Relocation to fail unless typhoon victims get jobs

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UP to 200,000 survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) face poverty because the government plans to relocate them without considering how they will earn a living.

In its new report, The Right Move? Ensuring Durable Relocation After Typhoon Haiyan, worldwide aid agency Oxfam said 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 without integrating job opportunities into its relocation plans.

Fishermen, laborers and vendors are among those most affected.


The findings are based on a survey that Oxfam conducted in communities deemed potentially “unsafe” by the government and targeted for post-Yolanda relocation in Eastern Samar, Leyte and Cebu provinces.

Almost half (49 percent) of the 453 people surveyed said earning an income through their current or new job should be the most important consideration for relocation planning. The next greatest concern was safety for 32 percent of people.

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

“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,” he added.

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

Oxfam’s report showed that only 7 percent of people were consulted or informed about relocation plans by a government official. Worse, 81 percent said they did not know their rights on relocation and one in three people said they were accepting relocation because they felt they had no choice.

Half of the people polled also said they did not know where they were going. The government’s vaguely defined policy on “unsafe” areas (previously referred to as “No Build Zones”) has caused confusion among communities.

“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,” Morgan said.

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