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November 19, 2014

Toward a New Normal: One Year after Typhoon Yolanda
JICA supports reconstruction efforts in the Philippines

A year has now passed since Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, a year during which the lives of so many people in the country changed. One of a number of international organizations and donors providing assistance—both public or private—JICA has been using the experiences and skills gained from disaster response efforts in Japan to provide assistance with the motto of “Build Back Better.”

Emergency assistance in the aftermath of disaster

photoRelief spreads through a village after receiving emergency supplies in the aftermath of the disaster inTanauan on the island of Leyte.

In addition to providing emergency supplies, JICA dispatched in succession a total of five Japan Disaster Relief teams, namely, three medical teams, an expert team to evaluate the damage and needs on the ground, and another expert team to provide advice on an oil-spill disaster (1). Although JICA has more than three decades of experience in providing emergency relief, sending out five teams in less than two months was a first for JICA that required an enhanced level of response.

Amid conflicting reports and difficulties in ensuring supplies were delivered locally, the most important issues were security and securing distribution route. In times of emergency, JICA typically hands over emergency supplies to the national government at the airport or seaport; however, the capacity of the Government of the Philippines and especially of local governmental offices was compromised by the catastrophe, making it highly likely that the supplies will not be delivered to those in need.

Given the situation, then Chief Representative Takahiro Sasaki of the JICA Philippine Office led the staff in directly delivering the supplies to Ormoc and Palo on Leyte, to Guian on Samar and many other locations, using ferries and trucks in collaboration with Japanese companies. The Japan Self-Defense Forces, the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army provided logistics support to ensure the deliveries were made.

From emergency assistance to restoration and reconstruction

While these emergency supplies were being delivered and the medical teams were in operation, an expert team for evaluating the damage and needs was swiftly assembled and deployed on the ground to assess the situation. Based on that assessment, JICA coordinated with the Philippines to focus on 18 local government units (LGUs) that were damaged by storm surges on the coastal areas of Leyte and Samar.

It was determined that these 18 administrative LGUs were areas where JICA could best apply its experiences in the aftermath of the tsunamis from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and damage caused by storm surges when Typhoon Vera struck Ise Bay, Japan, about 50 years ago. Working tirelessly through the Christmas holiday, JICA personnel maintained their emergency assistance, and JICA soon pivoted its focus toward recovery and reconstruction.

In February 2014, a delegation from Higashi-Matsushima, one of the communities that suffered greatly from the Great East Japan Earthquake, visited some of the affected areas in the Philippines to share their experiences with the Philippine government, both central and local, found that the local reconstruction plan that the delegation brought was an excellent reference for concrete measures to implement in rebuilding, and in particular, a land use map in the plan was useful as it depicted a no-build zone, a concept they were not familiar with.

Although there is a wide difference in the budgetary capacities of Japan and the Philippines, one of the delegation members who led the reconstruction efforts at Higashi-Matsushima provided some advice that gave a useful perspective on the situation. He said, “What is important is that community participate in the planning and implementation process,” wisdom that the Philippine government took to heart.

At the end of March, a new ODA loan agreement for a Post Disaster Stand-by Loan was signed between Japan and the Philippines which established a framework for promptly responding to the financial requirements when a state of national calamity is declared in the Philippines, and accelerated the recovery and reconstruction efforts by the Government of Philippines.

Reconstruction assistance to a ‘new normal’

photoAn architect’s rendition of a completed elementary school designed in the piloti style, above, and a completed local government office andrural health unit also in the piloti style, below.

---Supporting disaster-proof structures with ‘program grant aid’---

Reconstruction toward a new normal is not merely making repairs or retrieving what was lost but is about supporting efforts to build a new community. Reconstruction support is centered on program grant aid and urgent development study.

The program grant aid of 4.6 billion yen supports construction of schools, medical facilities, and local government offices, as well as procuring equipment for airport, maritime polytechnic center, electricity associations, meteorological radar facilities, local offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and fisheries center. The Build Back Better concept is introduced in all projects to aim for disaster-resilient structures.

For example, these buildings were located in a wide area covering multiple communities in targeted areas of said assistance. By constructing resilient buildings, they can function as local emergency center hubs. For buildings close to the seashore, the piloti style (2) of architecture will be applied in which the second floor is utilized as an evacuation center when a disaster occurs, and the first floor serves as an athletic field with shade from the hot sun and a meeting hall for everyday use. Each municipal building will have a multipurpose hall in the center that can also be used as an evacuation site in emergency.

---Providing a blueprint for reconstruction with ‘urgent development study’---

Urgent development study is currently ongoing, and the primary activities these surveys are being used for are to support recovery and reconstruction planning, and to implement quick impact projects (QUIPs).

Such study assessed damage scientifically and produced a hazard map to aid the Government of Philippines—which is largely tied up in making emergency recovery plans and managing projects—in drafting a mid- to long-term plan. In addition, they jointly draft a blueprint for reconstruction that includes a land use plan based on said hazard map and incorporated disaster-resilient development.

This month, a year after the disaster, JICA plans to formally hand over the hazard map to the Government of Philippines and explain how to use the map to the relevant governmental agencies and affected local governments. JICA will continue to provide support through dialog with the local governments so that they will not “Build Back Worse” by putting too much stress on the speed of reconstruction.

JICA’s urgent development study is illustrated below.

photoA submersible fish cage is being installed in Basey on Samar.

---Facilitating reconstruction with QUIPs---

As the name indicates, a QUIP is a project to support the recovery of economic activity and livelihoods as well as strengthening the disaster preparedness and response of LGUs in the targeted region to expedite the reconstruction process. In such regions as Basey on Samar and Tanauan on Leyte, 15 QUIPs have been implemented for various purposes, including re-establishing aquaculture and rebuilding schools to train local government engineers and workers on ground.

So as not to limit the scope of the assistance, when planning each project, JICA bears in mind that the lessons and technologies learned from reconstruction works in Japan are utilized to this recovery and reconstruction support, and gives priority to revive livelihood and community. More specifically, QUIP 1) utilizes the lessons learned at Higashi-Matsushima, 2) builds capacity and skills in repair work by dispatching Japanese and Japan-resident Filipino carpenters, and 3) revives the livelihood of fishermen by introducing submersible fish farming cages developed with technology of a Japanese company.

The innovative submersible fish farming system being installed in Samar Bay has attracted a great deal of attention, and a handover ceremony is planned to be held shortly. Typhoon Yolanda swept away all of the 110 preserves in the area but the new submersible fish farming system will be able to avoid damage as the cages sink during storms.

To add extra value to the cultivated fish, a facility for de-boning milk fish has been set up. The facility will employ women, expanding the job opportunities for them. The de-boned milk fish from the Samar Bay is expected to become a specialty of the Philippines in the near future and is expected to be a good example of the Build Back Better concept.

A major problem on the ground is lack of human resources for construction and related work. While the reconstruction work is fully underway, a serious shortage remains of construction specialists such as engineers, site supervisors and carpenters who are capable of material procurement, designing, building and finishing along the lines of the Build Back Better policy.

A factor that makes it difficult to implement the Build Back Better policy is that buildings originally existed were in any way not resilient and there is a lack of proper materials.

Before Typhoon Yolanda hit the country, JICA had provided cooperation to the DPWH for drafting design standards for quake resilient buildings. In connection with that cooperation, JICA has continued discussions with the Secretary of the DPWH immediately after the disaster and supported the improved design of new schools incorporating Japanese technology and expertise so they are strong enough to resist a storm surge and strong winds. JICA also created an easy-to-understand handbook designed for local engineers, and shared it with the DPWH, the Department of Education, development partners and non-governmental organizations.

QUIPs utilize building restoration sites as an opportunity for on-the-job training, in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). QUIPs also provide capacity building for engineers as well as TESDA graduates as carpenters at local governments through joint efforts to repair marketplaces and other such buildings.

Roofless and homeless but not hopeless

photoA message of hope was found on a chalkboard immediately after the typhoon passed.

Officers from the JICA Philippine Office make a visit to the affected areas on an almost monthly basis. Merely a month or two after the disaster, trees denuded by the winds and toppled coconut trees were scattered everywhere, and bald mountains testified to the magnitude of the disaster. Roads were blocked with debris and shops remained shuttered. The night was pitch black due to a power outage and a feeling of insecurity prevailed, discouraging people from walking about.

Today, the roads have been cleared, and new foliage has sprung up with deep shades of green. The owners of sari-sari stores (3) and restaurants have returned and reopened the doors. Though many people remain displaced and still live in tents, children can now be seen outside, playing and laughing.

“We are roofless, we are homeless, but we are not hopeless.” This sign of hope found on a chalkboard (see photo above) represents the spirit found at disaster sites right after the typhoon had passed. This spirit will help sustain the affected people during their reconstruction, and JICA will continue to provide assistance for them.

Notes:

1: To respond to an accident of oil-spill after a power plant barge was run ashore by the typhoon, JICA, in partnership with the Japan Coast Guard, dispatched a team to conduct an investigation as well as advise the Government of the Philippines on oil removal.
2: An architectural style of two or more stories with supporting columns on the ground level.
3: A small convenience store operated in the doorway of a house that carries groceries, beverages and other commodities.

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