Waste Collectors in the Philippines
Informal waste collectors in the city of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines, in collaboration with the Eco-Kolek initiative by Project Zacchaeus (PZC), are developing a safer, more organized method of waste collection and disposal for their community. The Eco-Kolek project allows waste collectors to voice themselves and become more involved in their local communities.

Plastic and Poverty in the Philippines

Single-use plastic products are low-cost and easy to produce; the high production rate of single-use plastics in the Philippines has led to a large percentage of plastic pollution coming from the country. The Philippines produces 2.7 million tons of plastic waste annually and roughly 20% of it pollutes the ocean. As a nation of more than 7,500 islands, the coastal areas of the country are especially susceptible to the negative impacts of ocean plastic pollution.

Recent data shows that about 23.7% of Filipinos lived under the poverty threshold in the first quarter of 2021 while about 10% lived in extreme poverty, unable to meet their basic food needs. Because single-use plastics are an inexpensive way to purchase everyday necessities, like soap and toothpaste, impoverished communities produce and purchase these plastics in abundance.

Project Zacchaeus and Eco-Kolek

Project Zacchaeus is a social enterprise in the Philippines that develops specialized products and services and trains local citizens to become “servant leaders” in their communities. The organization focuses on communities in need and tailors strategies that aim to alleviate poverty in each area.

Eco-Kolek is an initiative of Project Zacchaeus that educates and provides relevant resources to waste collectors. The project’s goal is to bring a sense of safety and organization to the practice of waste collection and to elevate waste collectors in the Philippines to “Eco-Warriors” and community leaders. The program takes place in Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan in the Philippines to “help bridge the gaps of waste management.”

How Eco-Kolek Helps Locals Improve Waste Collection

Women make up a large number of informal waste collectors around the world. In the Philippines, women commonly turn to waste collection to earn extra income for their families. In Puerto Princesa, local women hold many leadership roles in waste management.

A waste collector gathers improperly disposed waste and sells it to collectors for a profit. Through the help of Eco-Kolek, the Eco-Warriors can earn an income by learning other relevant skills, such as bookkeeping. With the help of the Eco-Kolek program, the waste collection has become more than just a job — it has become a way to practice and improve leadership skills and become active voices in the community. The Eco-Warriors have become integral to curbing plastic pollution in Puerto Princesa.

In March 2022, USAID’s Clean Cities, Blue Ocean program provided the Eco-Warriors with vehicles to make waste collection more efficient. The agency donated “five bicycles, two motorcycles with sidecars and one four-wheeled multi-cab” to the Eco-Kolek program. These vehicles will help the waste collectors reach about “3,000 households in Puerto Princesa.” The Eco-Warriors who will drive the vehicles will also receive free training and courses on driving and vehicle maintenance.

Eco-Kolek aims to reduce ocean plastic pollution by helping waste collectors in Puerto Princesa maintain a more efficient and sustainable method of waste collection. The program professionalizes the job of waste collecting by making it safer and more organized. Eco-Warriors receive education on waste disposal laws and how to most safely dispose of solid waste. Eco-Kolek provides the resources for local waste collectors to unite and more effectively help themselves and their community.

– Melissa Hood
Photo: Flickr

Health in the Philippines
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic up until April 2022, more than 3.6 million people living in the Philippines have contracted the virus. With nearly 60,000 of those cases resulting in fatalities, health in the Philippines must be a priority. Community Health Worker groups, specifically Barangay Health Workers (BHW) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS), are working to improve the health of those living in the Philippines.

Health Care in the Philippines

In February 2019, the Philippine government passed the Universal Health Care Act Republic Act into law. This act sought to improve health care for Filipino citizens by making these services more affordable, especially for those without medical insurance. Through the Universal Care Act Republic Act, all Filipinos can enroll in the National Health Insurance Program to allow health insurance coverage for all. To finance this, the Philippine government extended its health care expenditure to almost 6% of its total GDP.

Despite these efforts, access to health care is not equal for all. It is challenging for rural and low-income areas to receive the same treatment as those living in upper-class communities. Private and more expensive medical facilities where those of higher-income regions receive treatment are often better equipped than public hospitals. Health care for all must be a priority in the Philippines, especially after the nation’s polio outbreak in September 2019. Community health workers like BHW and BNS are essential to the nation during outbreaks and epidemics. These workers provide health information and primary care to those in more vulnerable areas.

Barangay Health Workers

Barangay Health Workers (BHW) consist of trained volunteers within the community who provide information regarding overall health. They also offer first aid, maternal and child health care, environmental health care and connect patients to health care centers.

BHW has been present in the Philippines for about 40 years and they receive government support. In 1995, Philippine Congress passed the BHW Benefits and Incentives Act, which encouraged the group “to self-organize, to strengthen and systematize [its] services to communities and to create a forum for sharing experiences and recommending policies and guidelines.” The act also required the government to provide benefits to BHWs, such as “scholarships for their children” and an allowance.

BHWs play a significant role in improving health in the Philippines. In 2014, after Typhoon Haiyan ravished island barangays, Direct Relief financed a training program for 50 BHWs to educate them on recognizing and treating illnesses that affect children. To this end, the health workers participated in the Community Integrated Management of Childhood Illness training program. The module emphasized “the 12 key childhood illnesses danger signs” in order to avert preventable child deaths.

BHWs also educate and encourage citizens to receive immunizations against illnesses such as polio to contain the spread. In 2016, the Philippines had 216,941 BHWs in the nation.

Barangay Nutrition Scholars

Like BHWs, Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) promote and educate on proper health in the Philippines. However, their primary focus gears toward improving nutrition. In 2011, 25% of Filipino “women of reproductive age” suffered from anemia. For children younger than five-years-old, this statistic reached almost 35% in that same year.

BNS is essential to combating malnutrition in the Philippines. The group conducts growth monitoring for clients, provides nutrition education and collaborates with local organizations that encourage citizens to achieve sustainable nutrition by gardening and raising livestock.

BNS members must complete training that involves a 20-day practicum where trainees learn how to weigh young children and measure their heights to ensure that children are receiving proper nutrition at home. In addition to monitoring children’s health, BNS also provide classes for parents who may be unaware of how important nutrition is for their children’s development. These classes educate on balanced diets and how to prevent malnutrition. By July 2020, 49,779 BNS members had worked across 39,942 barangays in the Philippines.

Looking Ahead

Groups like BHW and BNS are crucial for ensuring proper health in the Philippines. Volunteers are making a significant difference within their communities. The more healthy people there are, the more contributions that can go towards the Filipino workforce, improving the economy and quality of life in the nation overall.

– Megan Quinn
Photo: Flickr

Conditional cash transfer
Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs serve as poverty reduction tools. The government provides monetary support to individuals with low incomes on the condition that the individuals meet certain requirements. For example, an individual may receive a cash transfer on the condition that he or she keeps his or her child in school and ensures the child receives all necessary child immunizations. The aim of CCTs is to stop the transmission of poverty from generation to generation, which is why conditions, especially related to healthcare and education, are in place. CCTs have shown success as poverty reduction tools in many countries, especially in regions such as Latin America.

Benefits and Criticisms of Conditional Cash Transfers

A benefit of CCTs is that they allow people to use welfare to meet their specific needs. CCTs empower impoverished communities by giving them the choice, through the provision of cash, of how to use aid to best meet their individual needs. Other welfare programs are able to fulfill a specific need, but they also restrict the voice of impoverished communities to choose how to best fulfill their needs.

Another benefit is that giving individuals money is cheaper than providing people with goods. When paying for goods, the government must also pay for the secondary costs associated with the goods, such as storage and transportation. Therefore, direct cash payments are more cost-effective than programs that distribute goods.

A common concern with CCTs is that recipients will spend the money on alcohol and drugs instead of their basic needs. Researchers have conducted studies to learn more about how recipients spend CCT money and results show that most recipients spend the money on meeting their families’ needs.

4 Countries With Successful Conditional Cash Transfer Programs

  1. Brazil’s Bolsa Família. Established in 2003 by Brazil’s former president, Lula da Silva, the program provides 32 reais (about $19) every month for each child in a family with a household income of fewer than 140 reais ($82) in exchange for parents ensuring that their child attends school and regular doctor’s appointments. The government will provide money for up to five children per family. Bolsa Família is the world’s largest CCT program, benefitting 11.1 million families every year. The program has decreased income inequality and poverty in Brazil. Estimates indicate that rates of extreme poverty in Brazil “would be between 33% and 50% higher” if Bolsa Família was not in place. Overall, the program is responsible for decreasing income equality in Brazil by 12%-21%.
  2. Argentina’s Universal Child Allowance for Social Protection (AUH). Beginning in 2009, the program provides money to children from impoverished families. Every month, child beneficiaries receive $55. The government provides 80% of the money to the child monthly and places the remaining 20% into a savings account for the child. In exchange for the money, children must attend school and meet health objectives. The AUH reaches almost four million children, decreasing poverty and increasing childhood well-being in Argentina. In the early years of the program, child poverty decreased by 13.1 percentage points and “12.5% of households receiving the AUH in 2015 were no longer in poverty.”
  3. The Philippines’ Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Beginning in 2008, the program provides families with grants of P500 ($11) to P1,400 ($32) every month. The grant amount is dependent on the number of children in a household and the grant conditions have ties to education and child health care requirements. A couple of these conditions involve keeping children in school, attending regular pediatric check-ups and females attending check-ups in the case of pregnancy. From the start of the program to 2019, more than 5 million households benefited from Pantawid Pamilyang. The program has “increased the delivery of babies in health facilities by skilled health professionals by 20 percentage points” while raising “elementary school enrollment” among impoverished children by 5% and increasing high school enrollment rates among impoverished children by 7%.
  4. Jamaica’s Program of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). Since 2002, the Jamaican government has committed to providing cash grants to impoverished families in exchange for children obtaining an attendance rate of 85% or higher in school and on the condition that parents take children younger than 6 years old to doctor’s appointments following a schedule that the Ministry of Health created. PATH benefits 350,000 Jamaicans, improving school attendance and increasing health care visits for children.

The Role of CCTs in Reducing Global Poverty

Conditional cash transfers have gained prominence as a strategy to help impoverished families in real-time while also working to prevent future poverty through the transmission of intergenerational poverty. While CCTs positively impact families in multiple countries, improvements to education and health services must accompany the programs so that children can receive quality education and adequate health care services. Increased participation through CCTs in tandem with improved public services can have a more significant impact on the world’s impoverished than CCTs alone. The combined power of conditional cash transfer programs and public service improvements have the potential to create lasting change globally.

– Anna Ryu
Photo: Flickr

The Developmental Sector
Activists are urging politicians and development agencies to reform foreign aid and humanitarian work on the ground. Critics of the developmental sector tie it to colonialism, and actors within foreign aid are thinking about improving the quality of life for people around the globe while also moving away from colonial ideologies. Outreach International is one of the organizations helping to change the realities of the developmental sector.

The Relationship Between Colonialism and the Developmental Sector

The foreign aid sector has received criticism for being a neocolonial agent. The arguments are that Western countries impose their cultures on non-Western cultures through development programs and that the Global North portrays the Global South as helpless.

In the history of development programs, Western countries have imposed their values on non-Western countries and have touted modernization. Prominent Western officials, who were unaware of the Global South’s everyday realities, designed the programs without input from the actual citizens. The West brought values and practices to non-Western countries that were not necessarily important or even helpful for the people in these countries, as these experts mainly were from non-aid countries.

Additionally, some have portrayed foreign aid recipients as helpless. The foreign aid sector has not historically given agency to people in recipient countries to decide what they want for their futures and how they wish to achieve it. A mentality developed that the Global North could “save” the Global South from misery and poverty even though the Global South was not asking for anyone to save it.

The developmental sector receives criticism, but it has also helped people around the world. For instance, from 1990 to 2019, extreme poverty has substantially decreased from 36% of the global population to 8% of the worldwide population, maternal and infant mortality rates have reduced by 50% and smallpox cases no longer exist.

Neocolonialist criticisms invite the developmental sector to reflect on its history and current practices. The inclusion of voices from aid-recipient countries in creating and implementing development programs can produce sustainable poverty reduction.

Prioritizing Community Voices: Outreach International

Outreach International is a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the challenges of global poverty. The organization partners with nine locally-registered nonprofits that operate in nine countries spanning from Africa to Latin America to Asia, and the organization has been in operation for 42 years. Outreach International’s program interventions focus on organizational, capacity and leadership development. The organization, alongside its program and community partners, has worked on 541 community issues, and 62,724 people benefit from the organization’s work.

Collaboration with local communities in poverty-reduction work is the cornerstone of Outreach International’s programming. In fact, The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Elene Cloete, Director of Research and Advocacy for Outreach International, and she shared that, “We [Outreach International] believe that you can support people in obtaining greater social, economic health…. They [locals] are in [EC1] and should be in the driving seat of their community-led development.”

The Participatory Human Development Process (PHDP), Outreach International’s own methodology, creates sustainable improvements to everyday life. Through the PHDP, the organization and its program partners facilitate discussion among community groups so that locals are the ones who identify the poverty-related problems that are most salient to them and so that local communities can create their own solutions. The PHDP enables communities to plan their futures.

Outreach International’s On-the-Ground Success in the Philippines

Rural communities often face high rice prices in the Philippines. Rural communities also rely on wage labor in the agricultural sector, and rural Filipinos can only work during the planting and harvesting seasons. Between these seasons, many rural Filipinos are out of a job. Combined with high rice prices, rural Filipinos struggle to feed their families.

Outreach International, its program partner, Outreach Philippines, Inc. and rural Filipino communities have worked together to establish a program that allows rural communities to access rice from their own community-based organizations at very low interest, especially in comparison to the other options that rural Filipinos have. The community groups implement rice loan projects through which they buy rice at an affordable price because they purchase the rice in bulk. The interest rate powers the growth of the local community groups by increasing the number of people who can take part in them.

Rural communities own and run the rice loan project, and the program’s rice and money remain in the communities, giving agency to rural Filipinos and allowing them to access a more sustainable source of food. Dr. Cloete sums the program up beautifully; “That’s the beauty of it. Because the project is owned, managed, driven by the community, they have ownership over the project. And they can decide what issue they want to address next. We have this beautiful cyclical thing that takes place.”

Activists and organizations within the developmental sector are encouraging it to veer away from neocolonialism and instead make local voices heard. Outreach International is a crucial example of championing sustainable poverty reduction through the empowerment of local communities. The organization is contributing to changing the developmental sector, and it will be exciting to see Outreach International’s growth and impact over the coming years.

– Anna Ryu
Photo: Unsplash

Nesthy Petecio
Nesthy Petecio was a young child who grew up on a farm in the town of Santa Cruz in Davao del Sur in the Philippines. She spent her childhood helping her family make ends meet on their farm. Most of the time, though, this still was not enough and her family struggled to get by. Despite her start in life, Petecio competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a boxer.

A Rough Start to Life

Petecio’s childhood on her family’s farm was not the picturesque version of farm life that books or TV frequently show. Her job to clean up the chicken poop humbled her often. Though the family had a small plot of land, they still had to work hard to maintain the land enough to support their family.

Despite their hard work, there were times when the farm just was not enough. “During that time we really had nothing and we would just borrow money to be able to buy our food,” Petecio told the “Go Hard Girls” podcast in March. Petecio was used to doing almost anything for food, including fighting.

In her neighborhood, she would enter inter-barangay competitions to earn food. The young girl would physically fight in order to get a shot at a good meal for herself. These inter-barangay fights were not anything complicated — they were simply in neighborhood basketball courts, the beach or anywhere else that seemed plausible.

The Spark of a Lifetime

Nesthy Petecio showed promise, and luckily her dad had once dreamed of becoming a boxer himself. He decided to coach her, starting when she was 7 years old. She worked hard and kept fighting through her childhood. Though she only had her dad to help her learn, she continued to develop her craft.

When Petecio was 11, she fought against a male opponent who was much larger and stronger than she was at the time. Though attendees at the match tried to tell her to stop, she was persistent in wanting to continue. Her firmness paid off as she ended up winning the fight.

This fight, along with her drive for the sport, gave her the public boost she needed to receive recognition from the national team and go further with boxing. She saw this as a way out of poverty for her and her family. She began to win international medals at the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Championships in the early 2010s.

Almost Turning Away

In 2016, Petecio failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Further down the line, she experienced defeat early on in the 2018 Asian Games. This was almost too much for her to handle at the time. She told Olympics.com about the depression she faced following her loss. “I was going to look for a job. I was looking for other options,” she said. At that time, I was really feeling down. I was feeling depressed, I was stressed.”

After a break in 2018, she came back strong in 2019 and won the World Championships, proving to herself that she could still compete. The COVID-19 pandemic only gave her extra time to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she dominated the competition and took home a silver medal for her country. She is the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal in boxing.

Nesthy Petecio worked hard for a sport she loved, but also saw an opportunity to live life better than what she was born into. Boxing was her way of doing just that, and becoming an Olympic athlete was more than she could have dreamed of.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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

AECOM
AECOM has announced that USAID has granted the organization a $18.7 million contact to implement the Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability Program in the Philippines. The program known as “Be Secure” will aim to achieve improved access to water services and more-resilient communities. To do this, AECOM will partner with the government of the Philippines to promote good governance and expand water security.

Over the next four years, AECOM will work with WaterLinks, a Philippine non-profit that forms peer-to-peer partnerships between water services providers, to implement the Be Secure Project. It plans to support local stakeholders, advance wastewater-treatment service delivery, improve sustainable water supply, increase resilience to climate-related water stress and hydrological extremes.

“We are excited to provide an innovative technical approach to help respond to urgent water-security challenges in the Philippines,” said AECOM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John M. Dionisio. “We developed and tested this approach over the last 15 years implementing USAID-funded water services, climate change and environmental projects in country.”

AECOM is a provider of professional technical and management support services to a wide range of markets, including water, energy, environmental, facilities, transportation, and government around the globe. The company provides solutions to create, sustain and enhance the world’s built, natural, and social environments.

Ali Warlich

Sources: AECOM