In 2012, the Philippines continued to experience severe weather patterns, violent clan feuds and sporadic armed conflict between the Government and non-state armed groups in Mindanao, necessitating sustained humanitarian coordination support. Clan feuds and armed conflict displaced at least 150,000 people during the year. Tropical Storm Washi relief operations in northern Mindanao transitioned towards early recovery by mid-year as most people who remained in evacuation centres were relocated to transitory and permanent housing. By the end of December, 7,800 people remained in evacuation centres out of the 386,000 people who were initially displaced by Washi.
Almost one year since Washi devastated northern Mindanao, Typhoon Bopha (locally known as Pablo) made landfall as a category 5 super typhoon in eastern Mindanao on 4 December. Bopha affected more than 6.2 million people and left at least 1,146 people dead and over 840 still missing. More than 230,000 houses, vital infrastructure, and vast agricultural lands were severely damaged, and about 930,000 people remained displaced by year’s end. Bopha was the deadliest tropical cyclone in the world in 2012 and the most powerful to hit the coastal areas of eastern Mindanao in more than 100 years.
The Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiations made significant progress with the signing of the Framework Agreement on 15 October 2012. The Framework Agreement calls for the creation of a new political entity called the Bangsamoro by 2016 to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). While the peace process continues to progress positively, the December deadline to formulate substantive provisions of the Framework on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements was not met.
Working in support of the Humanitarian Coordinator, OCHA continued to actively broaden and engage its partnership in 2012 with the Government, NGOs, and the donor community in improving emergency preparedness and response. When Typhoon Bopha struck, OCHA and the pre-deployed United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team provided immediate support to the joint Government-HCT initial rapid needs assessment in the worst-hit areas in eastern Mindanao. OCHA opened offices in the affected areas and rapidly increased the number of staff to meet the operational coordination needs, focusing on the quick roll out of the cluster approach in the disaster affected areas with national Government counterparts. In leading the humanitarian common programming, OCHA ensured that the Bopha Addendum to the 2013 Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) was launched within a week of the disaster, and that the CERF allocated US$10 million to provide immediate life-saving assistance.
Preparedness measures undertaken by the Philippine Government and supported by the HCT prior to the typhoon making landfall are recognized as having saved lives. Throughout 2012, OCHA supported the Government and the HCT to effectively prepare for an emergency. In Mindanao, where humanitarian needs have been the greatest, multi-hazard inter-agency contingency plans were revised or developed for the region as a whole and for the troubled provinces in western Mindanao. OCHA was also given a seat in the ARMM Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on behalf of the Mindanao Humanitarian Team (MHT), further strengthening the regional humanitarian coordination mechanism in place. These efforts formed a part of the Joint Action Plan on Response Preparedness developed for the first time by the Government and OCHA to ensure coherence in preparedness actions, and will enable close alignment of international and national preparedness and capacity building initiatives.
This work, as well as other initiatives spearheaded by OCHA in 2012, indicated the increasing readiness of national and local authorities to invest in preparedness. This momentum helped OCHA to intensify its collaboration with the Government and cluster partners in response. OCHA stepped up efforts to coordinate joint needs assessments, including for the 2013 HAP, the Typhoon Bopha response, and a number of other assessments focusing on residual needs stemming from previous natural disasters and conflict-induced displacements.
OCHA’s information management (IM) support was consistently valued by Government and humanitarian partners. In the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Bopha, an IM and mapping cell was established in the Government’s response centre to expedite data processing and to meet the Government’s mapping needs. This support enabled rapid consolidation of information in eastern Mindanao and facilitated strategic planning for the Government and humanitarian partners. OCHA’s information products such as 3Ws, situation reports, monthly bulletins, and maps were regularly shared with partners throughout the year and supported coordination and advocacy.
Compared to the beginning of 2012, the OCHA country office was halved in size and had closed two sub-offices in northern Mindanao towards the end of 2012, at which point the Typhoon Bopha response prompted a doubling of the office staff and the establishment of four new sub-offices in eastern Mindanao. This contraction and expansion enabled the country office to remain flexible and responsive to the evolving humanitarian needs and coordination demands.
The first months of 2013 saw the continuation of the relief operations for Typhoon Bopha and progress in the peace process. OCHA will continue to lead efforts to respond to the needs and promote faster recovery while ensuring that international support for national and local humanitarian action will help sustain the peace.