Disaster prevention and development planning in the Philippines

The Philippines is one of the places in the world that suffers most natural disasters. Typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and especially floods are some of the disasters that hit the Philippines several times a year. Most often, the poorest people living in the slums of the cities are the ones that get affected the most. Poorly constructed houses, buildings close to the water areas, lack of financial resources for reconstruction/renovation/securing of the homes makes it impossible for vulnerable populations to secure themselves against all the natural disasters.

Since 2007, DIB has been working on disaster prevention in the Philippines. Together with the Philippine partner organization ALTERPLAN, DIB has implemented projects focusing on the development of local and development plans through the involvement of slum-dwellers, civil society organizations and local authorities. Training and assistance is provided in risk analysis and development planning for citizens involvement in the preparation of local plans (Barangay Shelter Plans). The plans contain a number of proposals for disaster prevention, including improved infrastructure, securing of houses and evacuation plans, that form part of the overall management plans and budgets of the municipality.

Phase 3: Increased Effort

DIB and ALTERPLAN are well underway with a 3-year project in the Philippines. The project builds upon the experience of the Legazpi projects in four cities in the Philippines. The cities are geographically dispersed and involve both more local partners and a larger area of locals than we have previously worked with. The cities involved are Ligao City, the Municipality of Ubay, Iligan City and General Santos City. The last two cities are on the island of Mindanao, and especially Iligan City has been hit hard by typhoons. All four cities are particularly vulnerable to the frequency of natural disasters, especially in relation to the many floods, which most often affect the poor slum areas the most because they can’t resist the massive destructions.

The project contributes to the development of local plans for slum areas created together with local residents, NGOs, authorities and ALTERPLAN. The project focuses on a democratic planning process with an active citizen involvement as an essential foundation for a sustainable development. Experience, training and knowledge give the local population a stronger participation and influence on the living conditions in their local area. Local ownership of project activities is an important factor to ensure that the local people can continue their work for better terms and rights after the end of the project by using the same methods and work.

Project Status: Increased Risk Awareness and Organizational Development

Increased awareness of dangers and disasters

During the project, DIB's project partner, ALTERPLAN, has trained locals and NGOs to identify high-risk areas and danger. Among other things, local slum-dwellers have learned to identify the most vulnerable areas and households, thereby gaining more knowledge about disaster prevention. The warning systems have been improved and there is greater cooperation during evacuations.

A Voice in Society

The project has not only increased the local population's awareness of disasters – it has also brought more attention to the people living in vulnerable areas – also from the local authorities. With the local plans (Barangay Shelter Plans), the slums have been prioritized by the local and regional government in terms of local improvements.

Through training, the locals have been given the tools to develop and manage their own projects. For example, the local plan for Barangayen Tuburan has identified three concrete project proposals for disaster prevention of their local area, which local government has included in the budgets of the coming years. At the same time, there has been evident progress in several of the civil society organizations, as local people have learned to manage an organization and to "use their voice" in the complex political system in the Philippines.

The local people feel that they have gained a voice in society and that the government is now listening to them. It has given them the courage to talk about the traumatic experiences they have had during various disasters. The hope of moving to a safer place also grows daily in the vulnerable population groups in the slums.

The local government has noticed visible improvements

The local communities have become more aware of disaster prevention, and now they can identify specific risks themselves. They are far more active than before and better prepared when the next disasters hit. During a typhoon in November 2016, Ubay saw how the NGOs collaborated on the evacuation of people in the most vulnerable areas.

The project has reached the final Phase III with scheduled completion in the spring of 2018.