Philippines Responds to Natural Disasters
In response to being one of the most vulnerable countries to earthquakes and typhoons, the Philippines’ catastrophe risk insurance program was created. The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will provide the government and 25 participating provinces with catastrophe risk insurance.

The World Bank estimates that 20 typhoons each year cause landfall in the Philippines, bringing with them $3.5 billion in losses. As part of the government’s disaster risk finance strategy, the new insurance program strengthens the country’s financial protection and disaster risk reduction management.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), part of the World Bank Group, and the U.K. Department for International Development support the program.

The new Philippines’ catastrophe risk insurance program ensures governments fast cash in an emergency. The transactions $206 million investment protects the national government’s assets from typhoons and earthquakes, as well as that of the 25 participating provinces.

Natural disasters weaken infrastructure and inhibit economic growth and development in poorer areas. Forty percent of the population survives on less than $2 per day, and many of these people live in high-risk areas. Approximately a third of the nation’s workers are in the agricultural sector, which is vulnerable to severe weather.

The Philippines’s new insurance program is related to the Insurance Development Forum (IDF), a public-private partnership closing the protection gap between insured disaster losses and the economic costs of disasters. With support from the World Bank Group and the United Nations Development Programme, IDF improves risk management capabilities and economic resilience for vulnerable people, communities, businesses and public institutions.

According to Joaquim Levy, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of the World Bank Group, “this new insurance program illustrates how the World Bank Group can leverage capital from the market…to sustain essential services in times of crisis, empowering local governments to more effectively assist their citizens.”

Protecting the nation’s financials and empowering local governments, the Philippines‘ catastrophe risk insurance program advances development and poverty reduction, even in the hardest-hit places.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

Philippine Education ReformsPhilippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has signed a bill that will grant free tuition to students attending state universities. Free higher education could prove to be a much-needed step out of the poverty trap for the 42 percent of Filipinos living on less than $2 a day.

The law, which was signed August 3 against the recommendation of the Duterte’s economic advisers, is estimated to cost nearly 100 billion pesos – roughly $2 billion US – per year. Some senators have claimed that when the plan is fully implemented it will only cost a quarter that much. The challenge for Duterte is the full implementation throughout the country’s 112 state schools.

There are some strings attached. Free tuition will only be available to students who maintain high grades throughout secondary education. In addition to that, all students – even those in private higher education institutions – will be required to pass drug screenings to attend school. The latter requirement is an extension of the recent crackdown on drug usage by the Duterte regime.

This bill is just the latest of many Philippine education reforms. In 2012 and 2013, the Kindergarten Act and the Enhanced Basic Education Act extended the formal education timeline by three years, from 10 to 13. Around the same time, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) became involved with the Philippine education reforms.

In 2011, after the launch of the U.S. led Partnership for Growth project, USAID began working closely within the Filipino school system, helping the nation reach its literacy goals and foster new partnerships between each nation’s higher learning institutions.

Even with the help of the U.S., the price of education has been a consistent problem for people in the Philippines. Unable to cover the costs of schooling equally in its 13 districts, the government has historically chosen to focus efforts and money on primary schooling. Duterte’s new law is the first of its kind to focus on higher education. Only time will tell whether his Philippine education reforms are financially feasible, but many Filipino lawmakers realize the importance of investing in human capital.

Education is commonly seen as being one of the steadfast ladders out of poverty. This tuition bill is just a piece of Duterte’s promised grand social spending plan– the regime hopes to add more skilled workers to its labor pool who are ready to take on the changing demands of a highly technological economy.

Tj Anania

Help People in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has had a tumultuous history rife with military conflict. Such conflict seems to go hand in hand with widespread According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, as of 2015, 21.6 percent of the country’s population lived in poverty. While this is a daunting number, it is comforting to know that it is significantly lower than previous years. Still, people must continue to help in order for the Philippines to progress. Here are just a few ways to help impoverished people in the Philippines:

1. Help build classrooms, libraries and other essential structures in rural areas. There are several organizations committed to building these structures across the Philippines. Two examples are the Philippine Business for Education – a nonprofit funded by top CEOs in the Philippines to better the country’s education – and the Kabayanihan Foundation, which works to improve the lives of Filipinos through fundraising and volunteering.

2. Fund a child’s education. Sponsoring a child as they strive for a quality education is one of the best ways to help change an individual person’s life in the Philippines. World Vision Philippines, for instance, offers an easy way to either completely sponsor a child or share a sponsorship.

3. Help people in the Philippines find business and livelihood opportunities. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) is an organization started by native Filipinos living around the world; their goal is to help people in the Philippines by offering work and enterprise opportunities. To support the CFO, follow the organization on social media and spread the word.

4. Help build homes for homeless families. This can be done through direct action or through donation, and Habitat for Humanity-Philippines is a great place to start.

5. Support accountability and transparency in the government. This has been a longtime struggle for the Philippines and continues to be an issue. If the government is not accountable and honest to its citizens, it becomes much more difficult to end the cycle of poverty. To support efforts to make the government more accountable, reach out to the Movement for Good Governance in the Philippines – a group of people who have been advocating for a more honest and responsible government.

6. Buy Filipino products and visit the Philippines. Tourist dollars are incredibly important to the country’s economy, as are the profits from the country’s main exports including electronic equipment, copper, petroleum, coconut oil and various fruits. The Philippines also boasts an incredible landscape, from the beautiful and dramatic capital city of Manila to the white sand beaches of Boracay.

The Philippines is a country of both immense problems and immense potential; it is already on its way to improving the quality of life of its citizens. By making use of these six simple steps to help people in the Philippines, it may become much easier for the country to grow and reach its full potential.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Unsplash

Female Workers in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has emerged as an equality leader among Asian countries, promoting female workers in the Philippines in recent decades. While many female workers in the Philippines still deal with the same struggles as other female workers worldwide, including unequal income and inequality, much more have entered the workforce than any other Asian countries. This marks a distinct shift in culture within Asian countries, which infamously used to prevent women from entering the workforce. This has slowed the ability of many to lift themselves out of poverty.

The Philippines ranked first in the MasterCard Worldwide Women’s Advancement Index among Asian countries with a score of 70.5 percent. Major Asian powers such as China, Japan and Korea scored 61.5, 48.1 and 49.7 respectively. Access to education appears to be the driving cause for the surge of women in the workforce in the Philippines. The Philippines also ranked ahead of all other Asian countries in the percentage of women with secondary and tertiary education.

While women have gained a substantial place in the Philippines workforce, they face issues regarding advancement to more skilled professions and gaining further statues beyond base level employment. Unfortunately, many overqualified women effectively become trapped in entry level positions. Like many Asian countries, male workers typically fill managerial roles, mainly due to gender biases ingrained in societal expectations.

Numerous policy initiatives have been put in place to promote women in managerial level roles, including: the broad policy statements embodied in the Philippines Constitution of 1973, policy instruments embodied in the Letter of Instructions 974 and 1066, and the U.N. World Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development.

Despite these policy efforts, a lot of work still remains to promote female workers in the Philippines; it is an issue that should continue to demand attention.

Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr

Nearly two months have passed since the conflict with Islamic State terrorist groups began in the Philippines city of Marawi, but its government has hope for a conclusion soon. In the last month, major nations, including Australia, China and South Korea have made large contributions of aid to Marawi aimed to assist the civilians affected by the violence.

South Korea announced on July 5 that it would be giving aid in the form of $1 million to the victims in Marawi City. In a statement regarding the donation, Korean Ambassador Kim Jae-shin stated, “On behalf of the Korean government, I would like to extend my sympathy to all evacuees of Marawi City. Our donation, even if it’s not big…is a token of our friendship with the Philippines.”

With a death toll that recently topped 500 and over 183,500 individuals forced from their homes, the crisis is far from over.

On June 27, China donated $3 million in relief funds to the besieged city. The money was directed to the city’s health and social development department in hopes of helping those who have been displaced or whose homes have been destroyed.

Australia also made contributions totaling approximately $7 million. In a statement on June 20, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop firmly stated that the Australian government will stand strong beside the Philippines to fight terrorism. The donated aid packages included items such as food, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and sanitary supplies.

The conflict began on May 23, after government troops found the hideout of an ISIS leader, Isnilon Hapalon, in the city. When his men called for backup from the Maute, another radical Islamist group, a gunfight began.

The United States became involved in the conflict at the beginning of June as well, providing technical assistance and military aid to Marawi. According to a recent report, American forces are not currently engaged in combat in the city.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr

Heart ailments are still the most fatal and most common diseases in the Philippines, according to the country’s Department of Health.

Called the “silent epidemic” by former Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) have topped the list of most common diseases in the Philippines over the past few years, responsible for 15 to 20 percent of reported deaths annually. In some years, these numbers are significantly higher. In 2012, the National Statistics Office reported that half of the country’s deaths stemmed from cardiovascular causes.

The most common of these ailments is coronary heart disease. Other heart ailments such as angina, atherosclerosis, hypertension and congenital heart disease have also been rampant among Filipinos.
Heart diseases can lead to other complications in vital organs, which makes the commonness of heart conditions alarming.

The Department of Health has estimated an increase in the number of kidney disease incidences from 10 to 15 percent annually starting in 2013. The trend coincides with increases in reported hypertension cases. Hypertensive patients are more likely to develop kidney complications.

Analysts trace the cause of these diseases to two main factors: growing urbanization and a general unawareness of public health issues. As cited in a 2015 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, the quick development of high-paying industries and subsequent rapid economic growth have given Filipino consumers more purchasing power than ever before. Yet this growth has not always necessarily translated to a shift toward healthier options or an awareness of healthier food alternatives. Fast food consumption is higher than ever before, with 25 percent of Filipinos eating out at least once a week according to Nielsen.

The Filipino government acknowledges the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases among the citizenry and has put in place several strategies and plans to combat the increase in cases. The Health Department has begun its efforts to remove CVDs from the top of the list of the most common diseases in the Philippines by targeting the most basic of social groups, schools, as a starting point for training, research and propagating information regarding the possible consequences of unbalanced diets and unhealthy life choices. The agency hopes that the chances of Filipinos adopting high-risk behaviors and habits that lead to the development of cardiovascular diseases will be diminished by informing citizens in their early years.

Other Health Department actions include the continued development of a framework for an integrated chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) registry system, which enables patients to access government programs more easily, and training national hospitals for its operation. It has also established a national coalition on the prevention and control of NCDs. Its future plan of action involves the full implementation of the integrated NCD registry system and the development of service packages for patients, among many others.

Bella Suansing

Photo: Flickr

Philippines and the EUAs of May 2017, the Philippines decided to end development assistance from the European Union. The Philippines is willing to reject €250 million worth of aid to prevent the EU from interfering in its internal affairs.

Relations between the Philippines and the EU have soured in the past year. In 2016, EU member countries called for strict monitoring of human rights abuses committed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ policy. Almost 9,000 people were killed in the Philippines since Duterte took office on June 30. Many were small-time users and dealers who police say were sho tin self-defense by officers during legitimate operations.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said that Duterte approved a recommendation from the finance ministry “not to accept grants that may allow interfering with internal policies.”

EU official Gunnar Wiegand defended the EU’s practice of setting conditions in exchange for aid. “You know why? Because it’s the money of our taxpayers. They want to know where their money goes,” Wiegand said.

The longstanding relationship between the Philippines and the EU became formal in 1980 in the European Cooperation Agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In July 2012, the EU-Philippines Partnership Cooperation Agreement provided a legal framework for further cooperation in a range of areas. These included political dialogue, trade, energy, transport, human rights, education, science, technology, justice, asylum and immigration.

This agreement also doubled the planned grant assistance to the Philippines for the period of 2014 to 2020. Funds increased to €325 million, up from €130 million in the period from 2007 to 2013. The Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines states that this seven-year support strategy focuses on “the rule of law” (improved governance and increased cooperation in the justice sector) and “inclusive growth” through sustainable energy and job creation.

The EU also provided aid to Manila’s efforts to end the insurgency in Mindanao, a 50-year conflict that killed more than 120,000 people, displaced one million and prevented economic growth in the region.

The EU is also one of the most important providers of aid to the Philippines in the case of natural disasters. One example of such was after Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The EU provided €180 million in humanitarian assistance and early recovery interventions to help those affected by Haiyan.

Wiegand stated that the EU will not “beg” the Philippines to accept its aid and that there are “no lack of other countries” for the EU to fund if the Philippines rejects its offer.

Some officials contend that this is only a temporary setback for relations between the Philippines and the EU. Economic Planning Minister Ernesto Pernia is skeptical of Manila’s decision. “I will not take that as policy. It is more of a reaction to criticism. I don’t think it’s going to remain as such,” Pernia said.

Hannah Seitz

Photo: UN Multimedia

Mindanao Youth Development
Mindanao Youth Development (MYDev) is a USAID program in the Philippines that addresses barriers to stability in areas of Mindanao. The program created Out-of-School Youth Development Alliances. These groups help youth find jobs by becoming allies with local employers and authorities.

The program is four years old. It addresses the displacement of residents, essential services and high rates of poverty and youth unemployment. Overall, Mindanao Youth Development aims for out-of-school youth to contribute to community development and the workforce.

Mindanao Youth Development works to implement livelihood skills, support access to education curricula to think critically and creatively, and provide the capacity to build development alliances. They seek to engage at least 19,000 youth in the workforce or community development activities.

Aizel Quisano, a young lady who was out of school and unemployed in Mindanao along with thousands of other young people, took part in the program. Her participation in USAID’s Mindanao Youth Development program has drastically improved her circumstances.

Quisano learned about effective communication and financial literacy, which allowed her to begin building her career. As a result, the program taught her new life skills and gave her a new job at an organic farm.

“My parents are happy because, aside from being able to earn income, I am also helping my community,” says Quisano. Since 2013, MYDev has helped over 13,000 individuals in Mindanao.

Mindanao Youth Development has organized summits to allow the youth to demonstrate their skills and present themselves professionally to employers. Consequently, this provides the youth open links to jobs and opportunities.

Like Quisano, many young people are finding more opportunities in their communities that benefit everyone. With the program’s providing curriculum for work readiness and civic engagement, there is hope for the youth to advance the community into a developing society.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Facts and Figures in the Philippines
The Philippines is a sovereign island nation in Southeast Asia . It houses a population of 102,624,209. In addition, the Philippines consists of more than 7,000 islands. The following facts and figures in the Philippines characterize the unique diversity of these islands:

  1. Multiple ethnic groups make up the Filipino population, with Tagalog at 28.1 percent, followed by Cebuano at 13.1 percent, Ilocano at 9 percent, Bisaya/Binisaya at 7.6 percent, Hiligaynon Ilonggo at 7.5 percent, Bikol at 6 percent, Waray at 3.4 percent and other at 25.3 percent.
  2. While 82.9 percent of Filipinos practice the Catholic faith, 5 percent are Muslim, 2.8 percent Evangelical, 2.3 percent Iglesia ni Kristo and 7 percent follow other or no religion.
  3. Facts and figures in the Philippines regarding major infectious diseases show that the degree of risk is high. Bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid fever are some of the most common food or waterborne diseases, while dengue fever, malaria and leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals, also target the population.
  4. Records from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) have indicated that poverty rates are decreasing among Filipino families. In 2006, the overall poverty rate was 26.6 percent. By 2015, that number had dropped to 21.6 percent.
  5. Filipino lawyer and politician Rodrigo Duterte sits as the current president of the Philippines. A little more than half of the population, approximately 55 million, is registered to vote and participates in elections. Additionally, 45,000 candidates are competing for 18,000 national and local posts, including five who are contesting the presidency.

Unbeknownst to much of the world, this nation contains a diverse population with evidence of great development. The poverty rate has decreased dramatically, for example. Additionally, citizens are becoming more active in their nation’s political arena. It is often easy to overlook the stories of positive progress throughout the world, and the Philippines is one such story that deserves more recognition.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

On May 29, Mara Warwick, Country Director of the World Bank office in the Philippines, announced the Philippines Urbanization Review. This framework was created to help the nation’s leaders make decisions about urbanization using diagnostic tools provided by the World Bank to help analyze investment priorities.

“As one of the fastest urbanizing countries in the region, urbanization presents a great opportunity for economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction for the Philippines,” Warwick said during her opening remarks.

Last year, the Philippines was one of the fastest growing countries in the world, and currently, its cities generate more than 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Warwick noted that at the moment, about 45 percent of Filipinos live in cities. She added that by 2050, 65 percent — or 102 million people — will live in Filipino cities if rates of urbanization continue as they are today.

However, the desired speed and scale of urbanization brings obstacles. Cities are struggling to keep up with demands for housing, basic services, transportation, and jobs, as well as increasing income inequality between the wealthiest and poorest segments of society.

“Decisions made now will affect how cities grow and how people benefit from urbanization through economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction,” says the Philippines Urbanization Review. According to the World Bank’s report, cities need “more affordable mass transport, such as metro rail transit and bus rapid transit systems, to raise productivity and improve the welfare of commuters.” Another recommendation is that government create more simple licensing requirements to attract more businesses and housing.

The World Bank published the Philippines Urbanization Review in the hopes that the country will take their recommended steps to cut down traffic and simplify licensing so that cities can thrive and the lives of millions of Filipino people can be improved. The decisions must be made now to ensure a prosperous future.

Kelsey Jackson

Photo: Flickr