Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Debt Repayments Burden Philippine Relief Efforts

February 14, 2014

  Scott Wright, CCAO Director

After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines last November, the world responded with astounding generosity, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to aid in the recovery effort – $51 million from the United States government alone.

The Philippines urgently needs resources to pay for relief and reconstruction in the face of the massive destruction, displacement, and loss of lives from Typhoon Haiyan – the strongest typhoon to have made landfall in recorded history. The countries of the Global North owe a far greater climate debt to the Philippines because of their accumulated excessive greenhouse gas emissions which are causing climate change.

For many decades, the Columban Fathers have worked as missionary priests in the Philippines.

We know first-hand that poor countries like the Philippines are those most affected by global climate change, and they also carry the heaviest debt-burdens.

Columban Father Shay Cullen visited survivors in the city of Tacloban, only days after the typhoon hit: “We met people, listened to the survivors with compassion and were awed as they recounted their terrible ordeal. I have been through ferocious typhoons during my 44 years in the Philippines but have never seen or experienced anything like this for the sheer savagery of this destructive force of nature. The gigantic force of the wind churned and turned everything it could to flying debris, smashing and tearing at everything.”

Unfortunately, since the typhoon struck on November 8, the Philippines has paid more than $700 million in debt repayments, and will spend a total of $6.7 billion this year alone. Some of those debts originate from the corrupt and abusive regime of Ferdinand Marcos, who was responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 Filipinos and the torture of 35,000.

Rather than cancel this illegitimate debt, lenders are still collecting repayments on these loans, taking away resources that could be used to rebuild after the typhoon and further protect the Philippines from the repercussions of climate change.

As a member of Jubilee USA, the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach joins other organizations around the world in opposing loans from international financial institutions for relief and reconstruction. This will only exacerbate the debt burden of the Philippines. Instead, lenders should offer grants to the Philippines without policy conditions to help the people of the Philippine islands recover and rebuild from this devastating disaster.