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Philippines: update on indigenous peoples affected by typhoon Yolanda

May 1 2014
Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013. That day the elderly woman Biong of the indigenous Tagbanua community on Coron Island saw the ocean rise into 7 meter high waves that smashed the Tagbanua community’s boats to pieces. Their small fishing boats used to provide food were completely destroyed and the community’s three large boats for tour operations were severely damaged.

The three large boats were the Tagbanua community’s most important source of income as they were used to take tourist on tours around the Coron Island, which is a unique tourist destination.

Coron Island in the Philippines is the Ancestral Domain of the Tagbanua. The community earns money from entrance fees from tourists and from tours around the island; the money earned is distributed evenly throughout the community. The three large boats were used for tour operations around the island, and were the key income for the whole community.

Rebuilding livelihoods
After Typhoon Yolanda hit, the indigenous community of Coron Island reached out through the indigenous organisation Tagbanua Tribe of Coron Island Association (TTCIA) to the international community for help to rebuild their houses and most importantly their boats. As the boats were their only source of income the community had no money to rebuild their lives after the typhoon hit. News about the situation of the Tagbanua reached IWGIA through Koalisyon ng Katutubo at Samahan ng Philipinas (KASAPI) who is a partner of IWGIA.

IWGIA started a collection to raise funds and awareness about the situation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. The campaign featured in the national Danish newspaper Politiken and through IWGIA’s web, newsletter and social media. Apart from funds it raised awareness of the fact that many indigenous peoples in the Philippines did not receive emergency relief since they live in small isolated islands that are under the radar when large scale emergency relief is organised.

Following the collection IWGIA sent 7000 dollars to KASAPI who along with TTCIA had started a relief operation to help the Tagbanua community get back on their feet after the typhoon.

The funds that the organisations received from IWGIA went into rebuilding “Tagbanua II” one of the community’s large boats. An engine and a generator were transported to the Coron Islands along with materials such as plywood, lumber, steering wheel, nails and hammers for repair of the hull, shuftig, rudder and propellers.

KASAPI and TTCIA continue to work for relief on Coron Island since there is still a long way to go before the community is rebuild, but according to the updates IWGIA has received the Tagbanua source of living and means of livelihood may be destroyed, but as a people, they are still standing.