settlers aided by housing sector in 2013
By OVP Media
January 18, 2014
MANILA – The
government housing sector reported that in 2013, the drive to provide
housing to informal settler families (ISFs), which is one of its
priority projects, has helped a total of 80,908 beneficiaries across
the country with a total funding amounting to P26.985 billion.
“In 2012, the number of
beneficiaries assisted by the National Housing Authority through its
various programs was 56,221 families, so there is a 44% increase,”
Vice President and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council
head Jejomar C. Binay said.
The programs were aimed
towards the resettlement of informal settler families (ISFs) living
along danger areas in Metro Manila; those affected by infrastructure
projects in Metro Manila and those living in danger areas in adjacent
provinces; regional resettlement for local government units and
indigenous peoples (IPs); and through the Community Mortgage Program (CMP)
of the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC).
Under the In-city housing program, 12 Low-Rise Building (LRBs)
projects are under various stages of construction on NHA and LGU-owned
properties which are expected to benefit some 6,560 families. So far,
876 units in Smokey Mountain, Manila and Disiplina Village, Valenzuela
City have been completed and are ready for occupancy, while the
construction of the rest of the units is ongoing and are expected to
be completed by the middle of 2014.
Off-city housing also continued to be provided, particularly for
families interested to have their own house and lot packages. 18,564
units were generated at NHA housing sites/settlements for the benefit
of these ISFs for 2013.
The SHFC meanwhile implemented the High Density Housing (HDH) Program
which provides funding for land acquisition, site development and
housing construction proposals initiated by the affected families and
communities themselves. The program was designed to complement the
NHA’s program for ISFs in danger areas in Metro Manila. For 2013, the
SHFC Board has approved five (5) projects to benefit 2,786 ISFs with
funding of more than P290 million.
8,008 units were generated in NHA resettlement sites for families
affected by government projects such as the R-10 and C-5 Northern Link
road projects, various infrastructure projects in Quezon City,
Philippine Ports Authority and NAIA Expressway projects, and for
families in danger areas in Bulacan, Pampanga, Laguna and Rizal.
The regional resettlement projects benefited from higher budget
allocation and greater participation of LGUs with the implementation
of 124 projects aimed at addressing resettlement requirements of LGUs
outside Metro Manila.
As a result, the year 2013 yielded a total of 11,709 units for
regional resettlement projects in Northern and Central Luzon, Southern
Luzon, Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao.
IP groups also benefited, with 25 projects implemented in 2013. To
date, 37 projects to benefit 3,117 IPs are being implemented in
various parts of the country.
The housing sector also reported that as of November 2013, 153 project
applications to fund land acquisition have been approved under the CMP
which amount to about P980.6 million and benefit 16,015 ISFs with
tenure security on the land they occupy. This represents 79% of SHFC’s
target of 14,900 families for the full year and is 26% higher than
last year’s accomplishment of 9,287. Of this number, actual take-out
for the year amounted to almost P714 million, benefiting some 11,800
Of the 153 projects approved for CMP funding, 12 are Localized
Community Mortgage Program (LCMP) projects that would provide secure
tenure to 1,124 ISFs. The LCMP is a derivative of the CMP where
partner LGUs may apply for financing to accommodate their priority
social housing projects.
A total of 2,889 ISFs were meanwhile awarded their individual titles
from January to November 2013. These families have attained their goal
of becoming homeowners after having fully paid their loans. The
individual titles released this year exceeded SHFC’s target of 2,000
titles by 44%.
Housing loan programs catering to employees from the national and
local government as well as the private sector were also introduced in
2013. Pag-IBIG Fund widened the range of its borrowers, enabling more
Pag-IBIG members to be homeowners by amending the guidelines of an
existing housing program and creating a new housing program. NHA also
continued its housing program for policemen and soldiers, which was
started in 2011 under Administrative Order No. 19 issued by President
According to the annualized January to November 2013 report, Pag-IBIG
Fund’s accomplishment in housing loan availment for 2013 is expected
to reach 100% and 120% of its target in terms of loan value and number
of units, respectively. About P44.7 billion worth of housing loans are
projected to be granted by the Fund to finance purchases and
construction of 60,983 housing units for its member-borrowers. Of
these, 26% or 15,789 units valued at P12.5 billion are pending for
take-out and are currently awaiting compliance with the Notice of
Approval conditions such as payment of necessary taxes at the Bureau
of Internal Revenue, transfer and/or annotation of mortgages at the
Registry of Deeds, and securing the new Tax Declaration at the local
government units for purposes involving purchase.
Pag-IBIG also created the Business Development Sector (BDS) which
maintains and strengthens the Fund’s dealings with developers and
employers. The BDS seeks out developers that have not previously used
the Fund’s financing for their buyers and encourages them to partner
with Pag-IBIG. It also offers the country’s top employers with
Employer Accreditation for housing loan processing, providing
employers with faster access to Pag-IBIG’s housing services such as
housing loan prequalification, home or housing needs matching, and
faster housing loan processing time. To date, Pag-IBIG Fund has
accredited 25 employers, which include 15 private employers, six (6)
national government agencies, and four (4) state
The Fund also introduced a special lane in several branches for loans
amounting to P1 million and above to facilitate faster processing.
The following are the programs offered for employees for 2013:
1. Affordable Housing Program. This program offers subsidized rates
for the first ten (10) years for members with gross monthly income not
higher than P17,500. Loans up to P400,000 have an interest rate of
4.5%, translating to a monthly amortization of P2,026.74, while loans
up to P750,000 have a 6.5% interest rate and a monthly amortization of
P4,740.51. At the end of the 10-year period of subsidized rates, the
borrower will pick the re-pricing period of his/her choice.
2. Group Housing Loan Program. Housing for LGUs, employers, employee
associations, and cooperatives is fast-tracked through this program,
wherein project proponents are given access to a maximum loanable
amount of P20 million for horizontal development and P40 million for
vertical development. As of October 31, 2013, a total of 1,184 out of
1,715 LGUs (69%) have been briefed on the salient features of the
program. Of these, 195 LGUs are negotiating with Pag-IBIG which could
generate up to about 13,000 housing units.
The Bistekville project of the LGU of Quezon City, which is an
undertaking among the LGU, the private land owner and the developer,
demonstrates public and private partnership at work. Bistekville 2
will generate 894 housing units, each costing P400,000, with the
project beneficiaries availing themselves of the End-User Program to
finance their housing units.
3. Housing Needs Matching Program. In order to reduce the cost of
owning a home, Pag-IBIG adopted the strategy of matching its members’
housing need with available inventory of developers.
The first “Needs Matching” project in North Luzon, Hanjin Village, is
a socialized housing project for shipyard workers of Hanjin Heavy
Industries and Construction Company Limited or HHIC-Phil. The project
will allow the employee-beneficiaries to pay for the land, land
development, and house construction at significantly lower costs (an
average of 65% of market value).
The project, consisting of 288,147 square meters of land in
Castillejos, Zambales, is expected to generate 2,780 housing loan
accounts with a total portfolio of P1.27 billion for the next three
years. Another project in Mindanao is in partnership with the
provincial government of Sarangani. Capitol Residences has 180 total
saleable units, with each unit costing P400,000 to P500,000.
Housing units are packaged as 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom duplexes or
3-bedroom single attached units with a land area of 55 or 65 square
meters per unit. Package price ranges from P399,000 to P599,000.
4. AFP/PNP Housing Program. NHA responded to the needs of the
government employees particularly the military and police personnel by
providing them decent and affordable housing. For the year 2013, NHA
continued to implement Phase II of the AFP/PNP Housing Project though
the development of 30 projects across the country which generated
20,680 units. To date, 29,810 units are under various stages of
completion for Phase II of the project.
5. Other Services Resulting in Increased Resources. Pag-IBIG Fund
implemented various measures which generated more members and
increased collections in members’ savings. Average growth rate from
2011 to 2013 is about 9%, or an increase from P21.9 billion to P26
billion. The huge increase in members’ savings is attributed to the
rising number of members who voluntarily upgrade their monthly
savings. Although mandatory membership savings have not been increased
since 1986, Pag-IBIG has been encouraging members to voluntarily
increase their monthly savings so they can gain more benefits like
higher loan entitlement and higher dividend amounts at the end of each
In line with Republic Act 10361 which instituted policies for the
protection and welfare of domestic workers, Pag-IBIG Fund, together
with SSS and PhilHealth implemented the Kasambahay Unified
Registration System, which contributed to the increase in members’
savings. The system enables a kasambahay or his/her employer to
register only once with any of the three (3) agencies. Pag-IBIG also
undertook pro-active efforts to register kasambahays and their
employers using Pag-IBIG’s own registration system for employers.
The housing sector also enhanced its partnership with various sectors
to generate additional resources for housing, especially for the poor,
and encourage the private sector to participate in housing projects.
In January 2013, the Revised IRR to govern Section 18 of Republic Act
7279, entitled the Urban Development and Housing Act, took effect. The
Revised IRR provides for the different modes by which private
developers can comply with the provision that at least 20% of total
area or total project cost of subdivision projects should be allocated
for socialized housing. The new guidelines allow compliance with the
law through development of new socialized settlements, slum upgrading,
joint venture with LGUs or other housing agencies and participation in
the Community Mortgage Program.
In 2013, commercial banks and other financial institutions started
rebalancing their loan portfolios to lessen their exposure to real
estate as encouraged by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to maintain
equilibrium between housing need and home construction. While this
measure negatively impacts guaranty enrollments of the Home Guaranty
Corporation (HGC), the agency promoted countryside home-lending
through rural banks and microfinance institutions. Guaranty line
applications from nine (9) rural banks were received, four (4) of
which were already given guaranty lines. With HGC guaranty, their
home-lending activities are expected to increase homeownership in
their respective regions.
The HGC held a ceremony in September entitled “Mobilizing Funds for
Countryside Housing Development” promoting this initiative. The
ceremony highlighted the partnership between HGC and 17 member-banks
of the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) and one
microfinance institution (MFI) to boost housing developments in the
In response to Vice President Binay’s directive, the HGC also started
coordinating with partner banks to encourage them to lend more for
home construction and repairs in calamity areas, particularly those in
Meanwhile, in order to strengthen public-private partnership towards
the development of a sustainable housing finance system in the country
and to be more competitive in the market, The National Home Mortgage
Finance Corporation (NHMFC) also amended the guidelines of the Housing
Loans Receivables Purchase Program (HLRPP). Under this program, NHMFC
purchases seasoned housing loan receivables from originating
institutions which will be turned into an asset pool for eventual
issuance of securities or bonds for sale in the capital market.
The revised guidelines reduced the interest rates and the seasoning
period of the amortizing borrowers prior to the sale or assignment to
NHMFC, to encourage more originators developers to sell their loan
receivables to NHMFC.
Through the conduct of road shows in the various regions, NHMFC was
able to purchase 3,676 housing units worth P906.412 million from
January to November 2013 representing 113.30% of its target. These
housing accounts underwent the due diligence process to ensure the
purchase of seasoned/quality mortgages.
The purchased receivables shall be used to back up the securities that
NHMFC is expected to issue in 2014. This would be the third
residential mortgage backed securities (RBMS) in the Philippines by a
government agency, following Bahay Bonds 1 (BB1) in 2009 and BB2 in
2012. Bahay Bonds 2 was awarded the most “Innovative Listed Corporate
Bond Issue of the Year” given by Philippine Dealing System Holdings
Corporation & Subsidiaries (PDS Group) on 28 February 2013.
In line with the thrust of improving transparency and increasing
stakeholder participation in government programs and projects, the
SHFC signed once again a budget partnership agreement with the
Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies, Inc. (PHILSSA) and
the National Network of CMP Originators and Social Development
Organizations for Low-Income Housing (CMP Congress) as Civil Society
partners for the execution of its annual budget preparation. This
agreement is in compliance with National Budget Circular No. 536
issued by the Department of Budget and Management on 31 January 2012
for Government Corporations to engage with Civil Society Organizations
(CSOs) in budget preparation.
The SHFC also conducted nationwide Budget Consultation Workshops with
CMP-Mobilizers (CMP-Ms) and other stakeholders to determine national
funding support for CMP projects in 2014.
For the new year 2014, the shelter agencies vowed to intensify the
implementation of its priority programs, which include the provision
of permanent housing units for calamity victims, particularly those
living in areas affected by typhoons Pablo and Yolanda declared as
No-build Zones, as well as the continued resettlement of ISFs living
in danger areas in Metro Manila.
Also included among the priority projects of the housing sector are
the increase in the number of beneficiaries given security of tenure
through the Community Mortgage Program, as well as the improvement of
existing CMP areas through loans for site or home development.
The following are also marked as priority projects:
• Improve collection efficiency. For the CMP, the target collection
efficiency rate for 2014 is 82%, compared to the existing 80% target;
• Develop the capacity of 250 Community Associations as well as
Implementation Partners under the CMP and HDH programs;
• Implement organizational reforms, such as the establishment of SHFC
regional hubs and pave the way for a decentralized operation;
• Push for legislative measures that would strengthen the housing
sector such as the proposed Social Housing Finance and Development
• Undertake measures to increase funding to support the housing
sector’s programs such as NHMFC’s secondary mortgage operations;
• Improve services and provide more benefits to Pag-IBIG members
through the following programs and projects:
a. Privilege Card Benefits,
b. Full launch of Pag-IBIG HELPs,
c. Pag-IBIG-led Housing Projects.
• Diversify Asset Portfolio/Fund Generation Program and ensure higher
Return On Equity;
• Intensify partnership with rural banks especially in calamity areas
to encourage them to lend more for construction and repair of housing
units of calamity victims;
• Intensify assistance to LGUs to fast-track the preparation/updating
and approval of CLUPs.
“For this new year, we vow to continue pushing boundaries in our
efforts to provide homes for our fellow Filipinos,” Binay said.
winning battles against illegal commercial fishing
December 13, 2013
LEGAZPI CITY – Bicol
communities are on their way to winning their battle against illegal
fishing, a joint team of stakeholders and NGOs said today in a press
conference in Legazpi City.
The group is composed of
fisherfolk, local government officials from Sorsogon City, Pilar,
Donsol, Ligao, Pio Duran, and representatives from the Diocese of
Sorsogon and Greenpeace Southeast Asia. They noted that the strong
support of local government and civil society against illegal fishing
activities in the area have been key in ensuring that the region’s
municipal waters remain solely for the use of local artisanal
The announcement came at the
conclusion of a week-long joint community patrol conducted in
Burias-Ticao Pass. The joint patrol noted the absence of illegal
fishers from December 9 to 12, 2013, during a season when illegal
fisheries are rampant.
“Normally at this time of
the year we get reports of rampant illegal commercial fishing
activities out there at the seas in the evening,” said Lito Pavia,
Bantay Dagat head from Pio Duran, Albay. “This time no illegal fishing
activities were reported. This was verified when we patrolled the blue
strip of waters between the islands of Burias and Ticao in Masbate.”
“A single illegal commercial
fishing boat can rob 70 small municipal fishers of potential fish
catch,” added Pavia. “If we can just take out even one illegal
commercial boat from the sea, it would mean an additional 729
kilograms per day or 175 metric tons per year of potential fish catch
which can be shared by municipal fisherfolk.”
Based on the initial report
shared by Diom Ballebar of the Fisheries Regulatory and Enforcement
Division of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)
Region V, 20% of the registered commercial fishing vessels in the
region are already looking for other fishing grounds. “This means that
the multi-stakeholders campaign against illegal fishing around
Burias-Ticao is paying off,” Balleber said.
In July 2013, during the
Oceans Defender Tour, the Greenpeace ship M/Y Esperanza together with
BFAR Region V personnel patrolled these same waters and apprehended
commercial fishing vessels without proper licenses and which use
prohibited fishing gear.
Vince Cinches, Greenpeace
Southeast Asia Oceans Campaigner said that Greenpeace together with
the Bicolanos and an even bigger group of Ocean Defenders are here
once again to raise the ante against illegal fishing activities.
“Greenpeace believes that the strong, unwavering commitment of
Bicolanos resulted in the reduction of illegal commercial fishing
activities in Burias-Ticao Pass,” said Cinches. “We strongly urge
other provinces to do the same because the commercial fishing
operations that got booted out of these waters will try to find other
fishing grounds in other provinces and steal from municipal fisherfolk.”
welcomed the announcement made today by Albay 3rd District
Representative Fernando Gonzalez regarding the creation of a composite
enforcement team coming from Pio Duran and Ligao. The enforcement team
will cover the western waters of Albay.
“We would like to lead by
example,” Rep. Gonzales said in his announcement. “We will make Pio
Duran the center for fisheries and marine protection instead of a
haven of illegal commercial fishers. I will push for a House
Resolution that will institutionalize the initiatives done in the
Bicol Region so it can be replicated in other areas of the country.”
The alarming illegal fishing
activities in the Burias and Ticao pass has prompted the Bicol Bishops
led by Bishop Arturo M. Bastes of the Diocese of Sorsogon to write to
President Aquino in 2010. President Aquino ordered the enforcement
agencies in the region to immediately address the problem.
“After many years of hard
work and sacrifice from many people in various sectors, fisherfolk are
now reporting to us that they have noticed an increase of almost a
kilo in their fish catch,” said Bishop Bastes. “However, I tell these
fisherfolk that this could be temporary as illegal fishers from nearby
degraded fishing grounds might come here and fish again.”
Greenpeace is calling on the
Philippine government to take stronger measures to curb illegal
1. No new commercial fishing
licenses in recognition of the fact that fishing efforts have already
exceeded the capacity of our natural resources to recover;
2. Stronger vessel registry
and licensing systems. Even as no new permits are issued all existing
fishing vessels must be registered to establish accurate data on
fishing vessels; and
3. Maintaining the 15
kilometer zone for exclusive to municipal fisherfolk.
leaders, groups acclaimed in the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan awards
December 7, 2013
QUEZON CITY – Six
outstanding environmental advocates and groups confronting various
environmental crises, especially the impacts of disasters and climate
change, were awarded today in the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (GBK)
awards ceremonies at the Convention Hall of the Bureau of Soil and
Water Management in Quezon City.
The GBK honors the struggles
and sacrifices of individuals and organizations who selflessly devoted
their time and energy to the protection of the environment and to the
assertion of people’s rights to benefit from a healthful ecology.
Now on its third year, the
GBK recognized six awardee individuals and organizations:
• Armin Marin, a town
councilor, church leader and incorruptible environmental campaigner
based in Sibuyan Island in Romblon Province, considered by some as
‘Asia’s Galapagos’ for its biodiversity and geographical uniqueness.
Marin especially fought against consortiums of large-scale miners that
aimed to exploit mineral resources in the island despite its being a
protected area, and was killed in October 2007 with a fatal shot in a
violent dispersal of a peaceful protest they staged against Sibuyan
Nickel Properties Development Corporation. He only served as municipal
councilor for three months.
• Wilhelmus Geertman, a
Dutch missionary and executive director of the humanitarian
organization Alay Bayan Inc. (ABI), dedicated 42 years of his life to
activism in the Philippines until his murder in July 2012. From health
and education, to community-based disaster management programs,
Geertman and his colleagues rendered services that empowered local
communities to rise up and help themselves. At the time of his death,
Geertman was promoting the rights of peasants, workers, as well as
campaigning against logging in Aurora province, large-scale mining
operations and other environmentally destructive projects in the
• Rodne Galicha, a
dedicated, vigilant guardian of the environment, a graduate of
Philosophy and Arts Classical at the University of Santo Tomas and
Central Seminary, also hails from the island of Sibuyan. Galicha is an
active participant in environmental protection and conservation issues
in his hometown, and was instrumental in the passage of a mining
moratorium ordered by the governor of Romblon Province. Oftentimes
invited as a speaker in international forums, Galicha was even trained
as climate leader for Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project serving
also as its Philippines district manager. From 2009-2013, he worked
for Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) with Philippine Partnership for the
Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA) Legal Rights
and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK/FoE) and Haribon Foundation for
the Conservation of Natural Resources. He is now presently working
pro-bono for Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan
ISLE) as Executive Director.
• The Kababaihang
Nagtataglay ng Bihirang Lakas (KNBL) is a women’s group in Davao City,
aspiring for food security and sovereignty through organic farming..
Beyond empowering others to engage in safe organic food production,
KNBL was also successful in campaigning against corporate aerial
spraying and field trials of the genetically modified BT eggplant.
They also pushed for the passage of the Organic Agricultural Ordinance
and its implementing rules together with other people’s organizations
and NGOs in Davao.
• The Magsasaka at
Siyentista para sa pag-unland ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) is a farmer-led
network of people’s organizations, non-government organizations and
scientists that believes that agro-biodiversity is a vital resource in
sustainable rural development and should be conserved and managed by
farmers themselves. It has engaged in various multi-sectoral
information and education initiatives, sustainable agriculture
practices, lobbying from the local to national levels, and filing
legal actions against genetically modified eggplant field testing.
• Awarded the most
distinguished recognition in the 3rd GBK, the Kalumbay Regional Lumad
Organization’s campaigns have fought against logging, mining and
plantations and defended indigenous people’s rights in Northern
Mindanao. In the process, their leaders’ lives have been sacrificed,
among whom are Jimmy Liguyon and Datu Mampaagi Belayong, Their
struggles thus centered on extractive industries encroachment on
ancestral domains, including the call for justice for the violation of
their rights to ancestral domain.
“Through this award, I
recognize with honor the indigenous peoples of our country who have
been maintaining ecological balance and the women who have the unique
strength and determination to protect our environment. It may be
disappointing that my co-awardees, my colleague Armin Marin and
Wilhelmus Geertman, are unable to receive their awards personally, I
know that they are united with our land, our nature, and their lives
can still be felt because land is life, nature is full of life. We may
not feel their breaths but theirs are with the fresh and clean air the
trees give. We may become endangered species under the red list of
International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but our grassroots
movements shall make a change to restore balance in nature. We belong
to nature, we come from it. Whatever we do to ourselves, we do it to
the rest of our brothers and sisters; and whatever we do to our
brothers and sisters we do it to nature. We are all interconnected, we
are one: We Are Nature,” said Rodne Galicha, individual award
recipient and author of a pocket-sized book ‘We Are Nature: thoughts
on emerging environment issues’.
Ms. Frances Quimpo,
executive director of the Center for Environmental Concerns –
Philippines, GBK’s lead organizer, said “the Philippines has been
experiencing the dire impacts of climate change – stronger typhoons,
rising sea levels, extreme rainfall and other weather events, and
disturbed water budget. The worst is yet to come, but the country,
ironically, continues to host destructive and extractive industries
that render our people more vulnerable to these hazards, than ever.
The heroism of our farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women,
workers and professionals, their communities and organizations which
directly face these dreadful challenges, deserve the country‘s
acclamation. We dedicate the 2013 Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan to our
sisters and brothers who braved the impacts of Typhoon Yolanda. May
the country rise up and finally learn from the tragedy and sacrifice
they endure as of this moment.”
GBK Awards Committee is
headed by Most. Rev. Deogracias Iñiguez, DD, Bishop-Emeritus of
Caloocan. Members of the Board of Judges include Bishop Iñiguez, Dr.
Rene Rollon of University of the Philippine’s Institute of
Environmental Science and Meteorology, Dr. Teresita Perez of Ateneo de
Manila University’s Environmental Sciences Department, Dr. Helen
Mendoza of the Philippine Network on Climate Change, and Dr. Joseph
Carabeo of Alliance of Stewards for Authentic Progres.
The GBK is organized by the
AGHAM-Advocates of Science & Technology for the People, Canadian
Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Center for
Environmental Concerns – Philippines, Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, Ecowaste Coalition, Central Visayas Fisherfolk
Development Center, Foundation for the Philippine Environment and
Tacloban City, forensic experts Andres Patino (ICRC) and Raquel
Fortun (University of the Philippines) work to ensure proper
management and identification of the remains of Typhoon Haiyan
victims. (ICRC/Jesse Edep)
November 20, 2013
MANILA – The violence with which Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck
resulted in the loss of many lives and caused many people to go
missing. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
immediately sent a forensic expert to advise, coordinate and cooperate
with the Philippine authorities on the proper management of the dead.
"There are certain procedures that should be followed to preserve the
dignity of the victims and facilitate their identification," said
Andres Patino, the ICRC's expert in humanitarian forensic action and
the first forensic specialist to arrive in Tacloban. "The dead should
be properly collected and placed in temporary burial places, to allow
for forensic investigation later. Photographs should be taken, and any
descriptive information and post-mortem data should be recorded."
In the current circumstances, with electricity and other basic
necessities unavailable and most facilities destroyed, ensuring that
these procedures are followed is very challenging. "At a meeting today
with the local authorities of Tacloban and the Department of Health,
we agreed on an emergency plan for the proper management of the dead
which takes into account the scarcity of available resources."
The authorities have agreed to follow guidelines for the management of
the dead developed jointly by the ICRC and the World Health
Organization (WHO). The ICRC is closely coordinating its forensic
action in the Philippines with the WHO through the Ministry of Health
and also with the National Bureau of Investigations.
There is no public health justification for rapid mass burials.
Contrary to what many people believe, the bodies of those who die in a
natural disaster do not cause epidemics, and they are a negligible
health hazard. It is probable that most victims of Typhoon Haiyan died
of injury, drowning or fire; they are not likely to have had
epidemic-causing diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria or the
plague when they died. "There is only a small risk of developing
diarrhoea by drinking water contaminated by the corpses [a risk
smaller than that caused by the living] and that risk can be
eliminated by routinely disinfecting and/or boiling water to prevent
water-borne disease," said the ICRC expert. "In any case, most people
avoid drinking water from any source that may have been in contact
with dead bodies or other causes of contamination."
Hasty and uncoordinated burials of the dead without proper
identification are a concern for the authorities and the ICRC, as they
can be very painful for the bereaved. Improper and undignified
management of the dead can traumatize families and communities, and
may have serious legal consequences, as it may be impossible to
recover and identify the remains later. The victims will simply be
"People feel an overwhelming need to know what happened to their
missing relatives," said Nancy Fournier of the ICRC delegation in
Manila. "Families with no information on the whereabouts of loved ones
are grief-stricken. Giving them the possibility to identify their
missing relative [even dead] is crucial. They need to know what
happened to be able to start mourning. That's why it is so important
to handle remains carefully."
Around 35,000 people within the Philippines and beyond have so far
asked the Philippine Red Cross to trace family members who have gone
missing in connection with Typhoon Haiyan.