By Assistant General Manager Amy E. Pope
The International Organization for Migration
Typhoon Rai, known locally as Odette, swept through the Philippines three months ago, sweeping through 11 of the country’s 17 regions, destroying or damaging more than 2 million homes, far eclipsing that of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 About 32,200 people remain displaced, mostly in evacuation centers. .
The road to full recovery will be long and bumpy. Yet, returning from my field visit to Siargao, Philippines, I was inspired by the “Bayanihan” spirit. From the community where people help their neighbors rebuild their homes, to the response led by local government units, mayors, governors and their counterparts at the national level, the desire to recover and help each other in times of crisis is palpable and something that will stay with me long after my visit.
This typhoon should, however, serve as a warning signal to the international community. The 2020 Global Climate Risk Index ranks the Philippines as the second most vulnerable country in the world affected by climate change, despite being one of the smallest contributors to CO2 emissions. More than 60% of the Filipino population resides in coastal areas and will be forced to move with a one-meter sea rise caused by global warming, which equates to 60 million people having to move by the end of the day. end of this century. As President Duterte warned in his address to the 76th United Nations (UN) General Assembly, “The risks and burden of global warming are simply not the same for everyone. … But here we are now at a critical tipping point, where inaction has cataclysmic consequences for all of humanity.
Knowing that climate impact is inevitable and acknowledging that inaction will be cataclysmic, there are three things we need to do now to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change on human life.
First, we have seen time and time again that human mobility is inextricably linked to climate change. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Philippines. Migration is one of the coping mechanisms of Filipinos affected by the climate crisis, either by choice or by force of circumstance. We must recognize that protecting the most vulnerable must be at the forefront of our climate action and collectively mainstream migration into our climate change mitigation measures. National and regional policies must include more measures to adapt to migration, and resources are needed to address and prevent displacement while building people’s resilience, especially in the most vulnerable countries.
Second, it is imperative to ensure that adaptive migration as a solution is safe, informed and desired. For example, IOM is working closely with the Philippine government and communities on planned relocation and transition sites in typhoon-affected areas. Thanks to the generous support of donors such as USAID, Australia, Japan, Canada, the United Nations Central Emergency Fund and Germany, IOM is providing essential assistance with shelter, Hygiene and Sanitation, Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), Health and COVID Prevention and Mental Health. and psychosocial services. Although essential, these actions are above all reactive. Our actions on the ground today can and should be a pathway to managing climate vulnerabilities. They should be done proactively and strategically, contextually and with strong community engagement.
Finally, we must harness the power of the estimated 10 million Filipinos living abroad to build climate resilience at the local level. The Philippines is a country that for decades has made the most of migration. Since the 1980s, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) have been hailed as bagong bayani (modern day heroes). In 2019, OFW remittances reached a record high of $33.9 billion, or nearly 10% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). With one of the largest diasporas in the world, we must leverage this support and direct these financial contributions to build back better using lessons learned from past climate emergencies, such as building four-cornered roofs over the house. in typhoon-prone areas to protect these rebuilt communities from future devastation.
As the cost of the climate crisis reaches irreversible heights, I leave the Philippines to reflect on the devastating effects of Typhoon Rai and the future of communities in the Philippines. If the Bayanihan spirit gives me hope, now we need bold collective action to build the resilience of communities at risk, protect the most vulnerable and ensure that migration remains a choice rather than a necessity.