Four consecutive typhoons hit the Catanduanes Province in 2020. In November that year, Typhoon Goni (Rolly) destroyed 90% of the infrastructure and 13,000 homes. Remarkably, the number of human casualties was less than ten reported by the Philippines Red Cross. The nickname for Catanduanes Province is “Typhoon Gateway of the Philippines”. As such, the region is highly vulnerable in terms of flood risk. Time and experience have taught the residents a way to respond efficiently to these floods. Nevertheless, the destruction caused by the typhoon is continuously disrupting the livelihoods and damaging the properties of the people of Catanduanes. It hampers the development of the island. Dealing with the yearly returning challenges has turned resilience into a part of their collective DNA.

After developing the coastal protection strategy in Tacloban (starting with the DRR-Team mission in 2014), the Philippines Reclamation Authority (PRA) has identified other vulnerable areas in the Philippines. One was Catanduanes, an island on the east side of the Philippines. It is one of the lesser developed areas in the Philippines and has limited capacity to prepare for the effects of climate change-induced coastal hazards. After typhoon Goni made landfall in Catanduanes in 2020, the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) asked for DRR-Team assistance for a first assessment towards the development of integrated coastal protection for the vulnerable coastal communities in Catanduanes.

DRR-Team leader George Peters – employed at RHDHV with a local office in the Philippines – put together a local team to implement and carry out the DRR-Team deployment. This

The DRR-Team included four local RHDHV experts; the PRA (Philippine Reclamation Authority), Rijkswaterstaat and the Netherlands Embassy were also closely involved. The team used the site visit to Catanduanes’ main municipal areas (Virac and Baras) to collect data and carry out household surveys with the residents, create hazard risk and land use maps and develop a roadmap towards increased resilience. Through workshops with all agencies involved and local stakeholders (including affected communities), the DRR-Team collected input and knowledge about the local situation to develop flood protection measures.

Both Mariane Pajarillo (Flood expert) and Jan-Willem Nell (Technical Manager Coastal Projects RHDHV in the Philippines, local project lead) shared their admiration for the level of preparedness of the local communities. Many years’ experience has made them typhoon survival experts. According to Jan-Willem, “They grow up and live with typhoons. People in Catanduanes tell us that even the young kids know the longitude-latitude coordinates for the island. When they listen to the meteorological agency reports over the radio in preparation for a typhoon, they know exactly how far away the typhoon is.”

Follow-up work is already in progress. The focus is on identifying projects and potential next steps in 2022 to develop a concrete roadmap for the involved municipalities. The next scheduled visit to Catanduanes, funded through the Netherlands Embassy in Manila, is in January of 2022. This visit will allow the team to bring some of the findings back to the communities.

For more information on the mission and the results, read the iReport on Catanduanes. We will publish the report on shortly.