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Southeast Asia

Purisima's vision for the vulnerable

Since dealing with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan as the Philippines’ finance minister, Cesar Purisima has become one of the most eloquent spokesmen for how finance can help nations vulnerable to climate change.

By the time Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on November 7, 2013, it was the most powerful storm ever recorded to strike land – worldwide. It killed at least 6,300 people in the Philippines alone, and affected 14 million, according to UN estimates.

And then, after the death and devastation, came the economic calculation.

“It hit us from various dimensions,” recalls Cesar Purisima, who was in office as the Aquino administration’s secretary of finance at the time. “From the grassroots level – our own people – that region was mainly agricultural and they didn’t have insurance for their crops, their structures, their businesses. Obviously multilaterals and bilateral friends stepped in, but it opened my eyes to the need to have a sustainable climate insurance mechanism at the grassroots level.

Eradicate

“It made us realize that the fight against climate change and the fight to eradicate poverty are intertwined.”

All of this was on Cesar Purisima’s mind when he became the founding chairman of the Vulnerable Twenty group of nations, or V20. Announced at the IMF annual meeting in Lima, Peru, in October 2015, it is the result of an idea that has taken shape over several years: that the most vulnerable nations should speak collectively if they want to be heard.