Co-op Voices

Six Months after Haiyan, the Philippines Still Needs Help

By Kent Singer Published: May 1st, 2014

On Nov. 10, 2013, a 300-mile wide typhoon packing winds of 190 mph tore through parts of the Philippine islands, leaving in its wake indescribable scenes of death and destruction. Thousands of Filipinos were killed in the storm and hundreds of villages were leveled, including the facilities owned and operated by the local electric cooperatives that serve those villages.

Kent Singer

Kent Singer

At the NRECA annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Edita S. Bueno, director of the Philippines’ National Electrification Administration, spoke about the impact of Super-typhoon Haiyan. She said that in the areas served by 33 electric co-ops, 1.3 million homes were damaged and 120,000 were destroyed. According to Dan Waddle, senior vice president of NRECA International Programs, nine of the co-ops impacted lost 95 to 100 percent of their distribution systems.

For nearly 50 years NRECA International Programs has played a major role in the partnership between the United States and the Philippines in developing rural electrification. Today, 119 electric co-ops serve the rural areas of the Philippines. The electric co-op business model and culture have been a tremendous success in the Philippines as evidenced by the fact that more than 1,000 lineworkers from co-ops across the Philippines came to the aid of the people most impacted by Super-typhoon Haiyan.

Shortly after the super-typhoon hit, NRECA International sent an assessment team to the Philippines to evaluate how NRECA could help. NRECA representatives met with local co-op leaders to develop a strategic plan to address the tragedy. A relief fund was established, and technical support was provided to assist in the recovery.

The Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund has raised more than $120,000 to help 11 co-ops rebuild their leveled systems. Two representatives from NRECA delivered the checks to Philippine co-op managers in February and toured areas stills struggling to recover.

“As a co-op manager in Louisiana, I oversaw restoration after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, but I never saw anything like the total devastation I’ve seen here,” said Michael Guidry, former NRECA Board president and retired general manager of Southern Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association, after visiting the Philippines with Martin Lowery, NRECA executive vice president.

“The destruction is degrees of magnitude greater … the reconstruction challenge is simply overwhelming,” said Guidry.

Since November, with the help from other electric co-ops throughout the Philippines, the damaged co-ops have restored power to more than 2,200 of the 5,400 villages impacted by the storm. Clearly, however, there is much more work to be done.

The Filipino people are resilient and will overcome this natural disaster. However, they could use more help. Just as co-ops in the U.S. come to the aid of their neighbors, we can come to the aid of this international co-op neighbor that needs a hand up. Won’t you donate to the Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund today?

Click here to donate to NRECA’s Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund.

Kent Singer is executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association in Denver.

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