Helping typhoon victims help themselves

In the Philippines, Holcim is making a significant contribution to the typhoon Haiyan relief efforts. The focus is on giving local residents the tools and knowledge they need to rebuild on their own. Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines on November 8 2013, was the worst such storm to ever hit land. It left an incredible trail of devastation in its wake, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving millions of Filipinos homeless. In the aftermath, both Holcim and its employees reacted generously to appeals for assistance, donating over 300,000 Swiss francs. Holcim Philippines is using these funds, as well as its know-how and other resources, on a project to help the local community rebuild.


Building on previous success

One big advantage Holcim has is that it has already done something similar in the Philippines. At the end of 2012, when typhoon Pablo buried communities in the Campostela Valley under rocks and boulders, the company joined local government and aid agencies in a rebuilding effort.

In Campostela, Holcim offered to build 100 homes based on the company’s sustainable construction framework. It also carried out a training program to help survivors learn how to produce the materials needed and construct their own homes. These were skills they could use both for rebuilding and later on when seeking work.

This approach was very successful, providing significant material and – as importantly – psychological support for residents. “It seems embarrassing to just wait for houses to be given and then move in,” said Normelita Rivera, one of the survivors. “There is no dignity in that. This way we have a sense of dignity because we worked for our homes. And we have a source of a new livelihood. We can even produce different colored tiles to sell.”



Choosing a base

Holcim Philippines aims to recreate the success of the Campostela effort in its Haiyan rebuilding project, which is designed around a similar set of goals: help the local population increase their capacity to rebuild on their own; assist in repair and reconstruction efforts; and develop a new, sustainable village, with a target of 100 homes.

One of the areas that has been identified to serve as a springboard for the project is the town of Javier on the island of Leyte, approximately 73 kilometers from the provincial capital of Tacloban. Indeed, the damage to the town is as extensive as that in Tacloban, which was particularly hard hit.

Due to its proximity to raw material sources such as sand and gravel, Holcim Philippines has therefore decided to help the local government develop Javier so that it can become the central hub for construction materials during the rebuilding phase of the entire region. This will not only aid rebuilding efforts, but will also benefit the local economy and empower affected residents.



Initial efforts have concentrated on training programs. These have been implemented through a partnership between Holcim Philippines, the local mayor, and the local Technical Skills Development Authority or TESDA – a government agency with the mandate of certifying skilled workers in the country. This certification can often help trained workers as they seek employment locally or abroad.

In March 40 people, and in May another 32, completed training programs focused on making concrete hollow blocks (CHB). Trainees from the first round have since been gainfully employed in the Javier CHB Enterprise, a small private business.

The next step is to develop and carry out a concrete roof tile training programme once Holcim Philippines has been assigned an area for housing development. After that, efforts will turn towards community enterprise development.