Without jobs, relocation plans for Haiyan survivors won’t succeed, warns Oxfam

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 30 Apr 2014

Six months on from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, Government of the Philippines plans to relocate more than 200,000 people are failing to consider how these people will find employment, make money and feed their families. 

A report released today by international aid agency Oxfam found jobs and livelihoods were not being taken into account in government plans to relocate coastal communities to protect them from future storms. 

The report, The Right Move? Ensuring durable relocation after typhoon Haiyan, calls on the Government of the Philippines to improve relocation processes to ensure that they aren’t creating more financial insecurity for people already devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

Oxfam’s Country Director in the Philippines, Justin Morgan, said relocation processes that did not have a plan for jobs ran a real risk of plunging vulnerable people further into poverty.

“The government has committed to the principle ‘building back better’ but they are yet to prove it through their relocation efforts.  Relocation is not only about houses.  It’s also about jobs, safety, transport – these cannot be an afterthought,” Mr Morgan said.

“Millions of pesos will be spent on relocation. If this process is not done well – everyone loses. Families are being forced to choose between safety and putting food on the table.  The government also risks wasting valuable funds that could really make a difference to the lives of poor people.”

Mr Morgan said fisherfolk, labourers and vendors are among the people who would be most affected by relocation processes that did not include livelihood needs.

The findings are based on a survey Oxfam conducted with communities targeted for post-Haiyan relocation in Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Cebu provinces.

Fisherman Lionel Advincula from Tanuaun in Leyte, said he feared being relocated to a place where he could not earn money and catch fish to feed his family. “I worry we will sink into poverty because our livelihoods will not be restored. I am very worried, especially for my children because I don’t know how we will eat.”

Oxfam’s report showed that just seven per cent of people were consulted or informed about relocation plans by a government official. Worryingly, 81 per cent said they didn’t know their rights around relocation and one in three people said they were accepting relocation because they felt they had no choice. Half of the people said they didn’t know where they were moving to.

“The government has a constitutional obligation to consult and inform communities of every detail of their relocation. Consultations are crucial for authorities to understand people’s priorities,” Mr Morgan said.

“Previous disaster responses have shown that when people aren’t consulted, plans don’t match their needs and they will either leave the relocated areas or become poorer.”

Typhoon Haiyan devastated the livelihoods of six million workers, as 33 million coconut trees were destroyed in Eastern Visayas, one million tons of crops lost, and 30,000 fishing boats damaged or destroyed. It also left four million people homeless.

For interviews or more information, please contact Emma Whalan on 0418 873 782 or emmawhalan@oxfam.org.au

Notes to Editors:

Oxfam’s report “The Right Move” may be downloaded: http://oxf.am/qM5

Testimonials and photos from communities are available. 

Oxfam has been operating in the Philippines since 1978.  It is responding to the typhoon Haiyan disaster in Leyte, Eastern Samar and Cebu provinces and has supported 650,000 people.  Oxfam has provided clean drinking water and sanitation products and facilities, as well as emergency food security and shelter assistance. It is also supporting poor families to make a living through cash for work initiatives such as debris and coconut tree clearing, rice seed distributions and fishing boat repairs and rebuilding.