Building resilient communities through Bangon Western Visayas project

Building resilient communities through Bangon Western Visayas project under the Migration and Development Initiative in the Philippines

​April 2016

Golda Myra R. Roma, Philippine Focal Point for Joint Migration and Development Initiative, Manila, Philippines

On the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction last 13 October 2015, the Philippine government stated that it has successfully fortified the “physical and psychosocial infrastructure of the country for disaster risk reduction and management”. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the administration of President Benigno Aquino has “inculcated a disaster resilience mind-set at the community level” to reduce the impact of catastrophes.

“Citizens and local leaders have stepped up and assumed responsibility for securing lives and property,” Coloma, also head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, told the Inquirer, the biggest national daily newspaper in the country.  

A disaster-prone nation, the Philippines sees, on average, 20 typhoons a year, in addition to a host of earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, droughts and landslides. As such, having durable solutions, investing in strengthening evacuation centers and other disaster risk reduction programs, and having interactive, IT-based and community led education programs on DRR, among others, are good news.

Since typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013, both national and local governments have increased budget allocations in rebuilding the communities affected, and in building resilience and capacities of those that are not.

The support from overseas Filipinos is instrumental in the recovery and rehabilitation process, they being one of the earliest respondents and supporters immediately after calamities whether in their hometowns or not. Historically, remittances growth has picked up after natural disasters in the Philippines.  Major natural disasters that hit the Philippines since 2004 brought a median increase in remittances within three months of the calamity. Chan and Gupta (2013) noted the most extreme increase in remittances came after Typhoon Reming (Durian) in November 2006, during which money transfers rose from 18.8 percent in October 2006 to 28.3 percent in January 2007 with the peso appreciating by nearly 2 percent against the dollar.   This happened again when Typhoon Nona (Melor) hit the Bicol region in December 2015.

As expected, remittances posted their fastest monthly growth for 2013 in December as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sent more money to their loved ones ahead of the Christmas and New Year celebrations and many overseas Filipino workers were also forced to send more to support families affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) said cash remittances totaled $2.2 billion in December 2013, 9.1% higher than the level registered in the same month of 2012. This was faster than the 7.5% rise in November, and the rates recorded in the previous months. For the full year in 2012, cash remittances reached $22.8 billion, a 6.4% annual increase.  For 2015, it is expected to reach $29 billion. These remittances came largely from the US, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Canada and Japan.

Aside from the individual remittances, several organizations of Filipinos overseas such as Feed the Hungry, Inc. in the US and Philippine Schools Overseas based in Middle East countries have pooled their resources to help initially with relief operations for calamity-affected areas and currently, with recovery and rehabilitation initiatives such as provision of livelihood services. Six thousand families have so far benefited from relief operations coming from support from overseas Filipinos in November and December 2013.  In addition, livelihood programs were established in the province of Iloilo (provision of 20 boats for local fisherfolks) and school buildings were reconstructed in Leyte.

The Migration and Development Initiative for Western Visayas project, supported by SDC through the United Nations Development Programme, was created in 2014 for the specific purpose of assisting communities affected by the typhoon. A collective remittance mechanism was established guided by the mantra "Building a Better and Stronger Western Visayas” or briefly, Bangon Western Visayas. It aims to maximize the important roles of local government units, non-governmental organizations, civil society, private sector, and overseas Filipinos in supporting local development initiatives, specifically in disaster risk-reduction and mitigation projects.

For a minimum of USD 5, an overseas Filipino or any interested party can help in funding various disaster risk-reduction and mitigation projects. Through a crowdfunding mechanism, the pooled funds from overseas Filipinos will have matching funding from other partners such as local government units, non-governmental organizations, civil society, and private sector. As a donor, funder and project partner, he or she can also monitor the progress and milestones of each project through the website Three projects are currently being supported.
The initiative of Bangon Western Visayas in partnering with overseas Filipinos is a reflection of linking the vital role of migration to Philippine development.

Tubig: Manggad Kag Kabuhi (Water: Wealth and Life)

Barangay Bito-on, situated in Calagnaan Island, is a 30-minute pump boad ride from the mainland of Estancia, Province of Iloilo. It is one of the vast areas greatly devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Houses and schools were uprooted, livelihoods were affected, and drinking water was no longer safe.

Barangay Bito-on does not have a spring water source and has never undergone any water quality indicator tests. Just to purchase a gallon of safe drinking water which costs P25.00, residents would pay P60.00 to cross to the mainland – P50.00 for the pump boat and P10.00 for the pedicab. According to, nearly 5,000 children die every day from a water-related illness, or one child dies every 20 seconds.

It is for this reason that the "Tubig: Manggad kag Kabuhi" ("Water: Wealth and Life") project was conceived. It aims to enable not only Barangay Bito-on but other targeted communities as well to gain access to safe drinking water. The availability of safe and clean water will result in a positive transformation in the lives of communities – more jobs, less sickness and the opportunity for children to enjoy their childhood and live to be useful assets to society.

The project will provide clean and safe drinking water to 2,076 residents, or 450 households, and a public elementary school with 512 students between the ages 5-14 years old.

REBUILD: Convergence of Sustainable Livelihood Project

REBUILD Project is managed by the Center for Rebuilding Initiatives for Social Empowerment (RISE) as a response to rebuilding needs of Yolanda's survivors in Northern Iloilo. REBUILD Project had a modest start in Naborot Island. This was the only island barangay of the municipality of San Dionisio where typhoon Haiyan made direct landfall.

From the simple assistance to rebuild lost livelihood of small fisherfolk in Naborot, the movers of the project have since expanded their support to three other municipalities – Estancia, Lemery and Barotac Viejo. Assistance was no longer confined to fisherfolk but was extended to address the needs of other sectors, specifically the small farmers.

After a year of working with partners, now numbering approximately 1,200 across the four municipalities, REBUILD recognizes that the key to really help these affected communities in the long term is to assist them to own and operate their social business enterprises.

Such a huge economic project demands equally huge resources. The REBULID Project thus embarked on a Convergence Strategy that builds on partnership-building to achieve the desired impact for its poor partners. This economic enterprise has an economy of scale designed to make a meaningful breakthrough in poverty reduction that supports the emerging cooperative of partners from the disadvantaged sectors of small fisherfolk and small farmers.

The land for hosting the buildings of the Coop Store and Common Service Facility (for food and non- food processing) are already committed, and so is the market linkage with the opening of Caritas Margins of Caritas Manila in Iloilo City. REBUILD has tapped academia for technical assistance. The missing components of the convergence are the funding for the buildings of the Coop Store, Common Service Facility and procurement of a hauling truck to transport the goods to be sold from the city, which is 110 kilometers away, and back to deliver the processed goods of the Coop. When this convergence fully happens, this would economically benefit approximately 1,200 direct partners and their 6,000 dependents.

The challenge for the REBUILD Project is to make a sustainable difference in implementing a livelihood project for disaster victims. In previous experiences elsewhere like typhoons Pablo, Sendong, Ondoy, among others, livelihood projects at largely individual levels were not successful.

Suyac Eco-Park

Sagay City in Negros Occidental is also among the cities that were hit by typhoon Haiyan. It is composed of several islands and reefs under the protective area of the Sagay Marine Reserve, an effort of the city to preserve, restore and protect the marine environment.

The Negrense Volunteers to Change Foundation, Inc. (NVC) has continually provided assistance to the city through emergency relief, provision of replacement boats to fishermen who lost theirs to the super typhoon, and recently, the provision of technology transfer and basic equipment for fiberglass production, which is a take-off from NVC's fiberglass boat production facility.

One of the islands which has been one of Sagay's conservation efforts is Suyac. Suyac boasts of its century old mangroves, variety of bird species and the warm hospitality of its people.

To support eco-tourism, the local government of Sagay City constructed a boardwalk in late 2012 which connected several picnic huts within the island, and an activity/briefing hall. This allowed tourists to walk through the extensive mangrove forest of the island, swim among the mangroves, enjoy picnic lunches of fresh seafood, and engage in educational activities on the environment. This has provided the islanders with livelihood opportunities as well as general economic benefits for the City of Sagay.

The Sagay local government has initiated a community based association, Suyac Island Eco-Tourism Association, or SIETAS, as a livelihood Cooperative owned and operated by the people living in Suyac which has generated income in addition to what they make from fishing. This involves conducting mangrove forest tours, cooking the meals for the visitors, and managing the rental of the huts along the mangrove walk.

Sagay City also continues to improve the skills of its natives in tour guiding and food preparation through regular workshops and training. The children are also encouraged to take part by becoming junior eco-partners of the island who will eventually be good stewards of the environment.



[3] Ibid.


[5] Ibid.