The lack of passage gave USAID further impetus to launch the BEACON Project.

How The BEACON Project will Help the Philippines’ Internet

The BEACON Project will cost $1.65 billion Philippine pesos, equivalent to $33 million. This project will expand internet access, beginning with underserved communities. It will bolster economic growth by providing stronger information and communications technology (ICT). The BEACON Project will also support the government in digitization and automation efforts. By providing the funding for internet improvement, USAID takes the burden off of the Philippine government. Finally, introducing more reliable internet in the Philippines could open jobs and provide support for businesses.

The Philippines has already succeeded in expanding internet access through its entry into Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector. By 2016, the Philippines outpaced India as a call center hub. The Philippines’ BPO sector enjoyed a 10% compound annual growth rate during the decade ending in 2016. The BEACON Project will allow the Philippines to escalate modernization for companies. This should also open additional business sectors and expand job opportunities.

Outlook for the Future

The Philippines has struggled with internet connectivity, unreliable speeds and high prices for years. Internet in the Philippines is a necessity, and Philippine internet access is pertinent to eliminating poverty and ridding the Philippines of its label as a ‘developing country’ by the HDI.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the agricultural sector of the Philippines hard. Several families rely on their income from agriculture as more than 22% of the country’s population works in the agricultural industry. However, the pandemic particularly affected agricultural households because “agriculture-related occupations have always been associated with being income poor.” Many of those who solely rely on agricultural income do not have access to electricity, education, proper sanitation and more. COVID-19 serves to exacerbate these poor living conditions even further. However, the Philippines recognizes that the agricultural industry is a significant part of the country’s economy, thus, the nation has established initiatives aimed at modernizing the agricultural sector so that its citizens can thrive.

Disasters Affecting Farmers

Because of the impacts of both the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, 2020 was an unfavorable year for the agricultural sector. The supply chain took a heavy hit with several obstacles, including lack of transportation, a decrease in demand and a low volume of exports. These factors all contribute to the decline of the agricultural industry and the country’s economy.

Due to pandemic-related quarantine restrictions, local farmers had to schedule market visits, which led to a rise in transportation costs. To make matters worse, several typhoons hit the Philippines, negatively impacting the economy, which is already suffering the effects of COVID-19. According to the FAO, typhoons in 2020 destroyed “agricultural equipment and other livelihood resources, significantly affecting those who are dependent on farming” for an income.

However, despite the difficulties that the agricultural sector faces, the Philippine government aims to improve the lives of farmers and the country’s economy by modernizing the agricultural sector in the country.

Modernizing the Agricultural Sector

In June 2020, the World Bank released a report titled “Transforming Philippine Agriculture During COVID-19 and Beyond,” which highlights the need to modernize the Philippines’ agricultural sectors. The report points out that while reconstructing the agricultural industry is a difficult process, it is necessary for a country to grow positively.

The World Bank offers ideas such as direct cash payments to farmers, investing in agricultural startups and increasing the use of e-commerce to modernize the Philippines’ agricultural sector and “reduce poverty in the rural communities.” The report supports the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA) initiatives to transform the agricultural industry. Agriculture Secretary William Dar is adamant that the sector will recover in 2021, which in turn, will help with the overall economy’s recovery.

The Philippines’ 2021 overall economic growth target is 6.5%-7.5% and the agricultural sector’s growth target is 2.5%. The nation aims to achieve these goals “through further integration of technology that will improve production, connectivity and delivery of service to its beneficiaries.” Both the World Bank and the Department of Agriculture realize the potential of modernizing the agricultural sector of the Philippines. By reforming the industry through several different initiatives, the economy will improve along with the lives of farmers within the country.


Alongside the Philippines’ and the World Bank’s efforts to modernize the agricultural sectors, other organizations have focused themselves on the same initiative. One of these organizations is Agro-Eco Philippines, established in 2004 as a ”farmer-led national network organization.” Farmers created the organization for farmers, with farmers constituting 80% of the Board of Trustees. The organization has several ongoing initiatives, including modernization interventions, such as the “development and documentation of locally-adapted technologies.” Specifically, the organization runs a “community-based, farmer-led and participatory breeding program” for rice and corn crops, with “35 farmer-breeders with about 500 bred lines used by an estimated 30,000 farmers nationwide.”

The Future

Overall, it is apparent that agriculture plays a crucial role in both the Philippines’ economy and the lives of several families who rely on agriculture for an income. Families are struggling due to the pandemic’s impact on the sector, however, modernizing the agricultural sector with the help of institutions and organizations brings hope to improve not only the country’s economy but also the lives of the families reliant on the sector.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in the Philippines 
Bananas, coconut oil and refined copper form the core of the Philippines’ growing, thriving economy. The Philippines is the second-largest exporter of coconut oil in the world, and the United States and the Netherlands consume 70.5% of Filipino exports. The growth of coconut oil as an export has mirrored dramatic economic growth within the Phillippines, a result of a change in power and policy. However, COVID-19’s impacts on the economy could indicate a slowdown in economic growth in the Philippines.

Recent Figures

Prior to the second quarter of 2021, the Filipino economy had faced a five-quarter recession. During the lockdown in 2020, the GDP contracted by a record low of 17%. Due to a reallocation of $11.5 billion to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, infrastructure spending declined by 22%, limiting how much the government could spend on rebuilding housing and transportation in the densely populated nation. With overseas workers from Singapore returning and people losing their jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 17.6%. Estimates show that almost 22% of the population could be living under the poverty line, with recent trends of a growing middle class abruptly reversing.

Important Policies

Essentially, there was remarkable economic growth in the Philippines prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Numerous pivotal pieces of legislation along with a shift in Duterte’s fiscal policies were responsible for this growth.

In February 2019, the Philippines passed the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL). For decades, the National Food Authority had a monopoly over imports and prices, leading to excessive prices for consumers. While this monopoly had the intention of ensuring that Filipino rice farmers would have revenue, the policies of the NFA disproportionately affected poorer people from rural areas by driving up prices. After a rice shortage led to poor Filipinos struggling to put food on the table daily, Manila lawmakers decided to reverse the NFA’s policies by passing the RTL. By removing restrictions on rice imports and replacing them with a blanket tariff, the price of rice stabilized, allowing poor Filipinos to have access to food. By supporting the domestic rice supply with additional imports, poorer Filipinos could now eat and purchase other goods.

COVID-19’s Impact

However, the Filipino economy has shown remarkable grit. In the second quarter of 2021, the economy grew by 11.8%, outpacing the 6.6% annual growth between 2012 and 2019. The Filipino government has planned a campaign to get 70% of the population vaccinated by February 2022, which could facilitate further growth. Lockdowns due to the Delta variant may hamper economic growth in the Filipino economy, but second-quarter growth indicates that it will have a limited impact.

If the Filipino economy is able to sustain continued recovery despite the economic weaknesses that are plaguing Southeast Asian nations fighting COVID-19, it is on its way to becoming a regional economic power and reducing the poverty rate it is infamous for. Recent policies like the Rice Tarrification Law should help economic growth in the Philippines as well, while allowing more impoverished Filipino people to have access to food.

– Shruti Patankar
Photo: Flickr

Philippines Won Olympic GoldOn July 26, 2021, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made Filipino and Olympic history. After 97 years of competing at the Olympic games, the Philippines secured its first-ever gold medal when Diaz won the 55-kilogram category of women’s weightlifting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She also set an Olympic record when she lifted a combined total of 224 kilograms.

Making Something Out of Nothing

Diaz grew up in a large family in the Philippines with few resources. “We were poor back then,” she said. “When I was a kid, I told [my mother] I wanted to work in a bank and count money.” She never imagined becoming an Olympic weightlifter, but after she started weightlifting as a child, she never looked back.

Diaz had to work with limited training supplies due to her family’s economic standing. When she began weightlifting, she only had access to plastic pipes holding concrete weights. When she was 11, she participated in a local weightlifting competition, where she received a barbell. Diaz eventually broke the barbell bar from training with it so much.

Causes of Poverty in the Philippines

The Philippines is a small, multi-island country in Southeast Asia that has faced many years of economic struggle. The following are factors that cause a high poverty rate in the Philippines.

  • Slow economic growth and little poverty aid. The Philippines has struggled to deliver consistent economic growth for the entire nation. When economic booms do happen, they rarely help poverty-stricken communities. The nation also has frequent crisis periods that cause inflation, which further hurts low-income communities.
  • Trouble expanding the agricultural sector and creating quality jobs. Many Filipino citizens, especially low-income citizens, face difficulty finding a job with good pay. This is largely due to a lack of development in the agricultural sector. Without growth in the agricultural sector, overall economic growth is difficult.
  • Rapid population growth and resulting income inequality. The country’s population is quickly rising, creating a larger gap between economic classes and increasing poverty throughout the country.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank, “The COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in the national poverty rate increasing from 16.7% in 2018 to an estimated 21% in 2020, even after accounting for the effects of government subsidies (e.g., the social amelioration program).”

Learning to Adjust

Growing up in poverty in the Philippines prepared Diaz for the tough times ahead. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Diaz found herself stuck in Malaysia due to travel restrictions between countries. There, she had no access to a weight room, much less the correct training equipment for her weightlifting competitions.

However, Diaz was used to making do with what she had. She created a weight bar out of a wooden pole and large water bottles in order to train. A video of her snatching and squatting with the makeshift barbell went viral after her Olympic victory.

Diaz’s Olympic win was one for the history books. She proved that coming from poverty does not necessarily mean that one should count a person out. A lot of work still needs to occur in the Philippines, but when Diaz won the Olympic gold, she gave light and hope to her country.

Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Flickr

housing solutions for the PhilippinesThe homeless population in the Philippines is a staggering 4.5 million, representing about 4% of the population. This number is expected to rise to 12 million by 2030 if no action takes place to address the issue. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is where a significant portion of homeless Filipinos reside. For this reason, activists often center efforts around increasing housing solutions for the Filipinos in Manila. Hope in solving the housing crisis is rising as efforts begin introducing creative solutions to cater to the Philippines’ unique needs.

Bamboo Houses

EarthTech, an innovative development agency focused on sustainability, recognizes the Philippines’ housing problem as a crisis. EarthTech has proposed an affordable, sustainable and efficient solution: modular homes made out of bamboo. Unlike other housing solutions for the Philippines, CUBO Modular, the designer of the homes, prefabricates them off-site. This means that the homes can be put together on-site in just four hours. The engineered bamboo lasts up to 50 years and absorbs carbon rather than produces it. This makes bamboo a durable and environmentally friendly material.

Solar Paneled Homes

The Philippines has one of the highest household electricity rates in Southeast Asia, often creating a financial burden for low-income houses. Imperial Homes Corporation (IFC) has been tackling this problem through the development of “energy-efficient communities” like Via Verde Homes.

Via Verde houses consume about 25% less water and roughly 40% less energy in contrast to standard housing. IFC also installed solar panels on the roofs of all Via Verde Homes. The solar panels substantially cut down families’ electricity bills, allowing them to afford other essential needs. The IFC continues to work on building low-income, solar-paneled homes in the Metro Manila area. The innovative company has received international attention, winning the ASEAN Business Award for Green Technology in 2017.

Resistant Housing

The Philippines Archipelago experiences an average of 22 typhoons a year. Normally, five to nine of those typhoons cause serious damage. Typhoon Sisang in 1987 demolished more than 200,000 homes, after which the Department of Social Welfare and Development initiated the Core Shelter Housing Project. The Project teaches the Filipino community how to construct their own weather-resistant homes. The Project has created more than 41,000 low-cost houses for people whose homes have been destroyed by annual typhoons. Each home costs about $300 to build. Construction of the homes focuses on resistance, and when finished, can withstand typhoons up to 180 kph. Furthermore, the shelters are built with locally available materials such as concrete and steel. This makes the shelters one of the most ideal housing solutions for the Philippines.

Long-Lasting and Inclusive Urban Development

The Philippines Housing and Urban Coordinating Council, a governmental organization, released a statement addressing the growing homeless population in Manila and other cities in the Philippines. The Council stressed the need for community input regarding housing solutions in the Philippines. Bringing the community into the conversation means leaders can better understand the root problems that affect a particular area.

The Council would focus on long-lasting urban development, meaning permanent housing solutions rather than more temporary and unstable shelters. The statement also addressed the need for increased water and job availability. The Council believes this would holistically solve the Philippines’ housing crisis.

Advocacy and Sustainability

Habitat for Humanity runs a Habitat Young Leaders Build movement that mobilizes youth to speak out in support of homeless communities, build houses and raise funds for housing solutions. Habitat Philippines is advocating the Presidential Proclamations to implement tenure policies for informal settlers who reside in illegal, unused housing, making them vulnerable to losing shelter.

This organization, along with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, is in the process of implementing the New Urban Agenda into the development strategy of the Philippines. This Agenda is a document outlining standards and policies necessary for sustainable urban development. Thus, the implementation of the New Urban Agenda would provide the foundation for permanent housing solutions for the Philippines and other urban programs.

Moving Forward

In order to create permanent housing solutions for the Philippines, urban development that includes resources and programs to keep Filipinos out of homelessness and poverty is needed. Housing that is sustainable, resistant to natural disasters and affordable to purchase and maintain will ensure the basic right to shelter for many Filipinos.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

Philippine COVID-19 VaccinationThe Philippine COVID-19 vaccination program is set to escalate because the Philippine government has purchased 40 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.  This purchase follows previous vaccine purchases of the Moderna, AstraZeneca, China’s Sinovac and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccination. With the Pfizer-BioNTech purchase, the Philippines will have 113 million doses to vaccinate their population of 115 million people.

As of late June, the Philippines had only administered 8 million doses. The Philippine COVID-19 vaccination goal is to vaccinate at least 70 million people in the next 5 months. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Philippine COVID-19 vaccine administration, remarked that the new vaccine purchase “will significantly boost our national immunization program and will enable us to realize our goal of achieving herd immunity by year-end.” Vaccine distribution is prioritizing people who work out of their homes, healthcare workers and older citizens.

Struggles in Virus Response

Like much of the world, a second wave outbreak of the virus devastated the Philippines. From March to June 2021, the daily rate of documented infections ranged from 3,000 to 7,000.  It hit a peak of 15,310 daily cases on April 2. President Rodrigo Duterte received immense criticism from the international community for this second wave of the pandemic.  Although he employed one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns, he failed to implement mass testing or a robust vaccination program.

Duterte is already infamous for his troubled human rights record. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described the ongoing situation as “highly militarized.” Unfortunately, according to Time, virus mismanagement is a common trend in authoritarian countries where rulers belittle the COVID threat and refuse to follow science and the advice of health officials. Duterte and rulers like him have gained the label of “medical populists.”  Time considers Duterte a “wild card” and stresses that what happens in the Philippines matters elsewhere because the Philippines provides workers throughout the world. Hopefully, the recent Pfizer-BioNTech deal is a step in the direction towards a more humane and effective virus response.

The Path Ahead

The Philippines will have to overcome many obstacles to reach herd immunity for its large population. Manila, the capital, lacks vaccine access, and COVID is surging in several provinces, which complicates vaccine distribution.

Despite these obstacles, in addition to the new purchase of vaccines, the government is consulting with experts on vaccine rollout. A team of medical experts from Israel is in the Philippines supporting the COVID response.  Israel is a world leader in vaccine dissemination.  Galvez reiterated that “we want to learn from the best practices being implemented in Israel and hopefully, replicate and use them in crafting our country’s policies.” Vaccinating children aged 12-15 is a top priority so Philippine children are now eligible to receive the single-dose vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech. The Philippines is also hoping to receive 44 million vaccine doses from COVAX, the international vaccine-sharing organization.  All these efforts should bolster the Philippine COVID-19 vaccination program.

– Conor Green
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in the PhilippinesAs of 2021, the Philippines is the 12th most populated country, with a population of approximately 109 million people. Industrialization in the country has increased, poverty has decreased — from 23.3% in 2015 to 16.6% in 2018 — and the Philippines has one of the lowest household debts in Asia. However, it has been historically known as a frequent recipient of foreign aid.

Top Aid Givers

Some notable givers of foreign aid in the Philippines are Japan, the United States, Australia, Korea, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As of 2018, Japan was still the largest source of foreign aid in the Philippines. The aid comes in the form of grants and loans that total $5.98 billion for projects throughout the country. One notable project is a subway in Manila, Philippines. The World Bank comes in next with $3.13 billion, followed by the ADB with $2.24 billion.

The United States is another large investor of foreign aid in the Philippines. The aid provided is used to advance democratic values, promote peace and security and improve education and health. Disaster relief and recovery have become a large part of aid to the Philippines. The U.S. donated more than $143 million to help the country recover from the devastating typhoon in 2013.

The Philippines and Papua New Guinea

In 2018, the Philippines, usually a receiver of foreign aid, had the chance to give foreign aid to another country. Papua New Guinea struggled with the drop in oil prices worldwide; oil was a major export for the country. Papua New Guinea needed to diversify its economy, and the government of the Philippines agreed to give aid to the struggling country through a partnership. The aid took the form of helping with industrial crops, inland fish farming and agriculture, particularly rice production.

Growing rice in tropical countries can be particularly tricky. The Philippines, however, has expertise in many different strains of rice — some of which can even hold up in severe weather like typhoons — and has even previously passed on knowledge to other countries in Africa and Brunei. Through the cooperation between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, President Duterte believes food security can be ensured.

COVID-19 Aid to the Philippines

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, 14 countries sent foreign aid to the Philippines, either in cash or through in-kind aid, such as medical supplies. These countries include Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, France, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, among others. Many of the countries donated personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks, test kits and ventilators to help the Philippines combat the novel coronavirus.

China sent a team of experts to help treat patients and shared packs of rice in remembrance of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties. Japan sent experts as well, and the U.S. made monetary donations of approximately $4 million and $5.9 million respectively to help prepare labs to process novel coronavirus test kits and to help local governments respond to the outbreak.

South Korea has donated more than $5 million in humanitarian assistance to the Philippines during the pandemic. Korean Ambassador Han Dong-Man said this was to honor what the Filipino soldiers did to help in the Korean War. South Korea has helped with foreign aid in the Philippines for the past 70 years, for disasters both natural and man-made.

The Philippines has been knocked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is still potential for the country to recover. There is a vast, young workforce and a growing middle class to bolster efforts to regain footing in the country. Foreign aid in the Philippines can help the country regain the progress it had been making leading up to 2020.

– Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr