Mending new communities after involuntary resettlement in the Philippines and Indonesia

M. Quetulio-Navarra

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Displacement of poor families contribute to the worsening of their poverty situation yet involuntary resettlement still takes place. According to the latest Report of the Indonesian Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction, more than 12,000 people were reportedly evicted in August 2008 to give way to the “green space” land reclamation projects (COHRE 2008). In the Philippines, 59,462 households were relocated in the period 2001 – 2006 (HUDCC 2008) because of various infrastructure projects. Though more recent data are lacking, there is no evidence that the pace of displacement is slowing down.

The Impoverishment, Risks and Reconstruction (IRR) model of Cernea (2000) identifies nine interlinked potential risks inherent to displacement: landlessness, joblessness, home­lessness, marginalization, food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality, loss of access to common property, social disarticulation and educational loss. Out of the nine risks, social disarticulation or the loss of social capital in a resettlement site is the most complicated, because different factors are involved and because of its impact on vulnerability to the other risks. Social capital building or transplanting in an entirely different or new environment such as resettlement sites has remained an elusive topic in the research arena. This study tries to fill the void by addressing the following research problem:  How does social capital grow across time in an involuntary resettlement setting and what is the role of the context and its elements in shaping this growth?

The study used a comparative approach and a longitudinal perspective. Applying a longitudinal perspective aimed at capturing the process of social capital building through time. It entailed  a framework that wove the factors involved in the process – as hypo­thesised on the basis of social capital and resettlement theories – into a timeline that comprised four periods. These four periods included before resettlement, the first year in the site after resettlement, the following years in the site, and the year of the field study (2011 in the first study area and 2012 in the second). The influence of social capital development in each period on the following period was investigated.

Using a comparative perspective, two resettlement communities in Southeast Asia were chosen for this study. The first study site  was in the Philippines and concerned an urban resettlement community named ‘Kasiglahan Village 1’ (KV1), situated in Barangay San Jose, Rodriguez, Rizal Province. The second study site, a rural resettlement community named ‘Bantarpanjang Translok’ (BT), was in Indonesia and located in Bantarpanjang, Cimanggu, Cilacap in Central Java Province, Both are government-managed resettlement communities. Moreover, the resettled households in both countries had incomes that were below the minimum standard of living, and the ages of the communities were sufficiently similar – the Philippine site was 12 years old, and the Indonesian site was 11 years in existence at the time of fieldwork. The age of the resettlement site is crucial for the longitudinal perspective utilized for this research. Although comparable in important aspects, the two locations differ in terms of their cultural traditions, physical location, institutional context, national resettlement policies, religion, ethnicity, and demographic and socio-economic profile. This allowed for a contextual analysis on the way in which social capital evolves.

Data for this study were gathered by combining qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative methods, such as in-depth interviews, exploratory interviews, observation, focus group discussions and life histories, were blended with quantitative methods. The latter included a household survey that used a tailored calendar tool to enhance the validity and reliability of the retrospective data. Social network analysis was conducted as well.

The results of the analysis of the state of the communities before involuntary resettlement and a year later conveyed the following. Overall, involuntary resettlement in both setting did not significantly harm the households’ structural and cognitive social capital. After a year, the households in both settings were able to create and somehow duplicate the levels of trust and reciprocity they had in their previous communities. Moreover, the data suggest that the civic engagement history of the households is only influential in social capital building within a new community when the households share cultural traditions and social practices that are regularly observed. In the absence of such cultural traditions social practices, it is institutional interventions that will stimulate social capital formation.

When looking at social capital creation across time in the two locations, the forging of ties among the household grows every year. There are three perspectives that can explain such a process. These are represented by variables relating to (i) individual and household attributes, (ii) the institutional context, and (iii) social capital history. On developing weak and strong ties, both cases demonstrate growth spurts during the year when there was an influx of resettlers and basic services and public places had been put in place. Moreover, after a period of upsurge, social capital attains a level of steady growth.  Social capital growth can be seen as intertwined with the stabilisation of the resettlement sites in terms of physical infrastructure and social services as well as the achievement of a sense of “getting settled”.

The study provides rich insights on the effects of resettlement programs and social capital on whether households in an involuntary resettlement context ‘get by’ or manage to ‘get ahead’ and improve their situation. The outcomes differ according to resettlement policies, culture, location, and phase of resettlement (first year and last year).  In addition, all forms of structural social capital turned out meaningful for getting by and getting ahead, although some types of ties would feature more prominently than others. In the Philippines case, the number of support ties played a prominent role in the economic and physical well-being of the households, while in the Indonesian case it is the number of close individuals and number of government ties that mattered most. Overall, ‘soft’ resettlement inputs were found indispensable in both locations for the households’ capacity to get by and get ahead. Government meetings and membership of civic organizations contributed positively to household food security (last year) and social well-being (both years) of the Philippine resettlers. For the Indonesians, these contributed to their household income (first year) and social well-being in both periods. Community organisation should therefore be an integral part of resettlement projects. 

Social network analysis was conducted on the networks of households in Indonesia and those of community leaders in the Philippines. In Indonesia and the Philippines, social network analysis revealed that after a certain period in a new community and living among other involuntarily resettled strangers, households eventually establish inter­connections among them. Gender proved to be a factor not only in shaping social networks but also in reinforcing certain advantages of some of the features of the social networks in a resettlement site. Gender differences emerged in both settings, the female advantage in forming friendships being one of them. In both cases, women (housewives in Indo­nesia and leaders in the Philippines) have a bigger proportion of friends in their network than men, indicating that they are better at nurturing connections that develop into friendship.  The analysis also shows how the emerging community as a whole can benefit from the friendship networks of women. The default assignment of authority to men in the community and the wives supporting this gender construction, can account for the male-dominated brokerage roles and men being the influential actors in the Indonesian site. Contrastingly, in the Philippine location women leaders mono­polize the brokerage role and are influential actors. Compared to male leaders, Filipino women leaders in the community have better interpersonal skills, are more empowered and are more active in civic organisations and activities. They bring more projects and activities to their members and connect better to the authorities than their male counterparts.

This study provides strong evidence on a number of issues. First, the mending of new social communities by social capital building takes place right after the resettlement and amidst a worsening poverty situation in the new location. Second, civic engagement history can only significantly enhance social capital building in a site when it is shared by almost the entire community. Third, social capital history can be created by the new inhabitants of a resettlement site even in a short period of time. And fourth, the results of applying the institutional perspective underscore the importance of the creation of policies and projects that target the community’s physical development and its social organisation. Overall, the process of social capital growth seems to be largely beyond the control of the individual resettlers. It is shaped by the context and its con­stituting elements, rather than by the characteristics of the individuals and households concerned.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Niehof, Anke, Promotor
  • van der Horst, Hilje, Co-promotor
  • van der Vaart, Wander, Co-promotor
Award date17 Sept 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789462570696
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2014


  • resettlement
  • migration
  • communities
  • social capital
  • social network analysis
  • low income groups
  • households
  • philippines
  • indonesia


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