Typhoon Koppu: aid reaches Filipino communities

Devastation at Nueja Ecija in the Philippines, following Typhoon Koppu. (Raphael Bonaso)
Devastation at Nueja Ecija in the Philippines, following Typhoon Koppu. (Raphael Bonaso)

The Jesuit relief and development agency in the Philippines, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) has mounted a relief operation in the region affected by Typhoon Koppu – known locally as Typhoon Lando. Its staff and volunteers are targeting three municipalities in Aurora - Casiguran, Dilasag and Dinalungan – with food and other supplies for communities disrupted over recent days by flooding and power failure. They have succeeded in reaching almost 70% of the 60,000 families affected, despite dozens of roads and bridges being impassable due to landslides or flooding.

Almost 24,000 people were evacuated before Typhoon Koppu swept across The Philippines over the weekend and SLB’s experience with Typhoon Haiyan two years ago enabled the agency both to anticipate its effects and to launch a prompt relief operation. “We have already ordered several hundred relief packs,” says Bernie Aton from SLB. “But this is just the initial response, as we will do Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment once the road from Baler to the municipalities becomes accessible. SLB is anticipating that there will be more need for assistance for recovery and rehabilitation especially for (people’s) livelihoods and housing.”

The challenges of reaching remote communitiesImpassable: floods and landslides at Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija  ((Raphael Bonaso)

SLB is coordinating its response closely with local agencies including the military, as well as through Catholic dioceses and the network of religious organisations. The Catholic radio service in The Philippines, Radio Veritas, is also providing ground reports – a vital service since, although security and the political situation in the country are stable, communication is becoming increasingly difficult in some of the affected regions. “Transportation is also now becoming more challenging,” explains Bernie Aton, “as confirmed reports of landslides, mudslides and flash-floods continue to plague the affected provinces.”

Since Typhoon Haiyan, a great deal has been achieved and many lessons have been learned. Immediately following the events of 2013, Jesuit Missions in Britain launched an appeal and more than £300,000 was donated. “Working with other members of the Xavier Network of Jesuit agencies involved in relief and development throughout the world, Jesuit Missions helped to rebuild homes, replace motorboats to support the vital fishing industry and support livelihoods to ensure communities are more resilient,” says Richard Greenwood, Deputy Director of Jesuit Missions. Richard recently returned from The Philippines and while he was there, he was able to see at first hand the Filipino people’s strength to rise from distress, to rebuild their lives and to continue to move forward as communities. If you would like to support Jesuit Missions’ continued work in The Philippines and around the world, please visit the Jesuit Missions website.