Amplifying Risks and Attenuating Resilience: The Middle-class Perception of Urbanization, Disasters, and Climate Change in Metro Manila

Authors: Ven Paolo Bruno Valenzuela*, Graduate Program in Sustainability Science Global Leadership Initiative, The University of Tokyo, Miguel Esteban, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Waseda University, Motoharu Onuki, Graduate Program in Sustainability Science Global Leadership Initiative, The University of Tokyo
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Hazards and Vulnerability, Asia
Keywords: middle-class, perception, disaster risk reduction, climate change, urbanization
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The United Nations estimate that by 2030, half of the world’s population would be comprised of the middle-class, who mostly live in the increasing number of megacities around the world. Southeast Asian megacities, such as Metropolitan Manila, have long been troubled by rapid urbanization, increasing disaster risk, and the looming impacts of climate change.

As a response, there is a growing focus on disaster and climate resilient policies in megacities, most of which have only centered on how future disasters and climate uncertainty would impact vulnerable communities. This resulted in policies, often crafted by elites, that cater towards unjust relocation of the poor to combat disasters and climate change. However, the elite and poor are class dichotomies. If global middle-class trends are to be followed, what is their role in disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and urbanization?

This exploratory study attempts to elucidate how the middle-class views disasters, climate change, and urbanization in Metro Manila, the Philippines. Using an online questionnaire survey of 425 middle-class respondents, the study shows that middle-class perception of risk potentially amplifies vulnerability and attenuates the resilience of the poor. First, middle-class hazard knowledge is high but their capacity to act is low, especially compared to vulnerable communities. Second, disaster and climate risk are framed by the middle-class as an environmental issue first, then by a lack of defenses, and lastly, a governance issue. Finally, the middle-class supports relocation of the poor away from the megacity, using disasters and population density as justification for eviction.

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