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Climate change and disaster resiliency of microfinance: ASA Philippines experience

One of the critical risk factors for ASA Philippines is climate change and disasters. The organization recognized this and has put up adequate safeguards and mechanisms to prepare, react and recover in times of emergency both at the institutional sustainability level and in assisting its vulnerable clients.

The project area is subject to hazards such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, tropical cyclone winds, storm surges, tsunami or volcanic eruptions and climate changes. However, there are adequate safeguards on disaster risk management in place – particularly offering relief operations to clients affected by typhoons, floods, earthquakes. ASA also offers a rehabilitation loan to its clients. 

ASA’s operational guidebook provides detailed information on how to prepare, react and recover from disasters. Disaster management is one of the key pillars of its corporate social responsibility. 

There are specific directives given at the branch level in preparation for the typhoon season in the operational guidebook. Circulars are immediately made for non-cyclical disasters such as earthquake and fire. 

ASA Philippines uses its “BWYC – Be With Your Client” mantra during a disaster. Immediate client visits are conducted to assess the extent of the damage of the disaster as well as to identify the needs of the clients, particularly for relief operations and for the recommendation for a moratorium of loan payments. 

Within one day, the branch should be able to communicate to the head office their recommendations so that the following day, the head office would already have its decision and the branch could immediately provide needed assistance on the ground. This swift assessment and response turnaround time is leaps and bounds faster than government response in times of disasters.

The organization also already have standardized relief operations packs and contents that it could deploy so that the branch is guided properly on what to provide to clients. There are also specific procedures in cases where a branch is severely damaged by calamities.

SEDPI conducted visits to areas where disasters were experienced in the past three years to determine whether the policies in the operational guidebook are effective. The SEDPI team visited three groups in Guiuan branch to ask them about the relief efforts of ASA Philippines during Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and Typhoon Ruby in 2014. 

The informal interviews with the members were conducted during loan collection. The three groups that were visited are: 1) Carnation Group in Brgy. Cagdarao, 2) Catleya in Brgy. Sto. Niño, and 3) Magnolia in Brgy. Lupok. 

Typhoon Yolanda

All groups received relief packages from ASA Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda which consisted of 5 kg of rice, 1 kg of sugar, 1 pack of sugar, 1 pack of Bear Brand, 3 packs of noodles, 3 varieties of canned goods (i.e. corned beef, sardines, tuna, meat loaf). 

Members in the Magnolia group also mentioned that they received biscuits in their relief package, which was not mentioned in the two former groups. Carnation and Magnolia received their relief package 1-2 weeks after the disaster while members in Carnation claim they received their relief package after a month.

All groups attested that the MFI also gave out solar lamps between December 2013 and January 2014. However, not all members received because of limited supply. There were those who were told that they’ll be given when the succeeding batches of delivery come but never received one. Death benefit amounting to Ph 10,000 was also given to the members where members died.

Loan collections in the three groups all resumed in the first week of January 2014. No one from the groups admitted they had difficulty in repayment. In fact, they said that finding the money was not difficult during those times as aid was everywhere. 

Many NGOs mobilized the Yolanda victims for cash for work. The members cleaned the streets, planted vegetables, and helped build houses, among others. The average daily rate was Php240 – 260/day or Php 3,900 for two weeks. 

Their spouses also did not find it difficult to resume their livelihood. One member even said that their household earned a lot during those times because his spouse was a carpenter. There were also a lot of cash donations and relief packages from NGOs which made it easy for them to allocate their income for loan payment. 

Around April 2014, ASA Philippines also offered 5,000 emergency loan to members. Of this 5,000 pesos, only half (2,500 pesos) was given interest; the other half was given as a donation. The members were given 6-9 months to pay for the 5,750 pesos. 

The emergency loan is to be paid on top of the existing loan or the new loan the members got. So, the members who availed of this 5,000 emergency loan were paying two loans at the same time in 2014. 

Typhoon Ruby

Only the Carnation group received a relief package during Typhoon Ruby. They received 3 kilos of rice, 1 45-gram pack of coffee, pack of sugar, 3 packs of noodles, 3 pieces of sardines one week after Typhoon Ruby. They did not receive anything else after that. Loan collection resumed immediately after the typhoon. 

SEDPI also had an informal interview with the Area Administrator of Guiuan branch to ask her the procedures when a natural calamity happens in an area. She said that as much as possible, the microfinance officer (MFO) goes to the group meetings to visit and check up on the clients. 

Group meetings would only be suspended if the clients were in an evacuation center or when the MFO judges that the weather is not favorable to any group meetings. Once the weather in the area gets better, the MFOs are immediately mobilized to check up on the area and their clients. 

The MFO will make an assessment on which groups were affected by the disaster. It is up to the MFO if s/he judges the area as qualified for a relief package. The branch manager then informs the Area Administrator (AA) who in turn informs the Regional Administrator (RA). 

The RA gives the go signal for the branch manager to purchase the relief package which usually consists of rice, noodles, canned goods, coffee, sugar, and powdered milk. The people in the branch are likewise responsible in repacking and in distribution. 

The AA mentioned that if the majority of the group was affected, even those that were not but are part of the group will be given a relief package to avoid jealousy and issues within ASA. ASA Philippines does not usually give donations or emergency loans. These are additional discretionary measures given to extreme disasters that are relayed and decided only in the head office. 


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