Washington DC – A year after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines and killed 6,000 people, a religious relief group reports the country spends more on debt payments than it received in disaster aid. Religious, development and environmental groups will meet with World Bank President Jim Kim’s office on a Philippine debt-payment moratorium and an audit of the country’s total debt. Since the storm displaced 4 million people, the Philippines received approximately $850 million in relief aid and spent more than $6 billion servicing its debt. Some of that debt originated with the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which stole between $5 and $10 billion from the Filipino people during its two decades in power.
“Without addressing the Philippines’ debt, it’s hard to rebuild and prepare for future disasters,” says Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA. “These kinds of storms will continue in strength and number and resources are needed to protect the country.”
Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest recorded typhoon to ever hit land and scientists warn of increases in frequency of similar storms. The Philippines is funding its recovery largely through new loans, including nearly $2 billion from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The Philippines spends between 15-20% of its annual budget servicing its debt, more than it spends on health or education.
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Debt relief is a tool used after devastating environmental disasters in order to move needed resources to rebuilding. After Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, international lenders, including the International Monetary Fund, cancelled Haiti’s debt. The United States implemented the initiative when the US Congress passed and President Obama signed the Haiti Debt Relief and Earthquake Recovery Act in 2010.
“A moratorium on debt payments gives the Philippines resources to rebuild,” stated LeCompte. “These high debt burdens prolong human suffering and stifle preparation for the next typhoon.”
Jubilee USA Network and representatives from the Presbyterian Church USA, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid USA, the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, the Center of Concern, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach will meet with President Jim Kim’s office and deliver thousands of petitions supporting debt relief.
Read the petition.
Read more about Typhoon Haiyan and debt.