'Hagupit' a cruel blow for already poverty-stricken central Philippines

Reuters

Posted at Dec 09 2014 07:18 PM | Updated as of Dec 10 2014 03:18 AM

P1.3-B crops, farm infrastructure damaged in E. Samar

MANILA - The typhoon's name was Hagupit, which means "whiplash" in Filipino, and for the poverty-stricken rice farmers, fishermen, village workers and children of the eastern central Philippines, it was an especially painful blow.

Many villagers had yet to finish rebuilding their homes and lives after a super typhoon struck last year when Hagupit ("Ruby") made landfall at the weekend, pushing a region where one in three are categorized as poor further into destitution.

Nearly 13,000 houses were destroyed and more than 22,300 damaged on the eastern island of Samar after the storm hit on Saturday before making its slow journey across the country. The Red Cross said it had received reports of 35 deaths, but has confirmed only 22.

Around P1.3 billion ($29.2 million) worth of crops and farm infrastructure were damaged in Eastern Samar, the government said, indicating the figures could rise.

"This house was destroyed during Yolanda," resident Pedro Mainiti told local TV, using the Philippine name for Typhoon Haiyan which struck last November, leaving more than 7,000 dead or missing. He was surrounded by a pile of wood, all that remained of his house.

"I haven't recovered yet and here goes another storm."

Hagupit also washed away rice fields and reduced fishing boats in coastal villages to splinters.

The Philippine economy is on course to miss its growth goal of 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year after slower-than-expected growth in the third quarter, and the typhoon impact could set it back further.

"Some weren't back yet to where they were before Haiyan and so the impact of Hagupit is going to be very, very difficult for them," said Alison Kent, humanitarian policy adviser at Oxfam.

"We're expecting to see increasing rates of poverty in the area as families struggle to make ends meet...especially with damage to agriculture crops and impact on livelihoods."

Aid workers say the Eastern Visayas, the country's second-poorest region and the usual entry point of about a quarter of the 20 or so typhoons that hit the country each year, will need to add jobs to narrow the gap between their average annual income of P160,000 ($3,600) and the national average of P206,000 as of 2009.

"They could be a farmer, but also a dressmaker, or also a welder. We're looking at the different long-term options for them," Jennifer MacCann, World Vision operations director, said.

But MacCann said Eastern Samar's recovery should be faster than in Haiyan-hit areas last year, partly because the storm was weaker. The government has so far only built 550 of the 205,000 promised permanent houses for Haiyan survivors, according to the rehabilitation agency.

"We've been through it, we know what's needed, so we should be able to do it more quickly this time," MacCann said.