Post Date: 10 May 2024

Surviving and Managing Risks Toward the Resilience of Disaster-Displaced Communities in the Philippines

Resilience is important in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and development praxis. Yet, how is resilience understood, experienced, and envisaged by disaster-affected communities, themselves? This mixed methods study aims to shed light on this overarching question and focuses on two coastal towns in the Philippines severely damaged by super typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Although more than a decade has passed since the disaster, some segments of its population, such as Internally Displaced Persons/IDPs, are still grappling with its impacts. These impacts were further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected their resilience- conceptualised as their ability to manage and adapt to hazard risks and other significant adversities in the everyday. This thesis comprises three interconnected studies.

The first study applies a capability-based approach framework to investigate the impacts of COVID-19 on Haiyan IDPs. It focuses on the pandemic’s impacts on five valued capabilities- Life, Health, Work, Support Networks, and Mobility- participants co-identified as important for their resilience or ability to manage and adapt to hazard risks and other significant adversities in the everyday. I found that their access to education, health, and other social services and infrastructures has been compromised. Farmers/fisherfolks and informal economy workers suffered the most in terms of decreased or lost capacity to earn sufficient income for their families. As traditional support networks weakened, many households lost or experienced reduced financial support. Lastly, mobility behaviours, like hazard evacuation during the pandemic, forced some households to consider staying home a more tolerable choice than facing intolerable risks at evacuation sites. I then analysed the various (political, economic, social, and physical) factors that hindered them from achieving their valued capabilities for resilience. Overall, I found that beyond the government's militaristic and ineffective pandemic policies and responses, their post-disaster relocation has produced maladaptive outcomes that (re)created and exacerbated their vulnerabilities and challenged their resilience to hazard risks.

The second study focuses on their challenges with water, a natural resource and human rights, crucial for their resilience and well-being. It presents visuals of water insecurity and applies a combined political ecology and water governance lens to critically unpack why this came to be despite the government’s allocation of funds and the inclusion of water systems in its post-disaster resettlement projects. My findings suggest five overlapping drivers: the haphazard relocation of displaced populations to areas without access to basic facilities; the institutional disharmony and late involvement of water institutions in the resettlement processes; the influence of governance regime in the rapid but substandard housing development, including water distribution systems; the micropolitics in water district management affecting water projects; and the impact of maladaptive resettlement outcomes on households’ capacity to afford water. Ultimately, this study demonstrates how various drivers, including power relations and contestations in water governance, lead to household water insecurity outcomes.

The last study discusses their trans-subjective aspirations toward increased resilience in a post-pandemic world centred on sustainable livelihoods and income; safe, accessible, and affordable water; basic and social infrastructure; and housing and land tenure, which collectively call for a national policy that ensures the provision of durable solutions to disaster-affected IDPs. Building upon these aspirations, policy recommendations were proposed that policymakers may prioritise in their DRR and adaptation agenda.

Overall, this thesis reveals some parallels with the experiences of other IDPs in other Global South communities, but they also retain contrasts and peculiarities that could only be understood using interdisciplinary and place-based investigations in the Philippines. Thus, it contributes to localising and rethinking resilience studies by examining the overlapping, multi-dimensional, and contextual impacts of hazard risks on disaster-displaced communities’ resilience problematised in their long-term recovery.

Speaker(s) : Mr. Ginbert Permejo CUATON
PhD student in ESPM Program, supervised by Prof. Masaru YARIME and Prof. Yvonne SU
Date : 07 Jun 2024 (Friday)
Time : 9:00 am
Venue : Room 2404 (Lifts 17-18), 2/F Academic Building, HKUST