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Philippines aid worker to visit Wellington

Philippines aid and development worker to visit Wellington

When Typhoon Fengshen slammed into the Philippines in June, a longstanding local organisation whose director is visiting New Zealand next month, was at the forefront of recovery.

Developers Foundation, a community development organisation working in poor and isolated rural communities on Panay Island in western Visayas region, went from development work with 33,000 people a year to overnight helping a similar number with emergency assistance in the wake of the typhoon.

Co-director, Tet Golamco Naraval, is in Wellington from December 3 – 7 to lead a workshop at the biennial International Development Studies Network (Devnet) conference. Tet brings fresh, first-hand perspectives on the impact of natural disasters on poor countries and the resilience required for recovery after the television cameras have stopped rolling and disaster relief funds have slowed.

Panay Island was one of the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Fengshen whose 140km/hr winds slammed without warning into the Philippines overnight June 21, killing an estimated 1300 people including 700 passengers of MV Princess of the Stars ferry. Flash floods and landslides compounded the disaster. Overnight, Developers Foundation headquarters become a disaster management centre, operating from the first storey of the mud-soaked building. For two months, staff worked with local and international organisations on relief and rehabilitation work, first making reconnaissance trips to cut-off outlying areas, distributing emergency relief and later rebuilding homes.

New Zealand international aid organisation Christian World Service (CWS) sent funds to Developers Foundation within of days of the typhoon. CWS has a long-standing relationship with Developers Foundation and is sponsoring Tet’s visit. CWS is the development, justice and aid agency of New Zealand churches

Developers Foundation works with rural communities on projects like access road and school building, hooking up remote areas to electricity, funding drinking water projects, trade and income generation training, and environmental management including large-scale mangrove planting and coastal clean-ups.

Typhoons like Fengshen and other natural disasters are not uncommon in the Philippines. Politically, its citizens have lost two recent presidents around allegations of massive corruption. On the southern island of Mindanao, rebels are fighting for a separate Islamic state within the mainly Catholic country which has cost 120,000 lives. The Philippines has large national debt and tens of millions of people live in poverty. More than 10% of Philippinos work overseas and remittances are a significant source of support. The Philippines has the highest birth rate in Asia. Forecasters say the population could double within three decades.

Between 20,000 and 25,000 Philippinos live in New Zealand. In 2006, Philippine visitors to New Zealand increased by 16 percent, the largest percentage increase from South East Asia. When President Arroyo visited in May 2007, a number of substantive outcomes were achieved, including two new bilateral arrangements.

Tet Naraval will be in New Zealand from November 29 and in Wellington from December 3 - 8.

ENDS

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