UNESCO dispatched an expert mission to the Philippines from 4 to 11 December following the massive earthquake and powerful typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which successively struck the central region of the country in October and early November 2013. The goal of the mission was to assist the Government and people of the Philippines in assessing the impact of the disasters on immovable, movable, and intangible heritage, as well as to identify immediate needs and safeguarding measures for their rehabilitation and recovery.
The mission, whose report is currently being finalized, visited affected areas on the islands of Leyte, Samar, Cebu and Bohol, and met with local authorities to assess the extensive damage suffered by numerous religious buildings, museums and their collections, as well as the disruption caused by the disasters to important intangible cultural practices and industries. The mission noted also the considerable socio-economic impact caused by the damage to the cultural heritage for the local communities, both due to loss of essential spiritual landmarks and for the role played by the heritage as an economic resource.
Emergency measures were identified to stabilize and protect endangered built structures, clear debris using appropriate techniques and rescue and conserve collections. Specific recommendations are also being developed to address the trauma of affected persons through psycho-social initiatives based on heritage. Following this initial mission, UNESCO shall work closely with the authorities of the Philippines to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for the rehabilitation of the affected cultural heritage.