Opdyke and Team Awarded Sydney Southeast Asia Centre Partnership Grant on Urban Informality in the Philippines

Salvaged materials on walls and roof of houses in informal settlement

Dr Aaron Opdyke, along with a cross-disciplinary team from the University of Sydney, Ateneo de Manila University, and Mindanao State University Marawi, was recently awarded a Partnership Grant from the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre to investigate the how informality is increasingly shaping post-disaster and post-conflict responses. The research team includes Associate Professor Paul Jones (Urban and Regional Planning, School of Architecture, Design, and Planning, The University of Sydney), Mr Benigno (Ninoy) Balgos (Development Studies, Department of Development Studies, School of Social Sciences, Ateneo de Manila University), Associate Professor Acram Latiph (Economics, Department of Economics, Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao, Mindanao State University, Marawi), and Professor Erlina Yape (Civil Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Mindanao State University, Marawi).

Research Summary

In 2017, the United Nations High Commission for the Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes. Ensuring that recovery in the aftermath of conflict and disasters is inclusive and equitable is vital to ensure lasting peace and sustainable development. Moreover, adequate shelter is considered an essential building block of reconstruction by restoring livelihoods, social networks, and sense of place. While informality has been explored with growing rigor in the development context, its scope and nature in conflict and disaster response has not received adequate attention. This research aims to understand the role of informality in post-conflict and post-disaster sheltering processes and its impact on long-term reconstruction planning efforts.

This research team will examine how shelter assistance, or the absence thereof, impact household needs, exploring household sheltering pathways for informal settler families (ISFs), relocated families in government-financed housing programs, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) hosted by family members with a focus on health, livelihood, education, and social impacts.

To unpack informality, two cases will be examined in the Philippines context: (1) reconstruction following the armed conflict in Marawi Citiy and (2) relocation of informal settlements to Bulacan in Metro Manila. Using these research sites, comparative case studies will be formed, drawing from a mixed-methods approach. Specifically, the research will examine the following: household livelihoods (sources of incomes), idiosyncratic economic shocks (i.e loss of livelihoods, sickness, or death in the family, and unplanned pregnancy), mechanisms to maintain and continuously improve their daily functions (i.e. being able to pay their amortization regularly), and institutional support (i.e. social protection, LGUs support, private institutions, and cooperatives). Furthermore, these household characteristics will be compared with typologies of shelter through rapid visual assessments of dwellings, classifying features such as covered living space, structural safety, and material quality.

To unpack the role of informality in resilience of the selected communities, findings will focus on the link between informality and resilience, seeking to contrast formal interventions with organic patterns of sheltering to better understand underlying processes that create risk.


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