Louis Berger has worked in the Philippines for nearly 30 years, supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other development agencies on programs designed to avert political crisis, build peace, spur economic development, build sustainable infrastructure and respond to natural disasters. In a series of interviews with local staff who have supported those programs for more than twenty years, we asked them to share stories about memorable challenges and successes. Just a few of those stories follow. 

Delivering relief supplies during Zamboanga Siege

Marilou Sian assists with distribution of relief supplies during Zamboanga siege
Marilou Sian assists with distribution of relief supplies during Zamboanga siege.

When asked about her most rewarding moments over the years, Marilou Sian recalls providing relief supplies to residents of Zamboanga following a siege by rebel forces. “When hostilities broke out between rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Zamboanga City in September 2013, thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. More than 100,000 residents fleeing the conflict sought shelter in about 30 evacuation areas. I was proud to lead the team effort to assist internally displaced persons. We worked tirelessly with the U.S. and Philippine military forces to ensure delivery of relief goods to the evacuation centers. Through the USAID Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program, USAID procured and delivered 26,000 blankets, 27,300 sleeping pads, bottled water, toiletries, food items, cooking supplies and tarpaulin sheets for 68,000 evacuees. The first batch of supplies were airlifted, reaching the Zamboanga City Command Center within 24 hours, allowing USAID to be one of the first donor agencies to establish its presence in the conflict area.”

Ruscillie Rivera added, “Even before USAID tapped Louis Berger to respond to the crisis, the GEM 3 team, composed of logistics, procurement, accounting and motor pool personnel, was already one step ahead in working together and placing effective systems in place. This is the reason why Louis Berger was able to immediately procure, repack, deliver and distribute relief supplies after receiving the special activity order from USAID."

Dr. Charles Feibel and winners of the Louis Berger Vision and Values Award
Dr. Charles Feibel (center) congratulates the winners of the Louis Berger 2013 Vision and Values Award for the Zamboanga City Relief Operations, (left to right) Marilou Sian, Ruscillie Rivera, Edcelle Evangelio and Mie Shen Reyes.

Helping to rebuild after Super Typhoon Yolanda (internationally named Haiyan)

Sian also recalls the transition of the GEM program to the USAID Rebuild Project in 2014 in order to support reconstruction and rehabilitation activities, restore livelihoods, and re-establish important education and health services in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“Due to the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Yolanda (internationally named Haiyan) on November 8, 2013, USAID extended the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program and renamed the program effort “Rebuild Project” to provide USAID a vehicle for responding to this disaster,” said Sian. “It was not an easy task due to the devastation in the city. There was no power and water in most areas where we had to find an office space and lodging for our staff. The airport terminal and runway were damaged and flights would often be cancelled due to runway repairs. Driving through the city you would see vehicles on top of homes, mud and fallen trees, damaged buildings and homes, cargo and passenger ships blocking roads – just utter devastation."

Marilou Sian and colleagues view construction of classrooms for Tacloban National Agricultural School
Marilou Sian (second from left) reviews construction of the Tacloban National Agricultural School in Tacloban City. During her term as Chief of Party of the USAID Rebuild project in Tacloban, assessments were completed and construction began for about 50 classrooms.

The USAID Rebuild project also completed construction of three health facilities and about 40 Sari-Sari Stores in partnership with Coca Cola and Procter and Gamble. Agriculture and aquaculture production inputs and training were provided to farmers and fisherfolk affected by the typhoon.

Tacloban National Agricultural School
The USAID Rebuild project constructed new classrooms at the Tacloban National Agricultural School after Super Typhoon Yolanda destroyed them in 2013.

The Land Registration Authority (LRA) recovered over 200,000 real property titles damaged by the typhoon with funding assistance from USAID. Rebuild mobilized 37 local workers for three months to support the LRA in its recovery efforts.

USAID Rebuild team, implemented by Louis Berger
Louis Berger project team, implementers of the USAID Rebuild program, together with USAID Mission Director Gloria Steele (center, seated), USAID Contracting Officer’s Representative Tet Robielos (in khaki pants, seated) and USAID Senior Development Outreach and Communications Specialist Kiel Enrique (in yellow shirt).

Providing school desks to displaced children in the midst of the Marawi siege

On May 23, 2017, government forces clashed with armed fighters from two ISIL-affiliated groups - Abu Sayyaf and the Maute. As militants seized Marawi City amid brutal attacks on public institutions, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire island of Mindanao. About 300,000 people were forced to evacuate their residences and leave their jobs and schools to stay in temporary shelters or live with relatives outside the city.

Schools in the outskirts of Marawi City were forced to accommodate thousands of displaced students and it became clear that there were not enough chairs to accommodate them. The Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DepEd-ARMM) asked USAID to provide tablet armchairs to schools in need, and USAID turned to the Logistics team to make it happen.

Lisa Apostol stands with school representatives in front of new desks for students in Marawi
Lisa Apostol (left) stands with school representatives in front of student desks procured by USAID’s Basa Pilipinas project and delivered by the Logistics team to public schools in Lanao del Sur province for students affected by the 2017 Marawi Siege.

The Logistics team successfully delivered 6,650 tablet armchairs to 90 schools in 22 municipalities in Lanao del Sur province (including some unaffected schools in Marawi City) in coordination with DepEd-ARMM. Deliveries were made amidst fighting in the city, making access to the city and the surrounding municipalities of Lanao del Sur very difficult. Stray bullets were often encountered at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol compound where Logistics staff would convene. Ongoing military operations against the Maute terrorists required interaction and coordination with law enforcement. Entrance to the area required security escorts as well as a security pass. Despite these challenges, the Logistics team was able to visit the schools and assess the need for the armchairs, speak to the principals, check access for the delivery trucks and determine the safest distribution points.

These are just a few of the stories shared by dedicated local staff in the Mindanao region of the Philippines who have worked together over the decades to bring peace and economic growth to local communities. Click here to learn more about their careers and why they value being part of a global team that delivers Solutions for a better world.