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Small-island communities in the Philippines prefer local measures to relocation in response to sea-level rise


Most adaptation studies suggest that sea-level rise will lead to relocation as flooding worsens. Here we identified and evaluated potential adaptation strategies for adapting to sea-level rise, based on the experiences of four low-lying island communities in central Philippines that have experienced flooding during normal high tides since a 2013 earthquake that induced land subsidence. Coastal surveys, interviews and household questionnaires showed that island residents generally prefer in situ adaptation strategies rather than relocation to the mainland. These results are unexpected, particularly because a relocation programme has been developed by authorities on the mainland. Direct measurements during a flooding event indicate stilted housing as the most effective type of adaptation strategy. Many households have also raised their floors using coral stones, although this might inadvertently increase their vulnerability to typhoons and storm surges in the long-term.

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Figure 1: Map of Danajon Bank (N 10° 0’, E 123° 56’).
Figure 2: Impact of a high-tide flooding event in June 2016.
Figure 3: Hard and soft measures against tidal flooding.


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The authors would like to thank The University of Tokyo, Graduate Program in Sustainability Science—Global Leadership Initiative for their generous research funding support. Most importantly, we would like to thank the Municipal Government of Tubigon, and the island communities of Batasan, Bilangbilangan, Pangapasan and Ubay for their full cooperation in this research.

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Authors and Affiliations



M.L.J. designed the study, gathered data in the field, and analysed results. M.O. provided academic support for the study, including guidance on how to analyse and present data. M.E. helped gather and analyse data, as well as polish the final text of this article. X.K.B.-S. and N.T. provided technical assistance during the field surveys and helped analyse results. A.N., H.T. and N.D.T. guided analysis of the data. V.P.V. helped gather data in the field and took drone footage of Ubay island.

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Correspondence to Ma. Laurice Jamero.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Laurice Jamero, M., Onuki, M., Esteban, M. et al. Small-island communities in the Philippines prefer local measures to relocation in response to sea-level rise. Nature Clim Change 7, 581–586 (2017).

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