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

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in the Philippines
One cannot say enough about the impact SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 has had on the Asian continent. Claiming the lives of some 3 million globally and infecting close to 140 million people around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world. With the Philippines being among the first to witness the brunt of the virus, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines has been significant. After imposing lockdown measures in mid-March, President Duterte of the Philippines has maintained an iron hand of control as numbers have continued to rise.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in the Philippines

The resulting lockdowns due to the virus have created a significant downturn in the job market, thus exacerbating the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Philippines’ unemployment rate hovered around 5%, but it has now worsened due to lockdown measures. According to the Philippines Statistics Authority, unemployment rose to 17.6% in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, it is a figure that could rise as lockdown measures continue, leading to increased levels of poverty and hunger.

As a result of increased unemployment, poverty has risen, with expectations determining that almost 3 million Filipinos would enter poverty by the end of 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines is temporary but the right measures and lifting lockdown measures as rates and vaccinations roll out could alleviate it.

Infrastructure Projects in the Philippines

While rising poverty rates, increasing hunger levels and stagnating GDP have been common for industrializing countries in this pandemic, the Philippines sees the woes as potential wins, opportunities to flip its eager human capital into a kickstarter for economic growth. Vivencio Dizon, the Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs, said that “Infrastructure, a neglected aspect of the Philippines represents an opportunity for the country to reclaim some of its lost economic potential.”

Duterte’s government has reviewed almost $80 billion worth of physical infrastructure projects. Many government officials in the Filipino government are confident that these projects will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines as many are looking towards the future. One of the projects is the “Build Build Build” program, a project that will involve building infrastructure across the Philippines. A combination of over 20,000 smaller infrastructure projects like the construction of airports, roads, seaports, hospitals, administrative centers and more will demand both highly skilled and low skilled labor to coordinate and enact and oversee construction projects across the rural and urban areas in the country.

Looking Ahead

Despite the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines, the country’s infrastructure projects may help provide employment to its citizens. Through the implementation of the “Build Build Build” program, the Philippines may find its way on the road to economic recovery.

– Alex Pinamang
Photo: Flickr

Water Supply in the PhilippinesReliable water resources are an important issue within the Philippines. Currently, five million Filipino citizens do not have access to safe sources of water. This is especially concerning considering the rate the country is growing economically. Urbanization in the country is expected to increase exponentially in the future. Cities will become strained with the increasing population, which will make it more difficult for the citizens in those cities to have access to reliable water resources. Despite the dire circumstances, efforts are being made to improve the water supply in the Philippines. Many of these efforts are being led by organizations that specialize in helping communities access water resources.

Water.org’s Contributions

Water.org is an organization that is working to improve the water supply in the Philippines. The organization devotes its efforts to providing reliable access to water resources to populations around the world. Water.org carries out this goal through the use of financing solutions for households that require a reliable water supply. By providing, small affordable loans, Water.org has been able to provide 4.3 million people in the Philippines with reliable water resources since 2014. Water.org will continue to work with utility providers in the Philippines so that it can continue to provide water resources to people that need them.

The Efforts of Water Governance Facility

Water Governance Facility (WFG) is another organization that is trying to improve the water supply in the Philippines. The WFG has similar goals to that of Water.org. It seeks to ensure that people around the world have affordable and reliable access to water supplies.

The WGF has been able to help the people of the Philippines using the GoAL WaSH program. The purpose of this program is to provide clean drinking water and proper sanitation. WGF achieves this goal by not only drilling wells and building toilets but also by engaging the local governance of the area it operates in for sustainable and impactful change. In the Philippines, the WFG has been able to provide 7,169 households with reliable sources of water. The WFG is also able to monitor the quality of drinking water. The WFG can then promptly stop the use of any contaminated water sources detected.

The Manila Water Foundation

Another organization that is trying to help provide citizens of the Philippines with reliable water resources is the Manila Water Foundation. The organization runs a multitude of programs that help achieve this goal. The Lingap program focuses on providing schools and other locations like health institutions and city centers with a reliable water supply. The program started in 2010. In 2019, Lingap helped a total of 46 schools, city halls and health centers. This equates to more than 149,000 beneficiaries across these 46 different locations. The water supply that Lingap provides for these students and staff can be used for drinking, handwashing and toothbrushing. Through its many programs, the Manila Water Foundation is working to improve the water supply in the Philippines.

The Philippines has made notable efforts to improve water resources for its people. With more efforts, even greater strides can be made in the water and sanitation sector.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Affected Poverty in the Philippines
The COVID-19 pandemic could push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty based on predictions, bringing the total to over 1 billion by the year 2030, according to research from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). COVID-19 has affected poverty in the Philippines, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia, with no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic is significantly impacting the Philippines when it comes to the economy, jobs and poverty incidence. Here is some information about the effects of COVID-19 on poverty and how the government of the Philippines plans to address them.

Poverty Reduction

Prior to COVID-19, the economy of the Philippines made progress in delivering national, inclusive growth, as indicated by an impressive decline in poverty rates. Poverty rates declined from 23.3% in 2015 to 16.6% in 2018. The Philippines expected this trend to continue and impact household incomes throughout the country in a positive way, particularly wages from those of lower-income groups.

The COVID-19 pandemic had negative consequences for poverty reduction in the Philippines. The World Bank projected that the Philippines’ GDP would shrink by 8.1 % in 2020, from the previous forecast of 6.9%. Rong Qian, a senior economist with the World Bank, attributed the downgraded 2020 forecast to the GDP contraction of 11.5% during the third quarter of 2020. The third-quarter contraction came as a string of typhoons hit the country from October to November 2020.

Economic Effects of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a contraction of economic growth driven by significant declines in consumption and investment growth. The pandemic has also led to profound disruptions in areas like manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, construction and trade throughout the country. This feeds into how COVID-19 affected poverty in the Philippines on different levels. The impact on the country’s economy has been severe, leading to the lowest consumption growth in over three decades. The effects on the economy began to take place in February 2020 with a considerable decline in the arrival of tourists, falling by 41.4%. Coupled with this, private consumption growth declined to 0.2% in the first quarter of 2020 from 6.2% in the previous year. Both the hotel and restaurant industries suffered considerably, shrinking by 15.4%.

The economic collapse in 2020 has also led to high unemployment throughout the country. The economy will lay off people with service jobs in several different fields. Many others will be on unpaid leave from their companies. Employment recovery can lag the country’s economic growth by six to 18 months. Estimates have determined that unemployment will remain at elevated levels, moving from 12.4% at the end of 2020 to 9% by June 2021.

Possible Financial Support

Prior to COVID-19, the government of the Philippines reduced poverty from 23.3% in 2015 to 16.6% in 2018. This was a result of steady economic growth, the creation of new jobs and social assistance programs. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely reverse the recent gains in addressing extreme poverty. COVID-19 related restrictions have cut off income for seasonal workers, entrepreneurs and low-end service jobs. They were the country’s drivers of poverty reduction in recent years. Achim Fock, the World Bank Acting Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand hopes that offering “financial support to affected firms, especially small and medium enterprises, to prevent job losses and bankruptcy, can help ensure that the recent shocks do not cause permanent damage to the country’s productive capacity and human capital.”

Social Amelioration Program

The government of the Philippines introduced a social protection program during the country’s quarantine to address how COVID-19 affected poverty in the Philippines. The government provided emergency subsidies through its Social Amelioration Program (SAP). SAP covered 18 million poor households, making up 70% of the entire population that it granted coverage to. SAP beneficiaries include 4.4 million households enrolled in the safety net program Pantawis Pamilyang Pilipino Program along with other vulnerable Filipinos such as informal workers.

Projected Improvement

Economic managers assert the Philippines will remain under a less restrictive quarantine throughout the beginning of 2021. They are hoping the economy will open 100% once vaccination levels reach at least 60% of the population. The growth of the economy could still improve and poverty could reduce in the coming years as long as there is a rebound in consumption, a significant push in public investment and great strides in the recovery of global growth. Predictions have stated that economic growth will return to at least 6% in 2021 and 7% in 2022.

Elisabeth Petry
Photo: Flickr

 

The Philippines' Improved Economy
The Philippines is a developing nation located in the East Asian Pacific region. Although the nation is still developing, the Philippines economy is improving exponentially. According to the World Bank Group, the country is experiencing increased urbanization and the middle class of the country is growing. Businesses have experienced notably positive performance in the past few years. Real estate, finance and the insurance industry are all areas where the economy is having exceptional growth. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the economic growth of the Philippines. If the Philippines contains the virus on both a domestic and global level then the economy of the Philippines will rebound in late 2021 or 2022. The Philippines’ improved economy occurred in several ways.

Investing in Agriculture

Agriculture accounted for about 25% of the Philippines’ GDP in the 1980s. However, only 9.3% of the agriculture industry contributed to the economy in 2018. Yet, the agriculture sector employs about 25% of the Philippines’s workforce. Some important agricultural goods from the Philippines include coconuts, rice, corn and pineapples. In recent years, the agricultural sector’s low rate of growth has contributed to poverty and unemployment.

As a result, the government has begun supporting the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s programs. Some of its programs include improving food security within the nation. The World Bank’s Philippine Rural Development Project is providing external support to the agricultural sector. This project aims to improve infrastructure that is vital to agricultural production. Furthermore, improving agriculture is vital to the economy.

Improving Industry

The industry sector has been another contributing piece to the Philippines’s improved economy. Currently, this sector has currently been able to employ 18.4% of Philippine workers. Additionally, the Filipino government is attempting to increase the amount of foreign direct investment. It also plans on achieving this goal by working to improve the infrastructure of the nation. This will then attract the attention of possible investors. Manufacturing is another important industry in the Philippines. The Philippines is home to a variety of metallic resources. The mining industry itself has already brought different mining companies to the Philippines to conduct business. Mining businesses working in the Philippines include BHP and Sutimo Metal Mining Co LTD.

The Growing Service Sector

The growth of the service sector is another contributor to the Philippines’ improved economy. Around 60% of the Philippines’ GDP comes from this sector. In addition, the service sector also employs about 56.7% of people in the Philippines’ workforce. One vital part of the service sector includes business process outsourcing (BPO). The Philippines has an extremely large BPO market due to the United States aid.

The Philippines’ improved economy is noticeable in several ways. First, the income-per-capita saw an increase of 17% from 2016-2018. Additionally, the unemployment rate has decreased as a result of foreign direct investment into the country. The Philippines has become the 13th largest economy in Asia. Despite the challenges, organizations like EY and the World Bank note that the Philippines has the potential to have a flourishing economy.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Aid to the Philippines
In November 2020, the Philippines faced several moderate-strength typhoons: typhoons Vamco, Goni and Molave. After the disastrous effects of these storms, organizations based in the Philippines and the U.S., as well as ambassadors from European countries, pulled together to provide resources to aid the Philippines in its time of need. In particular, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) both stepped in to assist those who lost their homes and who were in great need of supplies like food, shelter, water and soap.

The Philippines’ 2020 Typhoon Season

Each typhoon occurred within weeks of one another during the Philippines’ 2020 typhoon season. Typhoon Molave was the first to hit the Philippines and Vietnam. The Category Two natural disaster began on Oct. 25, 2020, in Batangas. Eight days later, Typhoon Goni hit Bicol on Nov. 2, 2020, destroying cities as a Category Five typhoon. Typhoon Goni was the strongest to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Meranti in 2016.

Typhoon Vamco

The situation worsened beginning on Nov. 11, 2020, as Typhoon Vamco reached the islands. According to the Saffir-Simpson Scale, which generally moves from 210-249 kilometers per hour, Vamco was a Category Four typhoon. Typhoon Vamco affected areas across the Philippines such as Bicol, Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Manila. Moreover, around 350,000 people lost their homes due to this most recent tragedy. Additionally, the storm affected 4 million people due to the destruction of farmland and businesses.

What is the PDRF?

In November 2020, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation teamed up with Dutch, German and United Nations ambassadors to help the Philippines and Cagayan Valley. The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, or PDRF, is a private organization the provides aid during emergencies and disasters within the Philippines. The PDRF managed to deliver food and non-food items to Cagayan Valley in an event called “Aksyon Para Sa Cagayan.” People secured hygiene kits and food, while other organizations like AirAsia provided labor by helping move supplies and managing transportation and temporary housing. The PDRF, along with Netherlands Ambassador Saskia de Lang, German Ambassador Anker Reiffenstuel and U.N. Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez cooperated to distribute food and organize hygiene kits and other supplies to those in need.

What is NAFCON?

One other group that is working to provide aid and resources to those the typhoon has affected is NAFCON, or the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. NAFCON is a U.S.-based Filipino advocacy alliance intended to focus on Filipino and Filipino-American wellness. Various organizations involved with NAFCON include Kabataan Alliance, Filipino Community Center, Filipino Migrant Center and Malaya Movement. NAFCON uses connections with the U.S. to gain exposure to provide aid to the Philippines following Typhoon Vamco.

A super typhoon has hit the Philippines that has robbed many people of their homes and livelihoods. Still, Filipinos are lucky to have organizations like PDRF and NAFCON mobilizing to provide aid to the Philippines following Typhoon Vamco. With continued efforts both at a national and international level, Filipinos can hopefully recover and prosper in spite of the effects of this natural disaster.

Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Flickr

Internet Access in the Philippines
The Philippines officially connected to the internet in 1994. Since then, its internet usage has seen incredible growth. From 2010 to 2020, the number of internet users nearly doubled, from 27% to 52%. Now, more than 73 million Filipinos use the internet and others have dubbed the Philippines the “social media capital of the world.” The internet has done a lot to improve education and the job market for the Filipino people. Though the internet is still improving, Filipinos have taken great strides in increasing internet access in the Philippines for those living in poverty.

In 2010, the Philippine Digital Strategy (PDS) was released to increase the Philippines’ digital infrastructure. This strategy includes a plan to provide “Internet for All,” declaring it a human right. It states that the internet gives people the freedom to communicate, work and learn. Since this statement, several projects have launched to make the Philippines’ internet as accessible as possible. These initiatives especially target those living in poverty or with lower incomes.

Free Internet Access in Public Places Act

One of these projects is the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act. This project aims to provide free wi-fi in all public places such as schools, parks, transportation ports and health facilities. This is incredibly important for those living in poverty, as wi-fi in the Philippines is among the most expensive in the world. By having free wi-fi in easily-accessible locations, people in the Philippines have more chances to work, communicate and learn online.

After government funding doubled in 2015, the project expanded its scope and brought the internet to more communities. For example, it establishes internet access to facilitate relief operations in areas that disasters hit. One such instance was in Burdeos, Quezon after Typhoon Ulysses affected it in November 2020. It has also created more than 20,000 hotspot locations around the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, it focuses its outreach on the Philippines’ rural areas, which still do not have nearly as much access as larger cities do.

TV White Space Deployment

Another project that helped to make the Philippines’ internet more accessible was the TV White Space Deployment (TVWS). White space comprises radio frequencies broadcasting stations use. However, many countries have been trying to convert white space into the internet to provide access to people living in rural areas. In the Philippines, this project addresses a strong need as 52% of the population lives in rural areas, yet only 37% had access to the internet in 2018.

TVWS focuses on getting the internet to as many rural schools, hospitals and businesses as possible. An example of this project’s impact is the large but remote fishing community. In 2014 alone, TVWS, along with FishR Program, was able to increase the number of fisherfolk with internet access from 250,000 to 1 million people, and have since set up online banking and an online platform to help them continue business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internet and Education

Education is one of the most important factors to escaping and ending poverty. As such, the Philippines has been using the internet to make education more accessible. The Alternative Learning System (ALS), also called a “second chance education” program, is a system that mirrors the formal education system but allows students of all ages to learn online or at odd hours.

Nearly half of Filipinos are unable to complete formal, basic education for various reasons. The ALS program allows students to learn on their own schedule without needing to be there in person or give up work to do so. Currently, 5.5 million students are using ALS. The ALS program also offers a certificate that allows students to apply to higher education and vocational schools. It is also currently adding classes for adults who never finished school so that they can get higher pay and more training in their respective fields.

Looking Forward

While internet access in the Philippines has grown throughout the last decade, it can improve in many ways. Currently, the Philippines has one of the slowest internet systems in the world. There is also a need to make the internet cheaper; some suggest that more internet companies should enter the country to make a competitive market and lower consumer prices. There is also still a great need for more internet access in rural areas.

The Philippines is in an important transitional period; now, more than ever, the internet has a great chance of improving. Doing so will help Filipinos get through the aftermath of the pandemic, thrive economically, increase the middle class and even eradicate poverty.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr