Forced displacement in the Philippines by climate change and greed – again
I joined more than 60 delegates from approximately 24 countries in a visit to three communities in the Greater Manila Area that are impacted by poverty, displacement and climate change. The visit was part of the Beyond Labels, Beyond Borders International Conference on the Rights of Climate Migrants, in Quezon City, Philippines, September 17-19.
These communities are unique in their own way but share common stories of resilience and a fear of displacement due to climate change and corporate greed. Like all people, they aspire for a better life for their children and the children of their children. My team, a group of 20 representing 15 countries, visited a small fishing village outside Metro Manila.
“This small fishing community has been our home for the last 20 years,” said Manang Geline, a community leader. “This is a very productive community, abundant in food resources and a source of income that sustains our everyday needs. While education, health care and other social services are not accessible to us and our children, we manage. The income we generate from fishing, crabbing and harvesting shrimps is just enough to support our daily needs, and live a relatively peaceful life, send our children to school in the nearby village, and receive medical help when needed.”
Manang lives in a sitio, which is a fishing village accessible only by small boat. Called Sitio Dapdap, it is located almost an hour by boat from the nearest municipality of Obando, Bulacan. The village is home to about 40 families, nestled in thriving mangroves that protect the community and the nearby shoreline from water surges, high winds and monsoon rains. A family can earn a daily average income of 1,500-2,000 Philippine pesos ($38-$50 CAD) catching fish and harvesting shrimps and crabs. While catches vary depending on the season and the tide, for the families who live there life in the community is good.
Sitio Dapdap is home to families that were displaced from other communities and places. Mang Roman and his family moved there five years ago after being displaced from their fishing village in Leyte, Samar, south of Manila, due to the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan. Nestor and his family were originally from Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, which is on the other side of the Philippine archipelago from Leyte. Others shared their stories of displacement due to poverty, land grabbing, conflict and militarization.
Tragically, this sense of peace, abundance and permanence in sitio Dapdap is soon to end. Members of the community are campaigning to stop a huge development project that, if successful, will displace them.
Nestor, a father with one child and another one on the way in a couple of months is very worried.
“The development project will build a coastal Aerotropolis – a suburban city built around a new international airport just outside of Metro Manila and along the coast of Manila Bay,” he said. “A project that will displace and convert the whole Barangay of Taliptip into a reclaimed area of about 2,500 hectares of land. What will happen to us? The [company and local government] promised relocation, but are very sketchy in providing more information and details. Will we be able to fish again? This is the only livelihood we know. We do not have enough education and credentials that would land us in jobs in factories or anything other than fishing, shrimping and crabbing. How can we provide for the basic necessities for our children? What will happen to them?”
These fears and concerns were expressed by many locals during our visit. The community vowed to continue campaigning, and to gather one million signatories to oppose and stop the project, and to assert that the project is in fact dangerous. With rising sea levels due to climate change, cutting all the mangroves that protect the shoreline, ecosystems and food sources that are abundant along the coast of Manila Bay, will make the area even more prone to disaster.
These types of projects exacerbate environmental destruction and climate change, and most importantly, forcibly displace people and communities with no regard to their future.
Currently, there are no international rights protections for people like Manang Gleline, Mang Roman and Nestor, their families and the members of communities that are forcibly displaced due to the impacts of climate change and greed. Securing rights protections for people and communities like them are an important part of the agenda at this international gathering. For more information, visit Climate Migration Forum.
By Connie Sorio, Migrant Justice Coordinator