Experiences of implementing and simulating early actions in the Philippines

Simulations are an important activity for improving Early Action Protocols (EAPs) in the Philippines. They help to test assumptions and generate insights into practical and logistical constraints ahead of these early actions being activated ahead of a natural hazard. 

On this page, you can access a series of videos sharing the experiences of the Philippines Red Cross (PCR) and partners in implementing or simulating the following early actions: shelter strengthening kits, fish harvesting, relocating micro-enterprises, livestock evacuation, rice harvesting and abaca harvesting.

For each early action, further information highlights the rationale behind the selection of this action, the implementing partners, and the lessons learned. For more information on the array of early actions being implemented by different organisations, for different hazards and in different countries, visit our early action database.

Watch series of videos here

Shelter-strengthening kits simulation

Samar Island is located in the eastern part of the Philippines, and is therefore often the ‘gateway’ for typhoons. In recent years Western Samar, which occupies the southwestern part of the island, has been devastated by Typhoon Frank/Fengshen in 2008, Super Typhoon Yolanda /Haiyan (2013), Typhoon Glenda/Rammasun (2014), Tropical Storm Ruby/Hagupit (2014) and Typhoon Nona/Melor in 2015.  and is the largest of its three provinces. 

The Philippines is highly vulnerable in terms of shelter, as almost 60% of houses are only made of light materials. In October 2018, a simulation exercise tested the capacity of the Philippines Red Cross (PRC) to activate an EAP for Typhoons. This included assessing the feasibility of implementing early actions, including the provision of prepositioned shelter-strengthening kits, within the three days lead time. It also examined the strength of the networks between government offices from different national line agencies, local government units, and other humanitarian actors in the Philippines.

This simulation exercise generated several lessons, such as: (1) the need to validate prioritised beneficiaries before the activation; (2) the need to introduce the Participatory Approach for Safe Shelter Awareness to target areas; (3) the pertinence of creating a checklist to identify weak shelters in a more standardised manner; and (4) the importance of setting up market assessments in order to sign prior memorandums of agreement with financial service providers, assets suppliers and transport agencies.

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Fish harvest simulation

Camarines Sur province in Luzon is partly crossed by the Bicol river basin. In December 2018, massive flooding occurred in the river basin due to Tropical Depression Usman, with several municipalities also affected by landslides. And in November 2021, Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses severely hit the province, causing major flooding in the river basin.

On 18-20 May 2021, the Forecast-based Financing project of the PRC, with the technical support from the German Red Cross (GRC), implemented a joint simulation exercise in Libmanan municipality, Camarines Sur. This exercise, financed by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO), piloted the coordination of flood anticipatory actions between several agencies in the same geographic area. The Food and Agriculture Office (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the START Network all attended.

The simulation exercise tested the feasibility of two anticipatory actions simultaneously: fish early harvesting and cash distribution. The anticipatory harvesting of fish can help to mitigate income losses for fishermen in the aquaculture sector in the case of floods caused by a typhoon.      

This joint simulation exercise provided several lessons that will benefit the growing community of practice around anticipatory action, in particular when it comes to screening target areas and possible beneficiaries. OCHA is currently developing a framework for typhoon anticipatory actions for the Philippines, targeting the Bicol region and Eastern Visayas region; the PRC, the GRC and the IFRC must ensure that appropriate coordination mechanisms for anticipatory action are established at field level, to maximise the impact of such collaborative and scaled interventions.

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Relocation of micro-enterprises

As part of the FbF project, an early action simulation in July 2021 tested the relocation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in urban areas prone to flooding. The decision to run the simulation instead of a detailed feasibility study emerged as a result of coordination between PRC, government actors and other stakeholders. This exercise took place inButuan City, Philippines.

“Usually small or micro businesses in the area are into retail trading, trading … essential food items that they need for survival. And during times of flooding, it just goes down the drain and they do not have the chance to recoup or recover the damaged items … So, when I was introduced into this project, I thought, wow, this is something new.”

Local government representative

PRC emphasises the importance of taking time to build relationships and involve government and community partners in its approach. This simulation demonstrated how involving local partners in the preparatory phase increases opportunities to achieve high levels of coordination, impact and efficiency in pilot projects and early actions. 

Stakeholders also coordinated and aligned interests around the selection criteria for prioritising SMEs, which were agreed and validated by PRC and local government actors ahead of the simulation.

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Livestock evacuation

Moving livestock from an at-risk area is a flexible early action that can be used in regions exposed to severe winds, flooding and volcanic eruptions, as well as gradual and more complex crises.  If livestock owners can systematically evacuate their animals to safer areas, this protects an essential part of their livelihoods. 

In the Philippines, the evacuation of livestock was successfully tested in September 2019 in Davao Oriental province. This was the result of strong coordination between the local PRC chapter and provincial partners including the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, the Office of the Provincial Veterinary, the Provincial Engineering Office, the Bureau of Fire and the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAGRO).

One of the main lessons from this simulation was the need to develop guidelines for the successful implementation of early actions. These guidelines (available here) now outline that all livestock or farm animals should be evacuated ahead of an emergency, and must be registered and accounted for accordingly.

An important outcome was that the Local Government Unit (LGU) in San Isidro, Davao Oriental, plans to allocate part of its budget for food and vitamins towards animal evacuations, as part of the EAP for Floods. In addition, they drafted and signed a memorandum of agreement with veterinary services and other providers to help care for the evacuated animals once the EAP is activated.

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Rice harvesting

Rice and corn are the most commonly harvested crops in the Philippines. To practice, strengthen and review the appropriateness of the EAP for Typhoons in the Philippines, a simulation in Southern Leyte, September 2020, focused on the early harvesting of rice. Specifically, it looked at implementing this early action from the day the PRC chapter receives the trigger, until the moment right before the impact of the hazard occurs. Through this activity, chapters become familiar with the action they need to implement once the EAP is activated.

One of the lessons learnt was that negative weather conditions affect the availability of workers and the capacity to transport and use a thresher machine for harvesting the rice when fields are flooded.

The simulation also demonstrated the need for strong partnerships and coordination between stakeholders. For example, when the Silago LGU offered one of their trucks to transport harvested rice to the post-harvest facility, they also offered food and accommodation to volunteers during the preparatory activities. Furthermore, the participation of the Provincial Core Group in the full simulation cycle enhanced the positive engagement of other actors, and  increased the levels of alignment and ownership during the activities.

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Abaca harvesting

Abacaleros - workers on abaca farms - undertake tasks that include cutting and tuxying (stripping the outer sheath) the crop, then processing the fibre of mature trees and drying it. But if a typhoon hits the farm, the mature trees will be broken or uprooted. Once a tree is broken, the fibre loses its quality, and the sale price can reduce by up to 40%. Moreover, if the tree is uprooted, it takes 1-3 years to regrow, during which time the farm owner will not employ many daily workers.

This has consequences for the livelihoods of workers and farmers all along the abaca-processing chain. For example, the impact of typhoon Nina in December 2016 was very high for farmers in Catanduanes, and especially the municipalities of Bato and Barras. Around 80% of abaca plantations were affected, and it took nearly three years for their livelihoods to recover completely. And for many, there are few alternative livelihood options on the island.

A simulation exercise in Catanduanes in August 2020 showed how the early harvest of abaca trees can help those employed in plantations, as well as those who depend on the collection and trading of abaca.

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