After covering the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, GroundTruth’s Aurora Almendral investigates how typhoons – which are getting stronger and more frequent due to climate change – drive waves of human trafficking in the Philippines. This episode is a co-production with KCRW’s UnFictional.

A scene from Fields Avenue, the red light district in Angeles City, notorious for its sex tourism. In the wake of typhoons, women and girls wind up in the sex trade after being displaced by storms. (Photo by Hannah Reyes Morales)

A scene from Fields Avenue, the red light district in Angeles City, notorious for its sex tourism. In the wake of typhoons, women and girls wind up in the sex trade after being displaced by storms. (Photo by Hannah Reyes Morales)


Behind the Science

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands hugging the Pacific Ocean. An average of 20 typhoons form over the ocean and pummel the Philippines each year. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations organization monitoring climate change and its impacts, noted that “a changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events.”

 

While we can’t say that a specific typhoon, hurricane or drought happened because of climate change, we are finding that human-influenced climate change creates the conditions that make weather events like these more severe – like increased moisture and warmer seas that make typhoons more powerful. Rising seas increase the devastation brought by typhoons – the worst destruction of Typhoon Haiyan was wrought by storm surges up to 17 feet high, and in the Philippines, the seas are estimated to be rising at five times higher than the global average

 

International organizations have recognized the link between disasters and human trafficking since at least 2006, and the track towards worsening storms is expected to amplify the negative effects of disasters on women.

 

Filipina sex worker Jojo and her husband dote on their baby in their home in Angeles City, notorious for its red light district. In the wake of storms many women from climate change vulnerable areas move to Angeles City to enter the sex trade after having been displaced. (Hannah Reyes Morales/GroundTruth)

Filipina sex worker Jojo and her husband dote on their baby in their home in Angeles City. (Hannah Reyes Morales/GroundTruth)


Credits

  • Managing producer: Rachel Rohr
  • Consulting editor: Nathan Tobey
  • Health & environment editor: Marissa Miley
  • Sound designer: Robert Andersson
  • Voiceover: Penelope Mendoza
  • Executive editors: Charles Sennott (GroundTruth) and Bob Carlson (UnFictional)

Special thanks to Tom Devlin, Phil Redo and Bob Kempf at WGBH, and Paul Ruest at Argot Studios.

Aurora Almendral is a Philippines-based journalist and GroundTruth reporting fellow. (Hannah Reyes Morales/GroundTruth)

Aurora Almendral is a Philippines-based journalist and GroundTruth reporting fellow. (Hannah Reyes Morales/GroundTruth)

More from this Project
  • It takes a compelling story to get me to write about it. Great job to Aurora Almendral.
    Having said that, I kept expecting her to ask/answer some basic questions: Doesn’t Norman work? In general, how are men contributing to rebuilding the lives of their families? Is prostitution legal in the Philippines? Why aren’t Johns being prosecuted? What is the Anti-Sex Trafficking leader, interviewed early in the story, doing to stop the problem? Doesn’t the Filipino government care that they are a sex tourism hotspot (at the least because other illegal activities accompany prostitution)? The report described families who owned farm land and businesses losing everything in the typhoon. Do people not have access to insurance for their property in the Philippines?
    Hoping for a follow up!

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