WASHINGTON, D.C – The Philippine Humanitarian Coalition (PHC), in partnership with the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC and the US-Philippines Society, marked the second anniversary of Super Typhoon Haiyan with a Reflection forum on 06 November 2015 at the Romulo Hall of the Philippine Embassy.
Around 90 representatives from the PHC’s member-organizations, Philippine Government agencies, and the US-Philippines Society participated in the forum, which was also highlighted by reports on the recovery initiatives of the Philippine Government and the NGO sector, and a video-recorded message on Resilience and Disaster Preparedness produced by the Manila Observatory and featuring former Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Roberto R. Romulo.
Inaugurated on 24 February 2014, the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition is composed of national and local Filipino-American community organizations that have undertaken the mission to assist in rebuilding lives and contributing to the restoration of communities affected by natural and man-made disasters.
“Shortly after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, the Filipino-American community heeded the call to action of the Embassy and stepped up to assist in the recovery, rehabilitation, and rebuilding efforts back home. There are numerous Filipino-American organizations in the Metro DC area alone, each one with its own goals and mandate. Some people said it would be impossible to get these organizations together for one cause. In the case of Typhoon Haiyan, however, the genuine desire to help our kababayan in need was much greater than any individual organization’s goal or mandate. It was in this light, in this very room two years ago that the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition was born,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. recounted.
NEDA Deputy Director General (DDG) Margarita R. Songco, head of the NEDA Yolanda Project Monitoring Office, apprised the group of the status of selected government projects to rebuild damaged infrastructure and provide education, housing, livelihood and social services to the affected communities. Guided by the principle to “Build Back Better, Safer and Faster,” the Philippine Government is working to restore and reconstruct to a higher level of disaster resiliency; formulate and implement long-term sustainable programs, standards and guidelines; and phase rehabilitation activities.
“Rehabilitation is the longer process but for those affected, assistance cannot happen too soon. The Government is committed to providing an enabling environment for rehabilitation,” said DDG Songco. She said that the Philippine Government continues to learn lessons from the Haiyan experience, including the need to strengthen coordination among stakeholders, streamline processes, and ensure convergence of programs for greater efficiency in use of resources and for the attainment of better results.
Rene “Butch” Meily, President of the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), delivered a brief video recorded message on the rehabilitation and recovery initiatives of the NGO sector.
A highlight of the program was the presentation of ten Filipino-community groups on their PHC-funded projects. The funds came from the proceeds of After the Storm benefit concert which was held on 14 June 2014 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. through the collaborative efforts of the PHC, Philippine Embassy and US-Philippines Society. The grants were given out in September 2014 after a rigorous review and selection process using the US National Institutes of Health methodology of grading blind proposals based on Problem Identification, Project Description, Organizational Capability and Budget.
The organizations that presented were Answering the Cry of the Poor; Feed the Hungry, Inc.; Philippine Association of Metropolitan Washington Engineers; Filipino Family Fund; Migrant Heritage Commission; Philippine Nurses Association of America Foundation; Philippine Nurses Association of Metropolitan DC, Inc.; Philippine Medical Association of Metropolitan Washington, DC; University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society in America; and the World Bank Group-IMF Staff Filipino Association.
Combined, these organizations have ongoing innovative projects addressing areas of food security, shelter, education, children’s rights, livelihood, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and public health.
After the presentations, Ms. Maria Angela of the American Federation of Teachers, and representatives of the non-profit First Book, launched a Book Outreach Project to help school children in Leyte by replacing some of the books and other educational resources that were lost and destroyed by Haiyan’s onslaught.
“As we reflect as a community tonight, I urge you to think about your own unique role in rebuilding our nation. Much still needs to be done but we continue our work with steadfast resolve, finding comfort in knowing that we are working with an infinite source of strength and compassion,” Ambassador Cuisia said.