Dec 2013


Typhoon Haiyan Relief: Biliran Island

PBV is currently working in Biliran Island, Philippines, assisting families who have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan. The typhoon passed through the southern part of the island, leaving behind wide-spread devastation. Below, we will briefly describe the situation of Biliran Island and the activities of various NGOs and the UN.

Biliran Island, located in between Leyte and Samar Islands, has a population of 160,000. The natural beauty of the island is breath-taking, with a number of stunning beaches, mountains and forests. Due to the island’s volcanic activity, there are a number of hot springs which can be explored as well.

Biliran Island is connected to Leyte island by a bridge, and so there is a constant flow of people and products between the islands. In the southern part of the island, which bore the brunt of the damage, internet and phone lines are still down. Due to the lack of communication infrastructure, our representatives on the ground have to go to the city of Naval in order to report back to our Tokyo office.

The damage in the area is wide-spread and extremely severe. PBV’s representatives are focusing on the barangays (townships) of Caibiran and Cabucgayan. Currently, we are delivering kitchen sets (plates, cups, kitchen utensils, frying pans, etc.) to those who have been affected.

In the Philippines, the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season is an extremely important time of year to spend with loved ones. Local barangay workers and our partner NGOs (CWS-Asia/Pacific and PDRRN) are working tirelessly to ensure that these necessary goods are delivered whilst not disturbing the holiday festivities.

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, disaster relief support flooded in from many countries around the world, along with a host of NGOs and the United Nations. However, it is always the local people who should take the lead in relief and recovery of their country. External support should always adjust according to the national and cultural context, including local rules and systems. Peace Boat has already had experience providing relief after a typhoon in the Philippines and so we understand that it is not our role to take the spotlight: our role is to support local organizations and assist in any way possible.

After the typhoon, not only did the Filipino government and military mobilize, various UN organizations (including the WFP and Unicef) and NGOs (including the Red Cross) have helped the people of the Philippines. Given the broad range of actors involved, there is always a risk that there will be imbalance and inequality in the overall support structures for affected communities. In order to maximize the overall coordination of aid being delivered, the UN has set up various “cluster meetings” in strategic locations, centering around 12 themes (including education, shelter and healthcare).

The photo above is a situation report from the UNOCHA.

This photo was taken in Tacloban on December 2nd.  The affected areas are divided into smaller sections and the number of survivors and the amount of aid is recorded. There are still many barangays that have received no external support, according to this map.

The UN cluster meetings take place in the following locations: Tacloban and Ormoc (Leyte Island), Guian (Samar Island), Roxas (Panai Island), Davao City (Mindanao Island) and Cebu.

And what about Biliran Island? Biliran Island was formerly a part of Leyte Island and gained independence in 1992. However, this independence is not recognized by the international community and so the island does not feature in the UN cluster meetings.

Despite the efforts and resources of the UN and governmental actors, there are some parts of the affected areas that cannot be covered. Therefore, PBV made an effort to find these kinds of areas and provide relief at a more grass-roots level. Given our comparatively limited resources, it is much more effective for us to focus on smaller areas.

During the past few months, the communities of Biliran Island have faced many hardships.

PBV plans to continue our work on the island and further our support for affected communities.