Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, devastated the region in 2009.
Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, devastated the region in 2009.Veejay Villafranca
Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, devastated the region in 2009.
Philippine Army soldiers carry the body of a victim trapped by floodwaters in the eastern part of Metro Manila in September 2009.
Residents salvage what they can after a a strong mudflow caused by Typhoon Ketsana ravaged their town in September 2009.
Pollution is visible on the Pasig River following Typhoon Ketsana on Sept. 28, 2009.
Residents wait for relief packs in Taguig city as floodwaters inundate their access to the town center on Oct. 10, 2009.
The town of Botolan is covered in a cloak of pyroclastic dust on Jan. 15, 2010, in Zambales, Philippines.
Construction workers work on repairs for the damaged dike in Botolan River after torrential rains triggered heavy flooding in the area in January 2010.
Families that have been displaced for several months due to stagnant floodwaters seek temporary shelter in a rundown factory on Oct. 23, 2012 in Laguna, Philippines.
Damaged religious icons are displayed at one of the churches in Eastern Samar, Philippines on Dec. 9, 2013.
The coast of Tanauan in Leyte, Philippines, on Dec. 10, 2013 after Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, struck the area.
Dolls hanging outside a damaged maternity clinic in Palo in December 2013. DISPLACED EARTH/SIGNOS SERIES 2009 - 2015 Photograph by Veejay Villafranca
Children play in a damaged village in San Joaquin, Leyte on Dec. 10, 2013.a
An aerial view of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Eastern Samar, Philippines on Dec. 6, 2013.
Evacuees board a military plane offering free transport from affected areas on Dec. 7, 2013.
Children take a dip along the coast of Leyte on June 30, 2014.
A fisherman sets his net on April 24, 2014 in Tacloban City.
Protesters from different parts of Visayas cross the San Juanico Bridge on Nov. 7, 2014, to meet with other survivors of disasters converging to mark the first year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan.
A clock is stopped at the time floodwaters reached the first story of a home in Palo in Leyte, shown on Feb. 10, 2014.
Residents go about their morning routines at a temporary bunkhouse in Tacloban City on April 26, 2014.
A damaged religious icon in Leyte, Philippines on Nov. 8, 2014.
A religious procession in the town where Typhoon Haiyan made first landfall, Feb. 11, 2014.
A call for help is painted on pillars in San Joaquin, Feb. 15, 2014.
A man lights candles on a mass grave on top of a roundabaout in Leyte, Philippines on Feb. 15, 2014.
Commuters wait for public transport heading to Tacloban City, Feb. 16, 2014.
A child sifts through ruble in Tacloban City in February 2014.
Performers wear native attire after entertaining guests on Feb. 10, 2015.
A child takes shelter from the heat with a cardboard panel along the coast of Tanauan on Oct, 7, 2015.
Performers rehearse their performance for the arrival of Pope Francis on Jan. 15, 2015 in Leyte, Philippines.
Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in th

Veejay Villafranca
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Philippines: Ground Zero for Climate Disaster

Dec 08, 2015

How countries adapt to a world radically altered by climate change has been a key focus of international climate change negotiations being held in Paris this week. Extreme weather events connected to climate change promise to wreck devastation across the globe, from deadly heat waves in India and Pakistan to extreme tropical storms in the Pacific, and world leaders hope that an agreement in Paris will provide answers about what support they will receive for efforts to handle such weather events.

In few places is that question as relevant as in the Philippines. The Pacific island country, one of the nations most vulnerable to the weather effects of climate change, sits in a region with particularly harsh weather patterns and rapidly rising sea levels. And, with a GDP per capita of less than $2,500, its leaders lack the financial resources to implement technology that could protect the country.

Climate change doesn’t cause any individual storm, but research has suggested that it could make storms stronger and more frequent. For one, global warming leads seawater to evaporate more quickly. That water can in turn form the clouds that fuel storms. And, when that happens, the Philippines’ location in the Western Pacific Ocean leaves it in the path of many large storms.

Read More: Why ‘Once-In-A-Lifetime’ Flooding Keeps Happening

Eight or nine tropical storms make landfall in the Philippines in an average year. And in recent years those storms have been worse in their effects. Four of the country's 10 most catastrophic storms have occurred in the past decade, and sea levels in the Pacific Island country are expected to rise at a rate three times greater than the world average in coming decades.

The most devastating of those storms, Typhoon Haiyan, came in 2013. Sustained winds speed reached nearly 200 miles per hour, and the storm killed more than 6,000 people and displaced 650,000 others. A storm of that magnitude would damage any community unlucky enough to be in the storm's path. But the effects were particularly harmful to the Philippines due to development issues. The country, where less than a quarter of roads are paved, ranks 113th on a list of infrastructure quality produced by the World Economic Forum.

The numbers and figures alone are astounding, but nothing captures the country's vulnerability to climate change quite like images. Veejay Villafranca has spent the last six years in the Philippines photographing the impact of these extreme weather events.

"Documenting the aftermath seemed invaluable as it gets drowned by the headlines," said Villafranca. "I touched on different facets of their lives from adjusting to their new homes to coping with the daily grind and to dealing with loss and instability."

Officials from the country have been far from silent in recent years during international negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For one, the country has led a group of vulnerable nations in their efforts for a more aggressive slowing of temperature rise."We can fix this," said Philippines climate envoy Naderev "Yeb" Sano at a conference in 2013. "We can stop this madness. Right now, right here."

Negotiators failed to reach a meaningful agreement then, but as climate negotiations entered their second week in Paris, hopes are high again.

Read More: Climate Change Could Drive More Than 100 Million Into Poverty by 2030

Chelsea Matiash, who edited this photo essay, is a Multimedia Editor at TIME. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cmatiash.

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