Collective Action and Adaptive Capacity of Communities During Disasters: The Case of Oil Spill in Guimaras, Philippines

Andrew Eusebio S Tan, Juan M Pulhin
Vol 15 No 1 (2012), pp. 6-16




Under conditions of limited time, resources, and attention, appraisal of responses to threats of industrial pollution presents formidable challenges for governance and disaster preparedness. A community’s social dynamics could very well explain how the responses to such perturbations are made and what inherent traits of the household/community make them adaptive to disasters. Using both qualitative and quantitative approaches in research, this study looked at the collective action and adaptive capacity of communities affected by an oil spill. Questionnaire was fi elded out to elicit data on communities’ quantitative level of adaptive capacity and focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, observations, and narrative analysis were employed for qualitative data.

The oil spill experience reveals three forms of collectivity: actions through formal organizations, informal organizations and spontaneous actions -- all anchored on residents’ varying motives, and intentions. Collective action when harnessed by personal agency results into desired trajectories thus strengthening communities’ adaptive capacity.

A household adaptive capacity index (HACI) consisting of demographic structure, economic well-being, interconnectivity to higher level processes, and dependence on a resource-- as indicator of measuring adaptive capacity was devised and employed in selected communities affected by oil spill in Guimaras, Philippines. Ten percent or 88 households were randomly selected as survey respondents. In the outcome, the communities were fairly adaptable (with HACI of 55.43) to the perturbations. It was concluded that a strong social capital, high economic well-being, and less dependence on a single resource for livelihood made the household highly adaptable to environmental stresses.


Keywords: collective action; adaptive capacity; oil spill; Guimaras, Philippines

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