The Philippines is argued as the only Southeast Asian country where informal settlers’ communities have been self-organized and produced discernible impacts on the country’s urban policies. As one of the high risk countries, fifty percent of the country’s informal settlements are located in danger and disaster-prone areas. However, informal settlement upgrading has not reached its significance in disaster mitigation and community resilience building. At the national level, on-site upgrading is not established in disaster risk management or climate change adaptation strategies, which explains the lack of strategic approaches for local implementation. Metro Manila serves as a suitable backdrop in this sense to study informal settlement upgrading under the condition of high risk and rapid urbanization with a high civil society engagement. This study investigates the underlined reasons why upgrading strategically falls short in addressing disaster mitigation and community resilience building. Theoretically, it questions what on-site upgrading is about. Empirically, two hazard-prone informal settlement communities within Metro Manila are examined with their different risk profiles, community development needs and resilience priorities. The core issues of upgrading are, therefore, differentiated at the settlement level with communities’ innate socio-economic and eco-spatial features over time. Meanwhile, the paper heightens the necessity of tackling on-site upgrading at the settlement level and articulating settlements’ spatial correlations with the city development, so as to sustain upgrading outcomes. In addition, this study attempts at setting up a range of scenarios conditioned with COVID pandemic fallout. It endeavors to provide another facet of how to deal with adaptation and resilience. This includes the urgent strategy shift in the housing sector and its financial sustainability, innovative mechanisms to manage uncertainty and risks, lessons for post-COVID planning, etc.
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