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When Mary Ann San Jose moved to Sitio Pariahan more than two decades ago, she could walk to the local chapel. Today, reaching it requires a swim.
The main culprit is catastrophic subsidence caused by groundwater being pumped out from below, often via unregulated wells for homes, factories, and farms catering to a booming population and growing economy.
Sinking - Towns - Islets - Pariahan - Philippines
The steady sinking of coastal towns and islets like Pariahan in the northern Philippines has caused Manila Bay's brackish water to pour inland and displace thousands, posing a greater threat than rising sea levels due to climate change.
"It was so beautiful here before... Children were playing in the streets," San Jose said, adding: "Now we always need to use a boat."
Residents - Parts - Region - Handful - Families
Most of the former residents have scattered to other parts of the region. Just a handful of families remain in Pariahan, which had its own elementary school, a basketball court and a chapel before the water flowed in.
These days just the flooded chapel, a cluster of shacks on bamboo stilts where San Jose lives with her family, and a few homes on a bump of land remain.
Children - Minutes - Boat - School - Inland
The children that live there commute 20 minutes by boat to a school inland and most of the residents eke out a living by fishing.
The provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan—where Pariahan is located—have sunk between four and six centimetres (1.5-2.4 inches) annually since 2003, according to satellite monitoring.
Disaster - Disaster - Narod - Eco - Part
"It's really a disaster that is already happening... It's a slow-onset disaster," explained Narod Eco, who is part of a group of scientists tracking the problem.
By comparison, the UN estimates average sea level rise globally is about three millimetres per year.
Bay - Waters - People - Property - Risk
The creeping bay waters put people and property at risk, while the threat is amplified by high-tides and flooding brought by the roughly 20 storms that pound the archipelago every year.
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