Philippines: Global Lessons for Rebuilding Communities After Yolanda

December 20, 2013

Axel van Trotsenburg Philippine Daily Inquirer

Over the last few weeks, Tacloban and large parts of the Visayas have been capturing global headlines as a result of the terrible tragedy Typhoon Yolanda brought to this area of the Philippines. Thousands of people lost their lives and a massive amount of emergency support is being provided to help the affected communities. The government has acted swiftly to develop the Yolanda Recovery and Reconstruction Plan to identify urgent needs in these communities and to start rebuilding.

On my recent visit to the Philippines, I toured the devastation around Tacloban City.  I saw destruction on a scale that is hard to imagine, but at the same time I also saw encouraging signs that people are moving on and are trying to rebuild their lives.

The World Bank Group and the international community have gained enormous experience with similar disasters world-wide, and a few lessons have emerged which may be useful for the Philippines as we work to tackle the challenges of recovery and reconstruction.

First, there is a need for long-term commitment. These communities have been devastated and the cameras and the global attention are still here but soon they will fade. We really have to commit ourselves to stand by the people for as long as it takes to rebuild their lives, homes, and communities.  

Second, a comprehensive recovery and reconstruction plan is of key importance in order to provide effective support. The government has been working hard to develop such a plan incorporating global best practice. We are very much supportive of this plan and are working closely with the government and other development partners.

Third, there is a need for an inclusive approach. Reconstruction is best done with very close involvement of local communities, civil society groups, and the private sector. The government will clearly take the lead in steering the reconstruction effort, but for investment and the creation of much needed jobs and livelihoods, we will need the active involvement of the Philippine private sector as well as communities.

The fourth lesson is the need for effective coordination and monitoring.  It will be important to have an internal monitoring effort not only at the central government level, but also at the local level, in order to prioritize and direct investments. In this context, investment capabilities will need to be built up to manage the hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance. This will require not only coordination but also monitoring of the public and the private sectors so people can easily track the progress being made. In addition, such a monitoring system would enhance transparency and accountability. This will reassure the affected communities that they will be the ultimate beneficiaries.



" We have valuable experience with the Philippines in community driven development, which holds promise that communities can guide or determine the main features of the recovery effort rather than be told by outsiders who are not familiar with the realities on the ground.  "

Axel van Trotsenburg

World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific

Justine E. Letargo/World Bank

Fifth, new investments will be needed to help strengthen disaster readiness. Given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events in the Philippines, new investments should provide more resilience and resistance against future mega disasters. As with all countries - more can be done.

There are many good examples from disasters worldwide that show how investments in mitigation can save lives. In Bangladesh, 225 thousand people were killed in 1970 by Cyclone Bhola. In its aftermath, Bangladesh improved its early warning systems and built new cyclone shelters. In 2008, when Cyclone Sidr struck with similar intensity, the impact was still devastating, but the death toll was34 hundred people.
What is the World Bank Group doing to provide support to the Filipino people? 
We are providing technical assistance for the damage and needs assessment that is being undertaken. Our experts include people who have worked on the tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh in 2004.  Under the leadership of the government, this effort is being coordinated closely with the international community including the United Nations, European Union, and the Asian Development Bank.

The Bank can be an active supporter of an inclusive approach. We have valuable experience with the Philippines in community driven development, which holds promise that communities can guide or determine the main features of the recovery effort rather than be told by outsiders who are not familiar with the realities on the ground.

The Bank can provide financial support consistent with the government’s reconstruction plan. The first part of our commitment to the government effort is the $500 million budget support that was approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors on December 6th.  This is part of a larger commitment of the World Bank for the overall reconstruction plan.

Finally, the Bank has been, is, and will continue to be a long-term partner of the Philippines and we will work hand-in-hand with the government, private sector, and communities to help rebuild the future of the affected Filipinos. 


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