Philippines: Local response to environmental displacement

PI: Odessa Gonzalez Benson

Collaborating Organization:

Commission on Human Rights – Philippines


Tom Francis Temprosa, Director of Education, Commission on Human Rights – Philippines


  • U-M Advance Faculty Grant, $10,000
  • U-M School of Social Work, $4000

Project Description: A Disaster-Based Approach to Displacement: Environmental IDPs in the Philippines

This project interrogates the seminal policy framework response of the Philippines, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, for environmentally displaced persons. Drawing on the language and operationalization of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act (PDRRMA) of 2010 – which had incorporated environmental displacement as a “disaster” within the framework of response – interviews with officers of the response framework of the Philippines, engagements with the human rights commission of the Philippines, and the officers in charge of response, this project interrogates the data that the response authorities have used to manage environmentally driven migration in the country.

Specifically, drawing on the law itself and the interviews, this project uses a human rights-based approach (as used in Broberg & Sano, 2018) in analyzing the Philippine disaster and its theoretical underpinnings, based on the following: (1) the deployment of the concept of rights; (2) the incorporation of a corresponding obligation from a duty-bearer; (3) the focus on service delivery and capacity-building; (4) basing poverty-related work on discrimination and inequality; (5) activism and advocacy; and (6) the security of the rights.

Also, we focus on the role of the barangay—as lowest government unit and as clan-based or community-based institution included in the policy—as a site of service delivery by response authorities when it comes to planned relocation and in managing migration and displacement due to environmental change. We examine the barangay as appropriate and effective scale for collection and use of innovative data, metrics, and research.


  1. Bermudez, R., *Temprosa, T. & Gonzalez Benson, O. (2018). Displacement as disaster: Marawi IDPs in the Philippines. Forced Migration Review.

Responding with ‘climate refugees’ in the Philippines: Examining local practices done by social workers and community practitioners to address environmental displacement

Climate-induced or environmental displacement as a global issue is anticipated only to intensify over time in tandem with climate change; practitioners and policymakers are developing responses and interventions. Social Work as a profession has taken on that challenge: to “create social responses to a changing environment” is one of the Grand Challenges of Social Work. In response to that call, this project seeks to examine local practices and traditionality-based models of intervention that address environmental displacement, with the Philippines as site of study. A country of 7,641 islands in a geographically precarious location in southeast Asia, the Philippines contends with rising sea levels, typhoons, flooding and other environmental changes, and community practitioners and social workers are key actors on the ground. By examining the work of such actors, this study aims to help integrate global and local perspectives in social work practice, a critical task given the diversifying demographics in the US.

In order to examine local practices, this project partners with three different organizations in the Philippines. By establishing relationships with these organizations, this project will be able to conduct interviews, focus groups, and participant observations with local communities through a trusted partnership. This project will create two academic products. The first will be publications on the findings of the study and the second will be an active collaboration with the three organizations. These products will facilitate discussions about global and local perspectives, a social worker’s role in the ever-changing environmental climate, and the importance of global social work in academia and research.