TACLOBAN CITY– Three years after supertyphoon “Yolanda” pummeled Eastern Visayas, thousands of its survivors continue to grapple just to meet their daily needs.
But thanks to the continued effort of Oxfam, an international relief agency, survivors who are still reeling from the financial impact found an ally on them.
Last Sunday, (September 11), Oxfam together with Smart and PayMaya Philippines banded together in collaboration with the Tacloban city government launched the financial inclusion program at the Leyte Park Hotel.
The program is projected to benefit 16,000 Yolanda survivors.
At the launching, Justin Morgan, Oxfam country director, said that Oxfam believes that equitable access to financial services is crucial for them to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
“We are happy that Smart and PayMaya are working with us to help the LGU of Tacloban rebuild the local economy by improving financial literacy and inclusion. We have good partners in this collaboration for Tacloban to recover faster,” he said.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 18 organizations working in 94 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from injustice of poverty.
In the Philippines, Oxfam works with poor people to sustain their livelihoods and reduce their risks to natural and human-made disasters and climate-change impacts.
Charmaine Esguerra, 24, a resident of Barangay Paseo de Legaspi, this city, with her four-month old baby girl in tow during the launching, said that she is happy that she was identified as one of the program’s beneficiaries.
“I want to avail of the Smart Retailer SIM and the sari-sari starter package incentive and resell the products. My baby is only four months old and this package is convenient for me since I don’t need to go out to sell the items. I can sell Smart load at the comfort of home,” Esguerra, whose husband is a construction worker, said.
Alex Hembra, 65 and a resident of Brgy. Calanipawan shared that program could just be the beginning for him to stop working as a pedicab driver, a job he’s been doing for the past 20 years now.
“I am too old to drive a pedicab. My dream is to have a mobile sari-sari store and I know this will come true with this program,” Hembra, who lives with his 73 year-old brother, also a pedicab driver, said.
The humanitarian project promotes entrepreneurship and the value of savings in communities.
Under the project, qualified beneficiaries will receive Smart Money prepaid cards that can be linked to their mobile phones – a mobile money product of PayMaya Philippines where they are encouraged to place any amount (P1 and above) through any Smart Padala Center in Tacloban.
As they put their money, they will receive real-time notifications such as available balance via SMS or short message service.
Rewards and incentives are in-store for the beneficiaries.
Once they reached a certain amount in their savings, they can opt to have a Smart Retailer package consisting of a Smart retailer SIM and credits that they can use to start a mobile load business.
Another choice is a sari-sari store starter set with Unilever products that they can resell as another source of income.
The estimated 16,000 beneficiaries from 45 coastal villages in the city are encouraged to save every day to build the culture of savings.
City Administrator Irene Chiu, representing Mayor Cristina Gonzales Romualdez, thanked the partners in helping the city become resilient.
“It has been three years but Oxfam and Smart Communications are still helping the people of Tacloban and make our city better. This project is very helpful as not all have access to traditional financial banking system and it make it easier for people to save through Smart and PayMaya,” Chiu shared.
The Financial Inclusion for Tacloban Resettlement Integrated Program (TRIP) also offers accident insurance.
For families composed of six or more members, the family is entitled to two beneficiaries who are 18 and above and belong to vulnerable group — senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), conditional cash transfer beneficiaries, single parents, child-headed families and pregnant or nursing mothers.
City Vice Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin who graced the event said that that he and the people of Tacloban are grateful for this financial literacy and entrepreneurship program.
He said that this program uses technology to fight poverty, fight injustice, uplift and empower our people. This is the kind of program that ensures that nobody is left behind.
Benjie Fernandez, co-chief operating officer of PayMaya Philippines, shared that this program revolves around the slogan of the launching “Handa, Matatag, Determinado, Asenso Tacloban!
“PayMaya Philippines is committed to creating a long-lasting impact on the development of communities through our financially inclusive innovations including Smart Money, which provides SIM-based mobile money services,” Fernandez said. (VICKY C.ARNAIZ)