• ‘Yolanda’ affects 5-M workers

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    The International Labor Organization (ILO) on Tuesday said that their latest estimates showed that roughly one-fourths of the labor force of the Philippines, equivalent to 5 million workers, were affected and displaced by Typhoon Yolanda.

    “This figure is equivalent to the population of Norway. But this is not just a matter of numbers: These are people whose livelihoods have been destroyed and who are now living in uncertainty,” said ILO Philippines Director Lawrence Jeff Johnson.

    “The reconstruction work that lies ahead is enormous. Emergency employment will be critical to clear up the roads and to restore community facilities and infrastructure. Equally important, it will provide people who have lost their livelihoods an opportunity to earn an income and to gain access to social protection while helping to rebuild their communities,” Johnson added.

    Among the world’s destructive natural disasters, Sichuan earthquake in China topped the list of having displaced millions, with a total of 26.8 million people affected and displaced. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami displaced more or less 2 million people, while Hurricane Katrina displaced 250,000 people.

    According to ILO, half of the 5 million people without homes in Visayas at present are still in “vulnerable employment,” which the Millenium Development Goals defined as workers in poor conditions, without access to social protection and “with little choice other than to accept or create whatever work they could find.”

    “Assisting these workers and their families should be our number one priority,” Johnson said.

    The ILO added, as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said last week, that a number of work fair programs or emergency employment programs were being offered in the Visayas, which meant residents can get paid by cleaning the debris left in the area and other work that needs to be done.

    “These types of programs help survivors overcome the crisis by empowering them, but only as long as they include safe and decent working conditions, such as minimum wages, protective equipment, guidance on safety and health, social protection and health insurance,” the ILO director said.

    The Philippines ranks third among countries that are mostly at risk to disasters, and the government has placed emergency employment and early rebuilding of livelihoods at the forefront of its national disaster response strategy to help people return to a normal life as soon as possible.

    The international group, which has been working side-by-side with the government, has deployed a total of six teams to the six most devastated areas and work for the relief, cleaning and reconstruction that should be done in Tacloban City (Leyte), Roxas City (Panay), Busuanga (Palawan/Coron), Northern Cebu, Negros Occidental and Bohol.

    “The teams are working closely with the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as with local governments, business and workers’ organizations,” the ILO said.

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