Ondoy Pushes Tens of Thousands of Families Into Severe Difficulty, Long-Term Poverty

MANILA — Tropical storm Ondoy could cause lasting poverty and severe difficulties for at least 206,000 families in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions, research group Ibon Foundation said Friday.

Even as the government downplays the long-term impact on the economy as a whole, there are going to be severe effects especially on the poorest urban and rural households.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) estimates 629,466 affected families with 3,084,997 individuals as of early morning October 2, 2009. Over 98% of these families and individuals are from NCR, Central Luzon and Calabarzon. There is still no detailed data available of the profile of the victims whether from the government, private sector or civil society groups. However, initial estimates can be made by using region-wide occupation and income profiles from the latest Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) of 2006 and applying these to the NDCC’s estimates of affected families.

In the three most affected regions, around 134,839 families relying mainly on entrepreneurial income (i.e. vendors, sari-sari store owners, jeepney and tricycle drivers, etc.) be driven into poverty upon the catastrophic loss of their means of livelihood. They are mainly in Calabarzon (79,633) followed by Central Luzon (36,731) and NCR (18,475). Materials, appliances, stocks, inventories and other goods could have suffered water damage if not outright swept away. These families may be suffering P47.3 million in foregone income every day, aside from having to face the problem of how to recover perhaps P2.7 billion in capital lost (assuming an average loss of P20,000 worth of capital per family).

Add to that some 70,618 affected families earning wages and salaries less than P100,000 annually in Calabarzon (43,132), Central Luzon (22,366), and NCR (5,120). These are families who were trying to survive on some P8,300 per month before the storm struck and, even assuming that their incomes are maintained, now face the heavy burden of reconstructing their lives and homes. They will face greatly increased expenses for housing, housing repair, medical care, education, and personal effects. Among the critical spending they may be forced to cut back on to accommodate these is on food with corresponding adverse nutritional and health implications.

These are likely conservative estimates in being based on region-wide FIES data. The number of families losing entrepreneurial income is probably much higher. Among the most affected areas are urban poor communities which have high concentrations of informal sector work and, hence, of families in insecure and particularly vulnerable livelihoods. Likewise with the number of adversely affected low-wage and low-salary families which is probably much higher. “Wages and salaries” from employment in the FIES is not necessarily stable and includes compensation even in kind, even from occasional or seasonal work, and whether in agriculture or non-agriculture industries.

According to Ibon, government must be held accountable for all these lost incomes and livelihoods. The disaster was triggered by the unexpectedly heavy rainfall but magnified many times over by state neglect of urban planning and infrastructure—of which the poor bear the worst human and social costs.

The rains would not have been as devastating for so many if it had acted responsibly, implemented genuine urban planning, and built proper flood infrastructure. The paltry response after the disaster only worsened an already severe situation. (Ibon Foundation)

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