Philippines' Poverty ReductionIn 2015, the poverty rate in the Philippines was at 21.6 percent, which is a five percent decline from 2006. Although poverty rates have been declining, 22 million Filipinos still live in poverty as of 2015. That makes up about one fifth of the country’s population. Here are five facts about the Philippines’ poverty reduction efforts.

Five Facts about the Philippines’ Poverty Reduction

  1. Factors benefitting declining poverty rates –Among many things, robust economic growth as well as the development and improvement of social programs have greatly benefitted the government’s efforts to eradicate poverty in the Philippines. The country has improved poverty rates by creating more jobs outside of the agricultural sector, changing coverage in health insurance programs and raising the level of compulsory education. Additionally, people are experiencing better living conditions through improved access to potable water, sanitation and electricity. These efforts have been part of the change in the last decades that have aided in the decline of the poverty rate.
  2. Factors hindering declining poverty rates  – one of the main causes for poverty is the high wealth inequality rates in the Philippines. One report showed that “the richest 1 percent of Filipinos own more than 50 percent of the country’s wealth.” Wealth being concentrated among the top 1 percent of the population limits equal opportunities. This keeps the poor in poverty. As a way for the country to move forward and reduce poverty, the government has started focusing on investment and development of the regions where poverty is more prevalent. By doing so, it hopes to mitigate the negative effects of inequality and reduce the inequality rate.
  3. Birth control for the poor – besides the programs working towards changing people’s living conditions, the government has passed a law that provides birth control to 6 million women who cannot currently afford it. This will allow families to better plan how many children they have and to be better prepared to provide for their children. This has been part of the larger plan to reduce the population growth rate from 1.7 percent to 1.4 percent. Currentlu, the population is 104 million and continuing to rise.
  4. Key programs to help reduce poverty – the government has made great progress in reducing poverty. It intends to continue by implementing programs such as AmBisyon 2040 by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). NEDA aims to improve living conditions for those living in extreme poverty through job creation, improved health and nutrition and an increase in productivity. There is also a government program known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which has already helped reduce poverty 5 percent.
  5. The government’s goals for poverty eradication – by 2022, the government hopes to reduce poverty to 13-15 percent. The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 has set the goals for the country’s poverty reduction efforts. As part of these programs, the country wants to increase investment in areas where poverty is more prevalent, such as in Mindanao, in order to boost development and create more job opportunities for the population.

The government is hopeful that its goals will be achieved by 2020, given all the programs and efforts it is putting into eradicating poverty. These five facts about the Philippines’ poverty reduction efforts highlight the progress that has been made in the past decades. They also show areas that still need to improve in order to fully eradicate poverty in the country.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in the Philippines
Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes in the world. Trafficked individuals often have to do manual labor, become sex slaves or perform domestic servitude. Unfortunately, the prevalence of human trafficking in the Philippines is quite high. Experts estimate that the number of people in slavery in the Philippines totals over 780,000. Many believe that this large number stems from the Philippines’ low GDP per capita (the country ranks 118th out of 191 nations in this measure) and its high poverty rate of 21.6 percent. Listed below are 10 facts about human trafficking in the Philippines.

Top 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in the Philippines

  1. Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines.
    Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, as stated in Article 202 of the Philippine Constitution. However, many individuals in the Philippines in recent years have pushed to enact bills that focus less on punishing prostitutes and more on preventing and helping victims of human trafficking. Such bills have included The Magna Carta of Women, the Quezon City Ordinance, The Anti-Trafficking Persons Act and The Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development. Each seeks to amend Article 202 in an attempt to end the unlawful exploitation of trafficked individuals.
  2. Super Typhoon Haiyan increased human trafficking.
    The destruction from Super Typhoon Haiyan displaced more than 6 million people and left 1.9 million homeless. The typhoon hit the provinces of Leyte and Samar the hardest, two provinces that people already knew as places in which trafficking was common. The resulting chaos and economic instability have resulted in an increase in human trafficking in these regions.
  3. Human traffickers use the promise of work to lure victims.
    Traffickers commonly target individuals who are either from indigenous communities or are living in more rural areas. They usually offer jobs as maids, waitresses or entertainers to trick individuals into trusting them. This tactic preys on the desperation of many economically disadvantaged individuals.
  4. Children are the most vulnerable.
    Children are at great risk for human trafficking in the Philippines. Estimates determine that 60,000 to 100,000 children are victims of human trafficking in the Philippines. These children either go to work in child sex rings in the Philippines or work abroad as prostitutes. To combat this issue, the Filipino government has begun to work with international organizations, foreign donors and NGOs to fund prevention efforts and increase awareness about human trafficking in the Philippines.
  5. Tourism thrives on human trafficking in the Philippines.
    Much of the demand for prostitution in the Phillippines comes from tourists. Such commercial sex is popular in tourist cities such as Boracay, Angeles City, Olongapo, Puerto Galera and Surigao. While people do not advertise the locations where this prostitution occurs outwardly (due to the formal illegality of prostitution in the Philippines) the tourist prostitution system is unfortunately quite expansive and there are many individuals who have knowledge of these locations from other sources.
  6. Internet trafficking is very common.
    In some cases, relatives use children for profit and forced them to commit various sex acts in front of a webcam. The children committing these acts are typically no older than 12-years-old and each show can rake in about $100. In total, there were over 45,000 reports of online child sexual exploitation in 2017. In response to this, the Filipino government has begun to divert more funds towards helping identify situations in which people are sexually exploiting children. 
  7. Traffickers traffick people both nationally and internationally.
    Traffickers send some human trafficking victims in the Philippines to Manila, the country’s capital, while they traffick others abroad to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Singapore. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have done good work recently in preventing this cross-border trafficking, but people must do more to ensure that these international human trafficking rings shut down for good.
  8. Destiny Rescue is helping to assist victims and catch traffickers.
    Destiny Rescue is an NGO that works with government officials and task forces that deal with human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. It works with former victims to help them heal both mentally and physically from their experiences. It also gathers intelligence regarding trafficking and exploitation rings around Southeast Asia. Recently, Destiny Rescue helped the Filipino National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) bring down a trafficking agency, freeing 159 women in the process.
  9. UNICEF has taken steps to help fight human trafficking.
    Many NGOs around the world have taken steps to help end the practice of human trafficking, including UNICEF. UNICEF has stepped into work with both the Filipino government and local communities to report and recognize trafficking. Efforts by UNICEF include working to better monitor and collect data about trafficking and informing officials such as social workers, prosecutors and church workers about laws regarding human trafficking.  UNICEF has also aided in the rescue and recovery of trafficking victims and has worked to teach parents and communities about the typical behaviors and practices that lead to exploitation.
  10. The Filipino Government is taking the issue seriously.
    The government has taken huge steps to cut back on the amount of trafficking that takes place. The budgets of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have increased with a specific interest in fighting trafficking. In addition, various government organizations such as the Interagency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and members of the DOJ and the DSWD have worked together to create new policies in the hopes of preventing human trafficking in the future. The IACAT has also worked to increase awareness about human trafficking by hosting various events open to the general public.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in the Philippines demonstrate that trafficking remains a major problem in the country. However, many are working to help improve the situation and there is hope that, in the near future, human trafficking in the Philippines will be a thing of the past.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Tala is Changing the WorldShivani Siroya’s startup, Tala, is changing the world by making a better, more equitable financial system one loan at a time. Billions of people around the world do not have a financial identity, making it impossible for them to advance due to a lack of credit history, but Tala is changing this.

The Financially Anonymous

Only 30 percent of the world’s adult population has a financial identity. The other 70 percent lack a credit history or any way of applying for loans. This severely limits opportunities to financially advance because loans are often necessary for larger investments, like starting a business, purchasing farm equipment or investing in better irrigation systems.

Credit and loans are only accessible with some type of paper trail or financial history if customers are borrowing from traditional banking institutions. It would be too risky to lend money to anyone lacking credit and financial history. Siroya, Tala’s founder and CEO, realized “that there are billions of people around the world who are not ever seen and don’t even have an identity. That felt really wrong.”

How Tala Works

Tala is a smartphone application available to anyone with an Android phone. With permission from the user, the application uses data collected from smartphones to create a digital credit history that determines if the customer is eligible for a loan. It serves the same purpose as traditional credit history to create a unique financial profile for each user. It is currently serving customers in Kenya, Tanzania, the Philippines, Mexico and India with Kenya accounting for the majority of users.

Using nontraditional data, Tala analyzes each of its three billion users using 10,000 unique data points to determine a user’s risk profile and whether they would be a credible borrower. Data points come from information gathered from texts, calls, sales transactions, application usages and personal identifiers that help to create a unique profile for each user. About 85 percent of Tala users receive a loan within 10 minutes of this vetting process. The average Tala loan is $50. Users typically invest these loans in equipment or business licenses, which are important opportunities that are not available to those who cannot access credit.

Tala expects customers to repay the loan within 30 days, which 90 percent of customers do on time. Tala is a loaning service that deals in microloans, ranging from $10 to $500. Since the company’s inception in Santa Monica in 2014, it has granted a total of six million loans worth $300 million and amassed a customer base of 1.3 million. Investors like Revolution Growth, IVP, Data Collective, Lowercase Capital, Ribbit Capital and Female Founders Fund with around 215 employees around the world fund Tala.

How Microloans Change Lives

Tala is a microfinancing company, using small loans to make big changes. Siroya herself has seen how these small funds make disproportionate improvements in people’s lives. Jennifer in Nairobi, a 65-year old food-service entrepreneur, needed credit to invest in a food stall and start her business. However, she had no credit history and banks refused to invest in her business aspirations. Her son heard of Tala and introduced her to the smartphone app. After answering eight to 10 questions, Tala approved her for a loan.

Over the last two years, Jennifer has taken out 30 loans and subsequently opened three food stalls. Additionally, she now has a formal credit history and can borrow money from formal bank institutions. In fact, Jennifer has used this opportunity to take out a small business loan from a bank and begin opening her own restaurant.

There are more people like Jennifer who lack opportunity but with help from Tala, they are beginning to see changes. By developing a real relationship with their customers, Tala is changing the world by updating the face of microfinancing and the very notion of credit history. Now it is possible to identify those who banking institutions ignored and give them a fair chance at empowering themselves.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Pixabay

Dental Care in the PhilippinesDental care in the Philippines is crucial as statistics show that at least 80 percent of Filipinos suffer from dental problems. The current dental system has not been effective in reducing the number of people suffering from tooth decay or cavities. Today, the country is shifting towards adopting prevention methods. Here are three examples of how the Philippines is preventing tooth decay.

Education Programs

Statistics show that 95 percent of 12-year-olds suffer from tooth decay or cavities. Poor oral hygiene is the main reason for children with oral health problems. Building healthy habits is the key to preventing oral disease. To promote prevention measures, the Philippines is integrating oral health as part of the education curriculum in public schools.

The country’s Department of Education released the program, Fit for School as a way to address tooth decay in school-aged children. Every day, students go out to the school courtyard to brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Fit for School not only promotes healthy habits, but it also provides the students with access to clean water and appropriate washing facilities. Today, the Fit for School Approach has become the Essential Health Care Program, which targets about 2 million children in 40 provinces in the Philippines.

Tax on Sugar

Sugar is one of the many causes of oral health issues in the Philippines. There is an abundance of sweet treats and sugary drinks throughout the country. Coca-Cola alone is predicted to spend $5.5 to $12 billion in marketing in Asian and African countries. Obesity and diabetes are diseases have links to high sugar diets. Now, tooth decay is also associated with sugar.

To make matters worse, foods high in fat and sugar are more accessible than a toothbrush. Filipinos living in poverty-stricken regions are the most vulnerable to make poor dietary choices and suffer from oral health issues. Several countries, like Mexico, have seen a drop in sugar consumption after implementing a tax on sugary drinks.

In 2018, the Philippines implemented a sugar tax. The tax raises the cost of sugary drinks by 13 percent. As a result, the Philippines expects to lower soda sales as well as a drop in the number of people suffering from tooth decay. The money collected from the sugar tax will be used to fund health care initiatives and infrastructure.

International Impact

From the United States to Australia, foreigners are flocking to the Philippines for dental care. The affordability of treatments has made dental care in the Philippines one of the most popular dental tourism destinations in the world. Dental tourism refers to the practice of traveling to another country to undergo dental treatment such as implants or teeth whitening.

Due to its popularity, dental tourism is fostering economic growth for the Philippines. However, it has not improved access to oral care for Filipinos. A 2016 report found that Filipinos rarely visit the dentist office and over 7 percent had never been. The report also found that 98 percent of Filipinos experience tooth decay.

Some argue that dental tourism has made dental care even more limited to Filipinos. The price of visiting the dentist is low for foreigners but very costly for Filipinos. Additionally, dentist offices are prone to schedule prioritize foreign patients rather than local ones. However, foreign travelers are also bringing free dental care to the Philippines. For instance, access to quality dental care is limited in Cebu and other underserved regions in the Philippines.

Aid for Dental Care

The University of the Pacific (UOP) is one of many organizations working to increase the accessibility of dental care. Each summer, UOP sends a group of dental students to Canjula Elementary School in Cebu to provide the students with free dental care. Students unable to afford yearly trips to the dentist for cleanings, fillings or extractions now have access to get the care they need. In addition to treatment, UOP also provides oral health information sessions to promote the building of good hygiene habits.

As a whole, dental care in the Philippines has been improving with time. While it is a common critique that treatment is valued over prevention, there have been efforts aiming towards children. Additionally, tourism and higher institutions are working to increase access to dental care in the Phillippines.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Light in the PhilippinesKerosene lamps are used all throughout the developing world as a way to have light at night. Unfortunately, these lamps produce carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide which harms the lungs and could cause asthma and even cancer. These lamps also produce black carbon, a major contributor to global warming. The harmful effects of kerosene lamps are why Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) is focused on bringing light to the Philippines.

Aisa Mijeno, engineer, co-founder and CEO of SALt, lived in the Philippines and through her time with the tribes, she found that they relied heavily on kerosene lamps to see at night. She knew that these lamps are harmful to your health, which is why she looked for a solution that could work easily for tribes in the Philippines. Mijeno realized that the Philippines have an abundance of saltwater, which allowed her to create a lamp powered by the saltwater surrounding the Philippines or through a glass of water and two scoops of salt.

The technology behind the lamp is actually quite simple, and it allows for less maintenance than a typical kerosene lamp. The lamp has two metal rods inside that are the electrodes, and when saltwater, the electrolyte, is added to the lamp, it creates light and electricity for eight hours. SALt lamps only last for six months, because the metal rods will wear out, but once these are replaced, the lamp is back to its working function.

Kerosene lamps are harmful to people and to the environment, and they also don’t last very long. These lamps can provide light for four hours at the most, half the time SALt lamps can run for. SALt lamps also provide electricity for the eight hours, as it has a USB port that can charge any kind of device.

SALt has called itself a social movement, as it looks to empower others to donate. Through their website, you can learn about different communities needing light in the Philippines and see how many lanterns they are in need of. This allows for anyone to be able to impact an entire community by providing safe and more efficient alternative to kerosene lamps.

Although 93 percent of Filipinos have access to electricity, there are still millions of people in rural areas like Mindanao and other surrounding islands that are left without this crucial necessity. By making and providing saltwater powered lamps, SALt is providing a solution for millions of Filipinos that reduces emissions and is safe for their health. Through the use of these natural resources in the Philippines, it allows for less maintenance than a kerosene lamp that can last twice as long, allowing them access to light and electricity throughout the night.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

midterm elections in the Philippines
Millions of voters marched to the polls on May 13, 2019, for the 2019 midterm election in the Philippines. More than 18,000 government positions were up for election, but all eyes were on the Senate race due to its influence on President Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarian agenda.

All 12 Duterte-backed Senate candidates won by a landslide, demonstrating the popularity of President Duterte’s policies. Three candidates in the spotlight were former special assistant to President Bong Go, former police chief and the architect of Duterte’s drug war, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, and Imee Marcos, the daughter of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

The Consolidation of Power

The results indicate that the destructive drug war plaguing the Philippines is far from over. So far, the conflict has resulted in a total of 22,983 deaths since Duterte took office in 2016, according to the Philippine National Police. This statistic includes suspected drug users, drug pushers and civilians living in impoverished communities, all of whom the President and his police force see as collateral damage.

During Duterte’s war on drugs, not a single drug lord received apprehension. Further, the drug war has not effectively reduced drug use or decelerated the drug trade in the Philippines. On the contrary, the drug war has caused the prices of methamphetamines, or shabu, to lower by a third of the original price, increasing the accessibility and prevalence of the drug.

Additionally, Duterte’s policies include reinstating the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old. Before the midterm elections, a portion of the Senate did not approve of Duterte’s policies, resulting in political gridlock. Now, Duterte’s newly-consolidated legislative power gives him the upper hand in following through with these policies.

Duterte’s High Approval Rating

Despite Duterte’s undemocratic tactics, his approval rating remains high at 81 percent. Duterte has garnered support for his strongman leadership and his promises to keep the streets safe. His popularity reveals the nation’s fragility and puts into question the stability of the Philippines’ political structures.

The Opposition

The opposition still holds a stake in the political landscape despite the lack of congressional representation after the midterm election in the Philippines.

The opposition includes key figures such as former Senator Leila de Lima and Rappler journalist, Maria Ressa. Duterte has imprisoned both Lima and Ressa in order to silence their critiques against his administration, but human rights groups are dedicated to releasing them from prison, claiming that they received conviction without a fair trial. These human rights groups include the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FORUM-ASIA, and they are determined to hold the Filipino government accountable for all human rights violations.

Efforts abroad are also looking to combat the Duterte administration, such as the Malaya Movement. The Malaya Movement is a U.S.-based organization that organizes events such as rallies and summits and mobilizes individuals to petition against the drug war and government corruption in the Philippines. Its mission is to broaden the opposition against Duterte’s policies and endorse freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Boat of KnowledgeEach rainy season, the children of the barangay (small village) Darul-Akram in Languyan, Tawi-Tawi have a decision to make. For half the year, the path to school is blocked by a rushing, crocodile-infested river. To reach the school, children would have to cross the 60- to 100-meter wide river on rickety boats, risking their lives. Because of the perilous journey to reach school, many parents would force their children to stay home. The result of that decision is high dropout rates and a large population of children who never completed basic education. Regretfully, that was the norm. Each rainy season, parents would keep their children at home. However, everything changed with Vincent Durie’s “Boat of Knowledge.”

Creation, Concept and Impact of the “Boat of Knowledge”

Durie is a fellow of the Bangsamoro Young Leaders Program-Leadership Communities (BYLP-LeadCom). After discussing the safety concerns with both parents and teachers, he developed the “Boat of Knowledge” project. Along with his fellow leader, Tau-Spartan, he secured a grant. With the grant, he purchased a two-engine boat to ferry students to school.

The “Boat of Knowledge” project is two-pronged in its approach. The 30-person boat ferries both middle schools and high school students. It even makes as many as three trips back and forth to make sure that everyone gets to school. Meanwhile, along with ensuring that each student receives an education, the boat provides work for fishermen in the off-season, helping to stimulate the economy of this small village.

Today, 99 percent of students in Darul-Akram are logging regular school hours.

Education in the Philippines

Although the nation has a substantial economy, the education program within the Philippines is heavily underfunded. Education is often hindered by shortages in textbooks and buildings. As a result, only 78 percent of students complete the basic level of education. In fact, fewer complete any secondary level of education. In addition, absenteeism is a major problem. Without any serious structure for evaluating attendance, millions of children do not go to school. Currently, 2.8 million Filipino children are not in school.

The Ayala Foundation: Providing the Spark

Durie’s project is part of the Ayala Foundation, a nonprofit based in the Philippines that seeks to connect the growing business market with communities across the country. Its goal is to create creative, self-reliant and self-sustaining communities all across the Phillippines. To do so, the Ayala Foundation helps to build bridges that connect different sectors of the market, acting as a catalyst for cooperation.

The Ayala Foundation created the initiative BYLP-LeadCom. The initiative seeks to use the energy of Filipino youth to create positive change in communities. One change, for example, is supporting Durie with his “Boat of Knowledge.” Today, BYLP-LeadCom operates in five different provinces across the Philippines.

Certainly, Durie’s “Boat of Knowledge” is simple. However, by providing children an opportunity to gain an education during the rainy season, Durie and the Tau-Spartans have opened a world of possibilities for the children of Darul-Akram.

– Andrew Edwards
Photo: Flickr

Environmental conservation is an often-forgotten aspect of reducing global poverty and providing sustainable income for coastal communities. Conserving the ocean has become an even more pressing issue now because of overfishing. However, one company is putting this at the forefront of their work. Rare’s Fish Forever campaign is working to end the unprecedented endangerment of our coastal waters and protect the families who depend on them.

What Is Rare’s Fish Forever?

Founded in 1995 by Brett Jenks, Rare is an organization with a focus on conservation as a means to protect the world’s most vulnerable people and ensure that the wetlands, forests and oceans they depend on continue to thrive. Fish Forever is a campaign that targets coastal revitalization and conserving biodiversity along coastlines through bottom-up solutions. Jenks says, “The aim isn’t to teach a community to fish; it’s to help ensure they can fish forever.” Ensuring a future for these coastal communities relies on sustainable fishing practices.

Rare’s Fish Forever campaign uses community-led initiatives to provide solutions to issues like overfishing and coastal mismanagement because it empowers local populations and incentivizes future compliance with new regulations. These local people work with all levels of their government to come up with solutions that fit their unique situation. Active in Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Belize and Mozambique, Rare’s Fish Forever acts as a guide for communities while also providing tools the improve the data needed for these countries to make informed decisions.

Fish Forever in Mozambique

Mozambique is an African country with more than 1,500 miles of coastline, sustaining millions of people. Half of the population lives on the coastline in fishing communities. In fact, the economy is largely dependent on fisheries, particularly small-scale or artisan fisheries. Almost 85 percent of all fish caught in Mozambique are done so on a small-scale. Communities such as those in the Nampula, Sofala, Inhambane, Maputa and Cabo Delgado regions are good candidates for Rare’s Fish Forever solutions because they are home to most of the small-scale fisherman.

The country’s coastline is very diverse, second only to the Coral Triangle. However, due to climate change and unregulated fishing, the size of the fish catches has declined. In the last 25 years, small-scale catch sizes have declined 30 percent, and it is continuing to decline. Additionally, fisherman asserted that some species of fish had all-together disappeared. Climate change would only worsen these issues, so Rare’s Fish Forever worked with communities to come up with solutions to this threat. Together with Rare’s Fish Forever program, communities came up with four broad solutions to revitalize coastlines, protect biodiversity and ensuring sizeable fish catches for families.

  1. First, they decided to adopt government frameworks to better regulate fishing behaviors and make fishing more sustainable.
  2. Then, they built and strengthened community-based management of coastal fisheries.
  3. Thirdly, communities established fishing areas with managed access – places where fishing was prohibited or limited – and provided social and economic benefits to communities who abided by these rules.
  4. Lastly, they made environmental conservation more of the social norm through education and marketing campaigns.

All in all, Mozambique is on its way to recovery. With more than 100 organizations and institutions supporting Rare’s Fish Forever program, the country’s coastal waters and fishing communities are in good hands. That means a higher chance of conserving the ocean.

Rare’s Fish Forever in the Philippines

Coastal communities in the Philippines face the same sorts of issues as those in Mozambique. Looc Bay is a beautiful location that is home to many communities and attracts its fair share of tourists. Unfortunately, a combination of overfishing by local fisherman and environmental degradation from irresponsible tourism have caused a significant decline in the fish populations. This has only been accelerated by climate change.

The communities in the area have always been wary of external intervention. Their greatest worry when initially approached by Rare’s Fish Forever program was that coastal management would restrict fishing to a point that families could no longer sustain themselves through small-scale fishing. This distrust was fortunately misplaced.

Today, more than 4.4 square miles of coastal waters have been declared as Managed Access Areas and sanctuaries. These protected critical habitats require exclusive clearance, which is only granted to fisherman who comply with sustainable practices. To date, more than 800 fishermen have been granted exclusive access area, meaning that they are also faithful practitioners of sustainable fishing.

Jose Ambrocio, the Looc Municipal Councilor and chairperson of the Agricultural and Environmental Committee, has noted that “With Rare’s Fish Forever program, we are working to balance the economic needs of the people and the need to conserve the resources for the future generation.”

By challenging communities to develop their own solutions, Rare’s Fish Forever program is sustainable and empowering. Through this program, and programs like it, more sustainable fishing practices can be put into place, thus working towards a better future by conserving the ocean.

Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

Measles Outbreak in the PhilippinesIn January 2019, a measles outbreak in the Philippines began, leaving more than 450 dead and over 33,000 cases to date. Fifteen years after the near eradication of measles in the Philippines, the disease has returned with a vengeance in the Southeast Asian nation. The vaccination rate for measles in the Philippines has declined steadily, from more than 80 percent in 2008 to under 70 percent in 2017.

Several factors have led to a steady decline in the vaccination rate over the last decade. The issue of accessibility affects many people in rural areas of the country, putting them at risk of contracting diseases that are easily preventable with vaccination. The Philippines consists of 7,000 islands and does not have a secure health care budget in place, rendering it nearly impossible to ensure that all citizens are vaccinated.

Increasing misinformation concerning the negative side effects of vaccines has led many people to become skeptical about vaccinating themselves and their children. This drop in confidence in vaccinations has been quite significant. A 2018 study found that nearly 100 percent of participants were in favor of vaccines in 2015, believing them to be safe and effective only four years ago.

Who is at Risk?

Anyone who is not regularly vaccinated is at risk of contracting measles. The airborne virus can spread extremely easily and remains in a room for hours after an infected person has coughed or sneezed. The measles outbreak in the Philippines has affected thousands of people, including many young children who were not given the proper vaccination. Children under six months of age are especially in danger of contracting measles, as they are too young to receive the vaccine.

Pregnant women or those planning pregnancy run additional risks if they are not vaccinated against measles. If a woman wants to become pregnant — and is vaccinated beforehand — she should wait at least four weeks before attempting to conceive. This ensures that the vaccine is functioning properly and effectively. If a woman is not vaccinated against measles and becomes pregnant, a variety of side effects can occur. Common reactions include premature birth, miscarriages or stillbirths, and babies born underweight.

What Can be Done?

Fortunately, the growth rate of the measles outbreak seems to be slowing. New cases decreased to a few hundred per week in May, while thousands were infected each week in February and March. The decline in new cases largely due to local health officials visiting communities firsthand and checking residents’ vaccination statuses.

For children under six months of age who are unable to receive the necessary MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, the best precaution is to limit contact with anyone who is not a primary caregiver. Infants aged six to 11 months should have one dose of the vaccine, while children over one year and adults should have two doses of the vaccine given at least 28 days apart.

A Bright Side to the Measles Outbreak in the Philippines

Despite the tragic number of families that have been affected by the measles outbreak in the Philippines, there is a bright side. Since the outbreak began in early 2019, more than five million people have been vaccinated against the disease. The Filipino government hopes to boost that number to 20 million by the fall, which would mean one-fifth of the country’s population would be newly vaccinated this year. By immunizing such a significant percentage of the population, the Philippines can restore faith in the healthcare system, and prevent further illness and death.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: NPR

Bamboo HousesOne young and ambitious entrepreneur is rising to the occasion in response to the Philippines’ problem of poverty with the invention of bamboo houses.

Poverty in the Philippines

Although the island’s poverty rate has recently fallen from 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015, it still saw approximately 22 million living below the national poverty line. That is over one-fifth of the population.

The creation of jobs outside of agriculture is helping lift the nation out of impoverishment. Unfortunately, constraints like inequality of income and opportunities, the effects of natural disasters and an increasing population prevent many families from achieving a higher quality of life.

Homelessness is something that many Filipino citizens contend with. The Philippines has a rapidly increasing population. In fact, it is estimated to reach 12 million by 2030. Currently, 44 percent of people residing in urban environments live in slums. Furthermore, 1.2 million children are homeless throughout the islands. Manila, the capital, holds 3.1 million homeless Filipinos. Of these residents, 70,000 are children. An imminent need for affordable and durable houses is upon the nation.

The invention of bamboo houses is an innovative solution to finally aid this country’s poverty and homeless crisis.

Cubo Bamboo Houses in the Philippines

A recent graduate from Ateneo de Manila University, Earl Forlales, has conceptualized a fast way to easily assemble affordable houses out of bamboo. Bamboo grows quickly and abundantly on the islands. It is able to be processed into sturdy building material. Forlales said he got the idea for what he’s named “Cubo units” from the structure of nipa huts. These are native houses popular in the rural Philippines.

“The Cubo unit itself is a standard three-by-four-meter studio meant to house two residents,” Forlales explained. “The prefabricated modules only take four hours to install on-site and would only cost roughly Php 4,200 (around $82) per square meter.”

These bamboo houses may be compact, but they are designed to last for around 50 years. Aside from the residential units, Cubo blueprints for daycare and community centers are also being designed. With the versatility of these designs, a small neighborhood will be able to be revitalized in a matter of days.

Today, Forlales’ Cubo units are closer to actual construction than ever before. The young entrepreneur recently won the United Kingdom’s Cities for Our Future competition, winning over 1,200 entries and walking away with enough prize money to help him jump-start his business. Now, Forlales has a website up-and-running for the company. Additionally, he is working to assemble a five-star team that will help his award-winning visions into reality.

Bamboo Houses: The Big Picture

Although Cubo bamboo houses were created with low-income Manila neighborhoods in mind, the designs are applicable to any region where bamboo can be grown. The potential of the idea has no limit and can help hundreds of disadvantaged families live comfortably where they had once been victimized.

Forlales’ vision is something to be admired. He is more than ready to set his plans into motion and begin construction.

“My ultimate dream [is a] Philippines with no slums…I really just want to do something that would impact peoples’ lives, and ideally that something would outlive me.”

Though it may be too early to tell, it seems that his bamboo houses may just set the new norm for living conditions in urban Manila. One idea will positively affect its residents for generations to come.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr