Located along the typhoon belt and the Ring of Fire in the Pacific, the Philippines is highly exposed to various natural disasters, including typhoons, flooding, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. These events often result in significant losses of lives and livelihoods whilst causing many people to lose their homes. Armed conflict between the government and armed groups in the southernmost island of Mindanao also contributes to the displacement of families and further increases humanitarian needs.
Although the Philippines has well-developed crisis management capacities, the incessant occurrence of strong cyclones and storms, many times back-to-back, has often put a heavy strain on local resources. Around 20 typhoons hit the country every year, many of them destructive. The deadliest one so far has been typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) in November 2013. Most recently, typhoon Tembin (locally known as Vinta) struck the southern part of the Philippines on the night of 22 December 2017. It left behind a trail of destruction in at least 23 provinces across the southernmost island of Mindanao, including communities which were already displaced by the ongoing conflict in the region.
In late 2016, three powerful storms – typhoons Meranti, Sarika and Haima (locally known as Ferdie, Karen and Lawin) caused large-scale devastation across northern Luzon, leaving more than one million people affected. In mid-December 2015, typhoon Melor (locally called Nona) wreaked havoc in central parts of the island nation. Sporadic outbursts of violence between armed groups and the Philippine government in Mindanao regularly trigger displacements of communities in the southern part of the country. The Mindanao conflict, classified by European Commission as a ‘forgotten crisis’ has caused the displacement of close to a million people since 2012, including some 467 000 in the aftermath of the Marawi crisis in mid-2017, when clashes between an armed group and the Philippines Armed Forces caused the entire population in the city to flee. These large-scale forced displacements have inevitably increased humanitarian needs.
In 2017, the Commission provided close to €1.8 million in humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the prolonged armed conflict in Mindanao, including those displaced by the large-scale crisis in the region of Marawi since May 2017. These funds support the provision of food, water supply and sanitation facilities, health services, emergency livelihood support, and protection to almost 128 000 vulnerable individuals at evacuation and displacement sites. In 2015-2016, €2.1 million had already been provided to support such operations, while a further €1 million was allocated to support the delivery of quality education to children in the strife-ridden southern region, as part of the EU’s Children of Peace initiative.
The Commission allocated €570 000 to deliver emergency relief assistance, such as provision of emergency shelter and essential household items, access to clean water and hygiene promotion, to families affected by powerful typhoon Tembin which struck the southern part of the Philippines on the night of 22 December 2017.
In late 2016, when three successive typhoons - Sarika, Haima, and Meranti - struck the northern Philippines and affected over 1.8 million people while damaging hundreds of homes, the Commission provided €628 000 for food and other essential relief items to impacted families. Previously in December 2015, €1.5 million was made available following typhoon Melor, and a further €500 000 a couple of months of earlier, to support small farmers who had been severely impacted by typhoon Koppu, which had made landfall in the northern island of Luzon.
The funds enabled the provision of food, safe drinking water and emergency shelter materials, and helped the affected populations to create alternative sources of income through several initiatives, including vegetable gardening and poultry farming. In response to typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013 and considered the most destructive cyclone to ever hit the country, the Commission provided €30 million in humanitarian assistance, early recovery and rehabilitation for the survivors.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated to coordinate European relief efforts, following a request from the Philippines authorities. All 28 EU Member States extended their support, dispatching personnel or material assistance, such as water purification teams and medical supplies, and generous financial aid totalling over €180 million.
To reduce the impact of natural disasters and strengthen the capacities of communities to prepare for future natural disasters, the Disaster Preparedness Programme was set up in 1996. For 2016-2017, the Commission provided €850 000 to enhance disaster resilience of local government units and families living in high-risk urban areas in Metro Manila, through a series of activities such as local capacity building, early warning systems, education, public awareness campaigns and resilience livelihood planning. Between 2014 and 2015, more than €1 million were allocated to improve disaster preparedness capacity in the Philippines.