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

Overseas Filipino Workers
Travel enthusiasts and visitors often cite Dubai as the most dazzling city in the Middle East. Yet amidst all the glamor and luxury in the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers face immense wage inequality and abuse. One of the largest populations of migrant workers hails from the Philippines. Filipino laborers undertake a variety of service jobs in domestic work and hospitality, both of which are vital sectors of the Emirates economy. Yet despite their integral role in the financial stability of the Emirates, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) struggle with a lack of job security and often have no choice but to return home. The economic hardships of COVID-19 have only exacerbated their struggle.

UAE Migrant Demographics

As of 2019, immigrants comprise nearly 90% of the United Arab Emirates’ total population. This is largely because Dubai offers a variety of policies to attract global businesses and international professionals. For example, Dubai established 30 tax-free regions of the city for companies to operate free from restrictions. The Kafala Sponsorship System allows workers from around the world to more easily access job opportunities in the Emirates, but this program has also created conditions in which migrant workers face increased vulnerability and potential risks.

The United Arab Emirates operates as a mixed free economy. Although oil sales comprise the majority of its income, the UAE has branched out into the vacation industry as well as the automation and telecommunications sectors. The expansion of economic sectors such as hospitality, development and trade in the United Arab Emirates have made employment more accessible for blue-collar migrants. The Filipino government in particular has supported labor migration for its citizens, with the Labor Code of the Philippines promoting protections for OFWs. Currently, over 2 million Filipino migrant workers are in the Middle East.

Wealth Disparity

In recent years, the severe maltreatment of Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates has forced the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines to repatriate thousands of its citizens. Several of these individuals suffered abuse from their Dubai employers or were victims of human trafficking.

Household workers, who are usually female, make up 10% of Filipino migrant workers. Among female Filipino domestic workers, sexual abuse and mistreatment are unfortunately quite common. Due to the vulnerable financial and legal status of female Filipino domestic workers, this particular segment of migrant workers often experiences abuse. The Filipino government responded to this by repatriating such female workers from the United Arab Emirates.

Solutions for Overseas Filipino Workers

The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) advocates for OFWs’ rights and addresses the concerns of the transnational community. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) provides programs for migrant workers and aims to prevent potential abuse.

Filipino migrants in economically valuable positions can effectively produce a change for their community. Educated Filipino migrants make up over half of the Filipino migrant population in the United Arab Emirates. As such, they are economically essential to the country’s labor force. Approximately 47% of Filipinos have climbed the ladder to higher positions. These individuals are paving the way for a new rank of Filipino professionals to represent the OFW community.

Generous Filipino residents within the UAE work tirelessly to assist their fellow community members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the service of caring individuals such as Dela Peña, unemployed Filipino workers still have resources to survive through the coronavirus pandemic and access to food through Dela Peña’s program, Ayuda.

Points of Resolution

Leaders of the United Arab Emirates often overlook the impact that OFWs have upon its economy. However, migrant workers have been pivotal to the growth and industry of Dubai and the nation as a whole. With this in mind, the UAE will hopefully recognize the importance of the OFWs and establish laws to uphold their rights. Supporting and encouraging the Overseas Filipino Workers in their endeavors will not only erase the need for their repatriation back to the Philippines but will further strengthen the economy of the migrants’ new home.

– Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in the Philippines
Mental health in the Philippines is worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of calls for mental health assistance has increased along with higher reports of depression and suicidal thoughts. UNICEF, the Philippine Red Cross and the World Health Organization (WHO) have come together to contribute invaluable resources, such as infographics and a hotline. These two key implementations have been instrumental in reducing the negative mental health effects of these trying times and in unifying isolated Filipinos.

Infographics for Frontline Workers and Filipino Citizens

The WHO updated its Philippines website in September 2020 to include mental health infographics. The graphics portray encouraging messages and quick facts and are all available for download. It tailored the various infographics to specific audiences — among the selections are the elderly, family of COVID-infected patients and frontline workers.

Some images directed toward Filipino citizens include reminders to nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals to self-care. With the high amount of Filipinos in the healthcare field, a high volume of nurses and doctors are bound to have very particular needs relating to the emotional exhaustion of caring for extremely sick people.

A Mental Health Hotline

The Philippine Red Cross has instituted a special hotline to provide psychological first aid related to the effects of COVID-19. UNICEF is pairing with Red Cross to provide resources and mobilize support systems to improve mental health in the Philippines.

The hotline’s Red Cross workers consist of 14 trained volunteers hailing from mainly social work and mental health backgrounds. They receive training for three days in helping skills and mock calls. The trainees also attend four-hour sessions on self-care for the volunteers’ own mental health benefit. This vital self-care helps fend off emotional exhaustion.

Filipino citizens are able to use this national COVID-19 hotline to tackle their mental health situations. The hotline provides emotional care, such as talking about callers’ problems. Additionally, it functions as a source of information about COVID-19 to prevent misunderstandings surrounding the pandemic’s uncertainty and hysteria.

The Philippine Red Cross has also extended its services during the pandemic. It has utilized social media as a way to provide a more convenient avenue for people to talk about their hardships. On Facebook, a feature exists that allows Red Cross volunteers to chat through an avatar. The chat even allows avatar customizations, such as male, female, LGBTQ and young child settings according to the callers’ preferences. The Philippines’ hotline has helped over 9,000 callers since its creation and continues to support mental health in the Philippines.

Where Mental Health Currently Stands

The pandemic, social isolation and general fear and uncertainty have affected mental health in the Philippines. Both peoples’ stress and rates of depression continue to increase. The pandemic has resulted in distancing and isolation, which has deeply impacted the Philippines — a country where tight-knit families and community-mindedness abound. However, aid from nonprofit organizations has lessened the devastating effects of the pandemic. Support from UNICEF and the WHO has benefited mental health throughout the nation and fostered a much-needed sense of connection.

Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Flickr

Food Waste During Pandemic
The Philippines’ state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on farmers. While the new coronavirus guidelines halted city life, they were particularly damaging for individuals living in the lower-income rural parts of the island nation. Farmers primarily inhabited these regions of the Philippines and the new guidelines resulted in their isolation along with their farming businesses’ isolation from the major cities they feed. Luckily, a farmer rose to the challenge to tackle food waste during the pandemic.

COVID-19 Measures

When the first case of COVID-19 broke out in the Philippines in December 2019, the Filipino government had a severely delayed response over the course of four months which led to high and widespread transmission rates throughout major cities such as Quezon City and Manila. The spread quickly reached rural areas and had infiltrated much of the country before the Filipino government took action. Because the response was so late, it had to be immense. In turn, the Philippines declared a state of emergency and granted Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers by mid-March; Duterte treated the pandemic as war and took warlike measures to fight the virus by using ex-military leaders to spearhead the pandemic efforts. Under this new state, Filipinos had to enter strict curfew and lockdown, and the country mandated the use of masks and shut down commercial roads, transportation and businesses.

Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Farmers

Just as the Philippines entered a state of emergency and lockdown took place, many of the Filipino farmers were harvesting the products of the dry season. Without the pandemic, these farmers would typically gather their crops and utilize commercial routes to bring them into the bigger cities. In these urban areas, the farmers would be able to sell their products to larger markets where the farmers could make a larger profit while simultaneously feeding the cities. However, the coronavirus lockdown in the Philippines shut down the major commercial traveling routes, effectively cutting farmers off from their major source of income. Moreover, lockdown prevented farmers from selling off their crops which resulted in a major food waste during the pandemic.

From March 2020 to May 2020, farmers amassed their Spring crops and eventually had to dispose of them due to a lack of consumers. Consequently, massive amounts of edible food underwent destruction while people in the urban areas did not have access to fresh produce. Moreover, Filipino farmers lost tremendous amounts of money by not being able to sell their fruits and vegetables.

Unfortunately, the government leaders did little to assist the movement of produce from rural areas to big cities and largely left Filipino farmers at a loss of money for months. This was particularly detrimental for the farmers because they were losing income while already living in a low-income area; in turn, the farmers’ access to additional job and income opportunities did not exist and made the farmers more vulnerable to falling into deep poverty. Moreover, these farmers became extremely susceptible to the coronavirus as they did not have access to medical resources or personal protective equipment or the money to obtain any medical resources. The pandemic created an extremely unique predicament for the farmers as they were left to fend for themselves against income loss and the spread of the virus.

However, a youth-led initiative fought food waste during the pandemic by providing an avenue of opportunity for these farmers to produce, harvest and sell their products in a manner where they would not experience exposure to the coronavirus while simultaneously maintaining their main source of income.

AGREA: The Road Ahead

Filipino farming organization AGREA saw the struggle that Filipino farmers were facing at the hands of the pandemic and decided to take action. Spearheaded by AGREA CEO Cherrie D. Atilano, AGREA sought to minimize food waste during the pandemic by creating alternative methods for farmers to transport and sell their produce.

Atilano and AGREA organized the #MoveFoodInitiative for many rural villages which sought to engage local communities in the efforts to fight food waste during the pandemic. The initiative mobilized youth food producer groups and local trucker groups which helped ship food from the local farmers to markets in the larger cities. Consumers of these products can easily access a list of fruits and vegetables with their respective prices on an order form, a method of contactless shopping that protects both the producers and the consumers.

AGREA’s #MoveFoodInitiative has become wildly successful as it has helped over 7,000 Filipino farmers reach and sell over 160,000 kilograms of fruit and vegetables to over 50,000 families across the Philippines. Additionally, AGREA has been able to utilize the surplus produce by donating the food to local kitchens that feed frontline medical workers who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

While the pandemic temporarily brought a stop to the businesses and livelihoods of many lower-income farmers and created massive food waste, AGREA’s quick work provided relief for farmers, food for consumers, and initiatives for youth groups to strengthen Filipino communities during these trying times. Due to her immense and important work in decreasing food waste during the pandemic, Cherrie d. Atilano has received the title of the Filipina U.N. Summit Food Systems Champion.

– Caroline Largoza
Photo: Flickr