Manila, Philippines may be first major city displaced by climate change

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, stands on the banks of the Marikina and Nangka rivers. As with most riverside development, the proximity to water can be a blessing and a curse. Periodic flooding of the rivers can reinvigorate soil and make for quite fertile land, but it can also cause widespread destruction and injury. Since 1971, such flooding happened about once every 10 years, according to Manuel Abinales, President of a political aid organization Buklod Tao, based in Manila. However, Abinales says that since 2009, major flooding has happened yearly“It’s now a reality”, said Abinales, “families evacuated once, twice, three times, even four times in a matter of seven to eight days. This never happened in our community…this is induced by changes in the weather or climate conditions.” 


“It’s now a reality: families evacuated once, twice, three times, even four times in a matter of seven to eight days. This never happened in our community…this is induced by changes in the weather or climate conditions. ” -Manuel Abinales


Climate change poses a great longer-term threat to coastal cities in the form of sea level rise, but also through the increased storm activity and unpredictability of the short-term weather patterns in the coming century. More violent and frequent typhoons in Southeast Asia like the infamous Ketsana, which struck Manila in 2009, claiming 747 lives and causing more than $1 billion in damage, could mean that the people will have to cut their losses and abandon the city altogether. If they do stay, health issues may arise from the dirty water and decomposing underwater structures.

The US knows the devastating impact of hurricanes, most recently and notably in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but few major US news organizations have picked up the story.

Read more about Abinales’s mission here. To see his interview with the Guardian, click here.

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