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SPaN (2019) Case Study: The Philippines

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This Case Study on the Philippines summarizes the context and main features of the process of vertical expansion (ex post) of shock-responsive social protection systems to respond to vulnerable conditions of people facing recurrent natural disasters.

Vulnerability to recurring natural disasters is particularly high in the Philippines. 74% of the country’s population and 60% of its land area are susceptible to multiple climate-related and geophysical hazards. The situation is agravated by poverty, which overlaps between the geographical incidence of natural hazards and the regions with highest poverty incidence.

The country has one of the most advanced social protection systems in the region. The flagship social transfer programme is the ‘Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino’ Programme (Pantawid). It is aimed at poverty alleviation and improving the health, nutrition, and education of poor children. Beneficiaries receive monthly cash grants, disbursed every two months, conditional on regular school attendance and health checks for children and pregnant women, and attendance at monthly family development sessions.

Case Study Philippines (PDF)

In addition, the Government of the Philippines (GoP) has developed comprehensive systems for disaster risk management (DRM) and plays a leading role in disaster response, in coordination with humanitarian partners. The Department for Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) takes the lead in design and implementation of social protection policy and programmes but also, and unusually, in DRM. 

When Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 reached the country, some 16 million people were affected across nine provinces, including some of the poorest regions. Whilst in-kind relief dominated the early stage of the response, as markets stabilised, the GoP and numerous aid agencies transitioned at least a portion of their response to cash assistance. At least 45 international humanitarian agencies implemented cash-based interventions, attending over 1.4 million people.

The Pantawid had significant coverage of the population in the affected areas (with 805 000 registered beneficiary households in the affected regions and up to half the population enrolled on the programme in some of the poorest municipalities). WFP anticipated that these households, being some of the poorest, were likely to be some of the most food insecure following the disaster. WFP also saw the potential to leverage the programme’s existing administrative systems. 

This case study is divided into four parts:

Scene setting

What it looks like

How it was done

What happened next

Following the disaster, DSWD were open to consider new ideas, given the unprecedented scale of the catastrophe and was willing to expand this partnership to create a flexible dual pipeline of cash and food based on national systems. In November 2013, WFP piloted an Emergency Cash Transfer (ECT) project that specifically targeted Pantawid beneficiaries in 60 ‘worst affected’ municipalities. WFP also implemented parallel cash assistance through International NGOs (INGOs), to reach non-Pantawid beneficiary households affected by the disaster, and this required setting up new systems and processes for communication, targeting and payment.

The Pantawid programme proved to be a more cost-efficient way of reaching those disaster-affected households who were Pantawid beneficiaries than the establishment of a parallel humanitarian system, with reduced transaction costs compared to delivery through implementing partners. Timeliness was also improved - WFP reached 105 000 households within two months, compared to 85 000 through NGOs.

It was necessary to determine the feasibility of using the social protection system for humanitarian response. WFP’s long-term partnership with DSWD meant they were already familiar with the Pantawid programme, its objectives, modality and payment schedule, the targeting system and the payment channels used. A critical factor in the success of WFP’s ECT was that it could take advantage of an extensive preidentified caseload of beneficiaries, saving time that would normally be spent on targeting in the critical period when assistance was needed post-disaster.

Philippines photo

Blanket targeting all Pantawid beneficiaries registered in the 60 municipalities and avoided further assessment and verification of vulnerability. This ‘no regrets’ approach enabled a speedy response at the scale required but also created tensions in the community due to weak communication. WFP coordinated the parallel cash transfers through INGO partners with the ECT top-up, such that the former filled the gaps in the latter.

Outside of WFP’s programmes, there were no processes and procedures for coordination between the Pantawid programme and either DSWD’s disaster response activities, or the work of humanitarian agencies. This challenged efforts to coordinate the ECT with the wider humanitarian response.

The success of WFP’s ECT through the Pantawid programme highlights the potential advantages of leveraging robust and well-established national systems (strong human resources, clear administrative procedures, and functioning operating systems and institutions) in humanitarian settings.

Critical to the success of the project were the existing, strong systems on the Pantawid programme for communicating with beneficiaries. These were essential for informing beneficiaries of the plans for the emergency top-up payment, the reverification exercise, and changes to payment schedules.

The Philippines´case study was produced as part of the “Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus” (SPaN). Visit the Guidance Package´s community page for a full list of SPaN´s studies. 

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Social Protection - Knowledge Management Expert
last update
27 May 2019

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