Philippines’ plan to relocate thousands of Haiyan survivors will fail unless government focuses on jobs too

Up to 200,000 survivors of last November’s deadly typhoon Haiyan are at risk of worsening poverty because the government plans to relocate them without sufficient consideration as to how they will later earn a living.  

Haiyan – known as Yolanda in the Philippines – was the strongest cyclone ever recorded at landfall. It killed 8,000 people and left four million people homeless.  

A new report today by worldwide aid agency Oxfam, The Right Move? Ensuring durable relocation after typhoon Haiyan, says that earning an income is the top priority for typhoon survivors at risk of resettlement.  Yet the government is planning to move 200,000 people away from the coast, to protect them from future storms, without integrating job opportunities into its relocation plans. Fisherfolk, laborers and vendors are among the people most affected.

The findings are based on a survey Oxfam conducted with communities targeted for post-Haiyan relocation in Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Cebu provinces. Almost half (49 per cent) of the 453 people surveyed said that earning an income through their current or a new job should be the most important consideration for relocation planning. The next greatest concern was safety, for 32 per cent of people.  

Forced to choose beetween safety and livelihoods

Justin Morgan, Oxfam’s country director in the Philippines said: “The government has committed to the principle of 'building back better' but it has yet to prove that through its relocation efforts. Relocation is not only about houses it’s also about jobs, safety, transport. These cannot be afterthoughts."

“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.”

In some places relocation sites are up to 15 kilometers away from people’s current homes. Several families in Leyte told Oxfam they had decided not to relocate because transport costs were too expensive from their new homes back to the coast where they work. While many people are afraid to stay near thesea and worry about the safety of their families, they need to be able to earn money.

Lack of consultation about relocation plans

Oxfam’s report showed that only 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.

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

Notes to editors

Testimonials and photos from communities are available.   

Oxfam has been operating in the Philippines since 1978. It is responding to the typhoon Haiyandisaster 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. 

Contact information

In Philippines : Rhea Catada, Media Manager, +63 9173654649 rcatada@oxfam.org.uk