Written by Ron Vincent de los Angeles, Amaryll Juris Banzuela, and Sly Barrameda of the National Resilience Council, the Philippines

When Super Typhoon Yolanda – one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded in history – hit the Philippines in the early hours of 8 November 2013, it killed over 6,000 people, caused US$ 12.9 billion in damage, and pushed approximately 2.3 million people into poverty.

As a country made up of over 7,500 islands in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is hit by an average of 20 typhoons every year, as well as other natural disasters. Eight of the ten cities in the world that are most exposed to natural hazards are in the Philippines. Rising sea temperatures have caused the intensity of these typhoons to increase massively, with five of the deadliest typhoons recorded in history having taken place since 2006.

The government of the Philippines has launched several efforts to increase the country’s resilience to these natural hazards, including risk insurance schemes to provide local governments with emergency liquidity, private property catastrophe risk insurance for homeowners and small and medium-sized businesses, and immediate emergency funds to protect the poorest and vulnerable. Non-government entities have also stepped in, recognizing that a whole-of-society approach is necessary to deal with the country’s extreme vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and other natural disasters.

The National Resilience Council (NRC) is one such initiative, driven by the private sector to provide a platform for meaningful engagement and cooperation between local governments, the private sector, and climate-affected communities.

The NRC was formed in 2017 by Ambassador Roberto Romulo and Hans Sy. The two founders, both from the private sector, sought to bring together different sections of society to support national resilience-building efforts that translate the goals of international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Climate Agreement, and New Urban Agenda into action at the national, local, and community level.

The NRC emphasizes partnerships between multiple stakeholders for climate and disaster resilience, in particular for vulnerable communities. Its Sama-Samang mga Samahan para sa Isang Matatag na Bayan (SAMBAYANIHAN) methodology seeks to bridge the gap between the private and public sectors and people; as well as between science and technology and efforts by government, private sector, and climate-affected communities.

SAMBAYANIHAN promotes a whole-of-society approach emphasizing shared values of co-ownership and co-creation to demand-driven resilience challenges that lead to more empowered communities. Through this, not only are technical needs addressed but a deeper understanding of the needs of the vulnerable sectors in local communities is formed. The NRC believes that its prevention-focused approach, along with SAMBAYANIHAN, will bring about sustainability and a paradigm shift of its partners.

NRC's SAMBAYANIHAN methodology

Adopt a City Initiative for Public-Private-People Partnerships

In the Philippines, local government is divided into different levels: provinces and independent cities that include component cities and municipalities, which in turn include barangays, the most local level of government. All of these are collectively known as local government units (LGUs). Traditionally, resilience-building programs are designed and implemented by the national government and the LGUs, and the role of the public sector is limited to providing donations for disaster relief in the aftermath of crises. Opportunities to coordinate corporate social responsibility (CSR) and resilience investments through a direct partnership with LGUs have been limited.

NRC sought an approach that would include civil society, including the private sector and communities, particularly the most vulnerable, in the design and implementation of programs. The Adopt-A-City Initiative was launched in 2019 with this objective as part of the NRC’s Resilient LGUs Program.

The ten LGUs that have joined this three-year Initiative so far have each formed a Resilience Council of their own through an Executive Order or Ordinance. The LGU-specific Resilience Councils are comprised of members of various local institutions and agencies, including City/Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices; civil society and grassroots organizations; and academia and scientific institutions. Corporate partners have provided nearly US$ 2 million to support LGU-specific actions that were identified through collaborative planning with local stakeholders. The NRC plays the role of facilitator and liaison between the private sector partner, the LGU, academia, and civil society.

The “adopter” private sector company and “adoptee” LGU, along with other pertinent local stakeholders in civil society, collaborate to formulate, implement, and monitor programs; co-develop integrated risk-sensitive urban plans; and ensure active participation of city personnel and key officials in the activities. Critically, the NRC works with LGUs to ensure that lesser heard and under-represented constituencies, including the urban poor, are included in the process, and that this engagement is systematized in the operations of the LGUs.

Informal settlement by a canal, Manila.

Prepare, Adapt, and Transform

The NRC approach to resilience building is defined through three thematic areas: Prepare, Adapt, and Transform – each of which seeks to answer a question, as described below.


How can the loss of lives and assets be minimized? Under this, LGUs conduct Climate and Disaster Risk Assessments to evaluate risks by identifying hazards, exposure, and social and geophysical vulnerabilities. The NRC works with LGUs to conduct participatory risk assessments that emphasize inputs from the most climate-affected communities in the city. A Management Information System is established, along with a core resilience team that includes community and private sector representatives, and “pillar” and “sub-pillar” champions.

In Manila, the capital, NRC partners have engaged at the community level to create a social vulnerability index to better allow the realities on the ground to inform resilience decision-making. The technical partners of the NRC are the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Sociology and Anthropology Coastal Cities at Risk (ADMU-DSA-CCARPH), who are in charge of:

  • The GIS of barangay principal component analysis.

  • Barangay density zoning and proximity analysis by infrastructure modeling.

  • The Manila Observatory for the coordination of applications engineering, preparation of the base map, and consolidation of existing and newly generated thematic layers for the city.

The main outputs of the indexing are the physical and socio-economic drivers of risk in the form of indices and maps, which are useful in determining investment in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. The NRC is also working with several LGUs to embed a more systematic approach of engaging communities, including developing policy mechanisms at the city or municipal level and relevant metrics; informed and co-created by local partners in each city.


How can existing systems be improved to reduce risks and vulnerability to hazardous events? To address this question, LGU is beginning to institutionalize new arrangements for disaster preparedness and response. Risks are minimized by identifying and addressing the vulnerabilities of people, environment, infrastructure, and systems to hazardous events. Coordination and trust amongst different partners are critical to ensure co-ownership of these measures.


How can existing systems be changed to achieve resilience? To answer this question, new science-based partnerships between the public and private sectors are formed, and responsive policies are enacted both at the national and local levels. Communities are empowered by participating in the decision-making process with the LGU leaders. All stakeholders are encouraged to co-own the vision of resilience and work together to co-create solutions to the challenges they face.

Capacity support for LGUs

The NRC initiative has developed a robust training program for LGUs on understanding risk and resilience, conducting participatory climate and disaster risk assessments, action research, and resilience planning. Coaching and mentoring are offered to LGU personnel to nurture resilience leadership. The training includes lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on exercises, and covers both physical and social risks. This training offers a valuable opportunity for partners from the private sector, civil society, and academia to share their knowledge, skills, and resources for technically and scientifically robust resilience planning at the local level.

Training conducted by the Manila Observatory on climate and disaster risk assessment.

Monitoring Progress

LGUs measure progress on preparedness, adaptation, and transformation through Resilience Scorecards, which are developed down to barangay level. The Scorecards help LGUs to collaboratively chart inclusive and measurable resilience roadmaps for each of the three thematic areas. The indicators, minimum requirements, means of verification, and references reflect local government systems and are based on national instruments, department orders, memoranda, manuals, and protocols of key government line agencies (notably, the Philippine Development Plan and the Department of Interior and Local Government’s Seal of Good Local Governance).

The barangay-level Resilience Scorecard’s indicators and minimum requirements focus on specific outcomes, following the mandates and priorities of barangays. These are related to Resilience Pillars that the NRC uses to advocate for effective and inclusive resilience building:

  • The Human Development Pillar focuses on facilitating access to social safety nets and universal healthcare through risk-based planning and partnerships.

  • The Local Economy Pillar aims to assess and support barangays in terms of facilitating access to sustainable and resilient livelihoods.

  • The Infrastructure Pillar aims to support barangays in minimizing hazard exposure through early warning, evacuation, and urban planning.

  • The Environment Pillar focuses on enhancing waste and ecosystem management, as well as co-management of barangays through collaborative action and nature-based solutions.

  • The Human Security Pillar focuses on supporting barangays in preventing violence and conflict as a result of migration and displacement.

The use of the barangay-level scorecards follows a three-year time frame, in accordance with NRC’s Resilience Thematic Areas of Prepare, Adapt, and Transform. Barangays can measure their own progress and performance against established targets through a set of minimum requirements and rating guidelines. Results of this self-assessment tool are then externally validated by city/municipal level local government units, and academic partners.

Assessment results will help identify opportunities for capacity building interventions for the barangay, which include technical assistance through training sessions on specific gaps, and coaching and mentoring sessions on the  operationalization of identified interventions in action plans. The scorecard acknowledges the dynamic contexts of barangays, and the tool may be contextualized based on local contexts and pillar priorities. The scorecard is a progressive tool subject to continual updating, ensuring its relevance and effectiveness.

Informal settlement next to a Manila canal.

Coordinating Corporate Social Responsibility

The Philippines enacted a Corporate Social Responsibility Act in early 2023, to encourage the active participation of the private sector “in fostering sustainable economic development and environment protection”. The Act offers several benefits to private-sector companies for providing CSR, including allowing stock corporations to keep their profits over 100% of paid-in capital stock to be used for expansion and CSR projects or programs.

The Adopt a City Initiative provides an avenue for the private sector to align their CSR contributions with legitimate needs identified by LGUs and local communities, instead of supporting fragmented actions that are decided on an ad hoc basis. It also helps to ensure that the private sector can contribute to disaster preparedness, not just disaster response.

Investments supported so far by the Initiative include the Iloilo City Action Response (ICARE) center, to serve as a centralized facility for emergency responders such as the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office and Iloilo City Emergency Responders. In Ormoc City, a mobile water filtration system capable of purifying 3,000 liters of water per hour has been donated to the LGU.

In other cities, investments have been made in disaster and climate resilient infrastructure, early warning systems, social and environmental protection programs, social innovation and entrepreneurship, and training in financial literacy for informal workers and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The work of the NRC, which is still unfolding, provides a positive story of how the private sector can coordinate their efforts with the public sector and with people, to contribute to the resilience of communities and cities.