After Philippines typhoon, clean-up brings recovery

Using salvaged lumber and other recycled debris from Typhoon Bopha, a villager in the Philippines' Compostela Valley participates in a UNDP programme to rebuild communities while bringing much-needed income. (Photo: RV Mitra/UNDP Philippines)

“I’m not a carpenter but I hope that these wood scraps that I gather can be used to rebuild the damaged school where my child used to go,”  remarks Julius Enriquez as he tirelessly sifts through what seems to be a mountain of rubble gathered on the grounds of Cateel Central Elementary School. Eager to start anew, he and his fellow villagers are working in shifts to pick usable wood and other materials, racing against time to rebuild the school destroyed by the deadly floodwaters of Typhoon Bopha in the wee hours of 4 December 2012. The typhoon was the deadliest weather disturbance in the world in 2012, and the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in over fifty years.

Enriquez is one of around 2,000 residents in flood-ravaged villages who have enlisted in clean-up activities supported by UNDP under a cash-for-work scheme, in different locations across the southern provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. Timber and other debris collected by Enriquez are being used to repair desks, chairs and other facilities in his child’s school. In Cateel municipality alone, 24 other schools have been cleared of debris and restored to use through UNDP’s support.


  • 1,932 families are employed in the clean-up following Typhoon Bopha, with more to be employed in coming months.
  • The programme has a budget of US $1.8 million.
  • In the storm, 1,146 were reported dead and 834 missing, and nearly 200,000 homes were totally or partially damaged.

“UNDP’s assistance in debris clearing was vital as classes were able to resume and normalcy in the educational calendar has returned. Add to that the fact that the activities fostered closer interaction among families who are striving together to heal and recover from their loss,” recounts Isidro Castro, vice-mayor of the municipality. 

In north and southeastern provinces of Mindanao region, Typhoon Bopha affected a total of 6.2 million people and left in its trail 1,146 deaths and 834 missing persons.

Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Philippines, visited the devastated areas in December last year shortly following the typhoon. “The UN has responded to government’s request to rapidly deploy an early recovery programme. We have moved quickly in places where mud, rock, fallen trees and boulders blocked roads especially in remote communities,” she says.

Emma Garcia, a resident of Compostela municipality and focal person of UNDP clean-up activities there, recalls, “equal opportunities were given to men and women in the clean-up.” Her fellow villagers who joined the clean-up campaign which the local organizers called “Lusong sa Eskwelahan,” (roughly translated as “surge forward and tidy up the schools!”) were supplied with protective gear and clearing tools.

In Boston municipality, UNDP has also collaborated with local leaders to mobilize the villagers for post-typhoon clean-up. “This initiative not only removed the hazardous debris in our surroundings but it also gave a source of livelihood to my constituents,” relates the vice-mayor of Boston who himself supervised his town’s debris clearing activities.

The worst to hit typhoon-prone Philippines in 2012, Typhoon Bopha displaced over 850,000 people, damaged 199,257 dwellings and destroyed approximately US$ 250 million worth of crops.

“The loss of high-value crops such as banana has left many families without an income source for a time,” says Carvalho. “Our emergency employment assistance focuses on providing the homeless farmers and unregulated workers who lost their livelihoods to the flood with a social safety net.”

To date, UNDP has been able to provide an emergency source of income to 1,932 families who joined the clean-up campaign directly managed by local government units. More families will be involved in the coming months.

As UNDP-supported debris clearing efforts continue, families like that of Enriquez also continue to recover and build back better.

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