RACPA Where We Work
19 January 2024|Cathy Torres
The archipelagic Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia and the Philippines are the two country sites of RACPA. Both countries are highly exposed to climate risks and are in the top 20 countries most impacted by climate-related extreme weather events as analyzed and ranked by the Global Climate Risk Index3 2021 – Indonesia is 14th, while the Philippines is 17th.
According to the report, Indonesia has high exposure to all types of flooding and extreme heat. It is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise, with the country ranked fifth highest in the world in terms of the size of the population inhabiting lower-elevation coastal zones. The Philippines, on the other hand, continuously ranks among the most affected countries both in the long-term index and in the index for each respective year, and is significantly exposed to tropical cyclones, flooding, and landslides. For both, climate change will affect water availability, food production, disaster risk management, urban development, particularly in the coastal zones, and health and nutrition, with implications for poverty and inequality (Germanwatch 2021).
The governments of Indonesia and the Philippines are committed to addressing climate change and have submitted their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to cutting down emissions and adapting to climate impacts. Both countries have a relatively rich national climate change policy context, However, climate action at the subnational and local levels is not as robust.
The issue of climate and disaster displacement also does not yet figure prominently in their national and local policies and action plans, with a tendency to be addressed in relation to disaster response. Displacement risks in both countries are high due to storm surges, riverine floods, earthquakes, cyclonic winds, and tsunamis. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) Displacement Data (2008-2021) has recorded 7.6 million internal displacements from 1,478 reported disaster events in Indonesia4 and 53.7 million internal displacements from 402 reported disaster events in the Philippines.
RACPA focuses on the following communities in the two countries that are at risk of internal displacement due to climate change and disasters.
Tambakrejo, Semarang Regency
Tambakrejo is a resettled village of those displaced by the East Flood Canal river normalization in Semarang. The fishing community refused the flats offered by the city government that was far from their primary source of livelihood: the sea and the river. With the help of civil society allies, they peacefully fought from 2017 to 2021 to instead be resettled near the riverbank and remain near their fishing livelihood source. The 97 families succeeded and moved into their row housing in January 2021.
The site is ostensibly temporary, but the village leaders hope for it to be permanent. Unfortunately, their new resettlement village is saddled by both the coastline and the riverbed, making it vulnerable to flooding and storm surges. The community members themselves also experienced rob or tidal flooding of about 10 centimeters early this year.
The community’s experience in advocating for their right to stay and collaborating with civil society actors is a strong community asset and will be vital in the community’s path to resiliency.
Wonoagung, Demak Regency
Wonoagung is a village in Demak, Central Java, Indonesia. It has a population of 5,300 individuals (1,200 families).
The primary sources of livelihood include aquaculture activities and working for the many factories surrounding the area. Historically, Wonoagung was a rice farming community whose rice fields were among those eroded by the retreating coasts of Northern Java. Now, the village is surrounded by fishponds and wetlands and is at constant risk of flooding.
While coastal erosion and flooding are caused by several factors, including “subsidence due to excessive groundwater extraction, river engineering that deprives coastlines of riverine mud, and ill-judged hard infrastructure such as sea walls that disrupt the sediment and water flows that previously maintained shorelines,” these are compounded by rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of storm surges.
Wonoagung’s most recent and extreme experience of tidal or rob flooding, from December 2022 to January 2023, was where the community had to endure month-long above-knee-level flood water. There was a disaster response from the authorities, but the community expressed the need for more durable and sustainable solutions to their predicament. The community has heard news of other villages submerged due to high tide and is alarmed by the signs of tidal flooding, fearful that their land will soon disappear as well.
Meanwhile, some local community-led adaptation responses facilitated by the village government included the provision of 10-million-rupiah funding for simple houses for displaced families as a “bedah rumah” (lit. house surgery) project. The village has strong leadership with evident participation of women and other sectors in their community.
Nocnocan Island, Bohol Province
Nocnocan Island is a barangay (village) of Talibon municipality, Bohol, located about 19 kilometers northeast of the mainland poblacion (town center), or about 45 mins to an hour’s boat ride. Of the eight island barangays of Talibon, it is the smallest island and located the farthest. It is also the municipality’s smallest barangay, regardless of geographic classification, with a land area of about 4.10 hectares. But paired with a population of 1,785, it is the municipality’s most densely populated barangay. Its population density of 435.37 per hectare is many times over the municipal average density of 4.99. Nocnocan Island is also unofficially cited as one of the most densely populated islands in the world.
The primary source of livelihood for the people is artisanal fishing sustained by the resource-rich Danajon Bank, which holds the distinction of being the only double barrier reef in the country, the only one in Asia, and one of the three reefs of this kind in the whole world.
Like many small island fishing communities, Nocnocan ranks high in income poverty and hunger indicators. A poverty database monitoring study conducted between 2014-2016 by the CBMS Network Team revealed that 74.4% of its households has an income below the poverty threshold and 59.6% below the food threshold.
There is no local supply of drinking water and no stable electricity source (although some households have generators and/or individual solar-powered systems) on the island. In addition, many of the houses do not have their own toilet facilities. Solid waste management is also an ongoing concern.
Education available on the island is only until the primary level. Secondary education can be availed of at a bigger neighboring island barangay or on the mainland. College education may be obtained on the Bohol mainland or in the neighboring provinces of Cebu or Leyte.
But where they lack specific resources, the Nocnocan community is high in social cohesion and takes pride in their community spirit. They have one women’s organization and two fisherfolks’ organizations. Community institutions of influence are the barangay local government unit (BLGU), the public elementary school, and the local chapel/church.
Exposure to climate change impacts is high, and the island experiences periodic coastal flooding during king tide season. In addition, damage wrought by Super Typhoon Odette (Rai) in December 2021 are still evident in many houses, with walls still made of makeshift materials and/or never fixed, with several seemingly abandoned. Nevertheless, some individual or family-level adaptation strategies exist, as seen in the increased height of stilted houses built by the shoreline and household land reclamation/sea walls in some homes.
The municipal local government unit (MLGU) of Talibon acknowledges the heightened vulnerability of Nocnocan Island to climate change, considering its small size and distance from the mainland. The MLGU, with international assistance, is currently resettling informal settler families displaced from their homes along the mainland coastline by Super Typhoon Odette and has expressed their intent to next prioritize the growing climate risks of their densely populated small island villages.