Back to WebsiteNewsletter PreviewSign Up
This week our top story explores how climate change is impacting two very different areas of the Philippines: a remote southeastern island and the outskirts of the capital city. We also have an interview with Erika Fatland, the author of “High: A Journey Across the Himalaya,” about her observations on the region and its stunning cultural diversity.
The Diplomat Brief
October 18,
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores how climate change is impacting two very different areas of the Philippines: a remote southeastern island and the outskirts of the capital city. We also have an interview with Erika Fatland, the author of “High: A Journey Across the Himalaya,” about her observations on the region and its stunning cultural diversity.
Story of the week
[object Object]


From Siargao to Malabon: Filipino Coastal Communities on the Frontlines of Climate Change

What Happened: In 2021, supertyphoon Odette made landfall on Siargao, an island in the southeastern Philippines. Two years later, seaside communities are struggling to rebuild – and wondering if it’s worth the effort, given the impact of other typhoons since then. Far away, in Metro Manila, 2009’s Typhoon Ondoy has also left a lasting impact. It caused considerable water level rise in Malabon, trapping residents and forcing them to change their lives forever. In both places, people are well aware of the risks to their homes and livelihoods, but have few options other than to stay and attempt to weather the storm.

Our Focus: “The Philippines faces a barrage of typhoons annually (on average 20) and has experienced 14 super typhoons in the last decade alone, causing an estimated $10 billion dollars in damage,” writes Nichloas Muller for The Diplomat. Typhoons are growing stronger and more frequent as sea temperatures climb, and rising sea levels mean flooding is worse than ever. As a result, the communities most at risk from these typhoons are struggling to keep their heads above water – sometimes literally. “Some rebuilt quickly, others left, and others still struggle to pick up the pieces even two years later,” one Siargao resident said of the post-Odette recovery.

What Comes Next: “For vulnerable Filipinos in coastal communities across the country, both in urban centers and on remote islands, millions are living just one storm away from catastrophe with few viable alternatives,” Muller writes. Each storm leaves locals with fewer options for surviving the next one: homes are still damaged and evacuation centers have been destroyed. With little government support for rebuilding or evacuation, locals are fighting to hold on to their lands and their way of life.“We have to stay here, this is our place,” one told The Diplomat.

Read this story
Behind the News


Erika Fatland

Erika Fatland, author of “High: A Journey Across the Himalaya, Through Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and China,” on the enforced isolation of the Himalayas: “It’s much more complicated to travel in the Himalayan region than in Eastern Europe. The red tape can be a nightmare and in quite a few places you are required to travel with a guide, like in Tibet, Upper Mustang (in Nepal), and Arunachal Pradesh.”

Read the interview
This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

3rd Belt and Road Forum Opens in China

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted the third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on October 17 and 18. The forum is both a follow-up on the 2017 and 2019 editions, as well as a celebration of the Belt and Road Initiative’s 10-year anniversary. The BRF has brought dozens of world leaders to China – headlined by Russian President Vladimir Putin – but amid the Israel-Gaza crisis in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine, and a general souring of China’s global image, the headcount looks to be smaller than the 2019 BRF.

Find out more

South Asia

Nawaz Sharif’s Return to Pakistan

Three-time former Prime Minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will be returning to Pakistan in October. Sharif was found guilty of corruption after the Panama Papers scandal in 2018, but allowed into de facto exile in London. Now he’s heading back home, sparking speculation that Sharif and his PML-N have cut a deal with the establishment as Pakistan gears up for general elections.

Find out more

Southeast Asia

Indonesian Court Ruling Opens Path for Jokowi’s Son

This week, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court made a ruling that could have a significant impact on next year’s presidential election. Ruling on a petition that the country’s 40-year age minimum for presidential and vice presidential candidates is discriminatory, the court kept the requirement in place – but also carved out an exception for those who have held positions as regional leaders. The ruling has opened the way for President Joko Widodo’s son Gibran Rakabuming Raka, currently the mayor of Surakarta, to run in the February 14 election. While the 36-year-old has not yet expressed any interest in running, backers of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto are pushing for him to become Prabowo’s running mate. Coming after the president’s second son’s recent entry into politics, the ruling has prompted fresh discussions about the continuing power of political dynasties in Indonesian politics.

Find out more

Central Asia

A Faltering Post-Soviet Commonwealth

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was built in the ashes of the Soviet Union. At one point, as many as 12 post-Soviet states – out of 15 – participated in the grouping in some fashion. But Georgia left in 2009, Ukraine ceased collaboration in 2018, Moldova announced its intention to leave in 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Armenia seems to be on its way out too. That leaves the states of Central Asia in a club with Russia with diminished meaning and diminished returns, as their recent summit in Bishkek demonstrated.

Find out more


No Voice for Australia’s Indigenous Peoples

In a rare referendum vote in Australia, the country rejected a proposal that would have altered “the Constitution to recognize the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.” The campaign against the Voice rested on the slogan “if you don’t know, vote no” – an embrace of ignorance in lieu of any effort to become informed about why the issue mattered. Once again, Australia has failed the country’s Indigenous peoples, shirking a responsibility to care about the native population in pursuit of myopic, short-term political goals.

Find out more
Visualizing APAC

The overland railways linking China to Europe – the transit corridors at the center of the Belt and Road – all pass through Russian territory, where sanctions loom large.

See the full picture
Word of the Week



Yīdài yīlù, the Mandarin name for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, literally meaning “One Belt and One Road” (a phrase that was previously used in English as well before being discarded in favor of the BRI nomenclature).

Find out more
Critical Minerals and the New Cold War

The Diplomat Magazine | November 2023

Critical Minerals
and the New Cold War

This month, our cover story explains why critical minerals became a crucial aspect of national security – and how the U.S. and China are maneuvering for advantage in the sector. We also outline Taliban-ruled Afghanistan’s relationships in Central Asia, scrutinize Japan’s climate change policies, and take a close look at the root causes and long-term implications of the horrific violence in Manipur. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

Read the Magazine

Diplomat Risk Intelligence

Research Notes

Published by Diplomat Risk Intelligence, Research Notes* offer actionable insight to strategic decision-makers seeking to understand political risk and economic trends in Asia.

*Separate subscription required

The TUTIT Corridor: Turkey and China Bid to Retain East-West Trade Preeminence
Post-consumerist sentiment and lying flat in China
Indonesian Energy Policy at a Crossroads
China’s Real Estate Crisis Might Be the First Domino in an Economic Disaster
View all Research Notes
Diplomat Risk Intelligence