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PALAFOX says his report must be heeded to avert what could be another huge and costly disaster should another natural calamity strikes Metro Manila.


Urban redevelopment for Metro Manila

By Charles E. Buban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:42:00 02/26/2010

Filed Under: Ondoy, Research & Development, Construction & Property

IF FELINO PALAFOX JR. HAS his way, Metro Manila and outlying provinces should be ?redesigned? immediately to lessen the impact of a future disaster whether it be a flood, storm, fire or earthquake.

The country?s leading urban planner and architect has made this proposal after the country experienced devastating flood last year while huge earthquake caused devastation across Haiti.

?We can?t wait for another tragedy. We have seen how an unprecedented volume of rainfall like what (storm) ?Ondoy? had brought could prove too much for Metro Manila?s river and drainage system. We have also seen what a massive earthquake could do to an unprepared city like Haiti. While there is nothing that we could do to control the destructive power of these natural phenomena, there are steps that we could take to limit the amount of damage,? says Felino Palafox Jr., founding and managing partner of Palafox Associates.

He explains that any place could certainly prepare for any type of disaster.

?It is not just because Ondoy dumped a record-setting volume of rainfall. Metro Manila failed to put up a number of infrastructure that could have lessen the impact of excessive amount of rainfall as well as failed to control communities from building on danger zones,? he says.


Palafox says that as early as 1977, there was already a warning when he submitted a report to then Ministry of Public Works and Highways that the prevailing relaxed control of urban development in Metro Manila would have adverse consequences.

He particularly warns that residential development should be restricted in the three major areas of Metro Manila?the Marikina Valley, the western shores of Laguna de Bay, and the Manila Bay coastal areas to the north of Manila.

?We warned that these areas are unsuitable for development?either because they are low-lying and liable to flooding, or because development is without adequate facilities for the treatment and disposal of sewage and so will continue to contribute to the severe pollution of areas, such as Laguna de Bay. Incidentally these were the areas hardest hit by the flooding brought about by Ondoy,? he recalls.

To prevent Ondoy flooding from ever happening again, Palafox reiterates what his report had suggested: Build a spillway in Paraaque City to drain excess water from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. Also, Pasig and Marikina Rivers must be desilted in order to handle huge volume of rainwater run-off.

Also, Palafox recommends designing houses that employ stilts that go above the flood lines, just like the Badjaos.

Early this year, Palafox submitted another report titled ?Urban Planning, Architecture, and Engineering to Address Hazards Toward Safer Cities, Towns and Communities.?

Aside from setting long-term goals, the paper also suggested steps that must be done immediately should an earthquake or a big fire occur.

?To make Metro Manila as well as other urban areas less vulnerable to disasters, it is necessary not only to make buildings safer, earthquake-resistant, flood-proof and fireproof, we also need to improve roads, create open spaces and parks that could prevent the spread of fire while at the same time provide a safe haven for evacuating residents should an earthquake happen,? he says.

Considering Metro Manila is teeming with urban poor communities, where wooden structures are built close together, Palafox says there is a need to undertake land readjustment projects for urban renewal in parallel with projects for the promotion of fire prevention, like establishing firebreaks or cleared areas of land intended to check the spread of fire.

?This could be a park or a rendezvous area where escaping residents could go to. Roads could also act as a firebreak aside from serving as an escape route. If these roads are already existing we need to check if they are wide enough to accommodate responding fire trucks or fleeing residents. Those houses that will be affected by the adjustment should be relocated,? Palafox explains.

Other recommendations in the report included the construction of catch basins under buildings that could collect rainwater not only for recycling purposes but also reserve water that could be used in case a fire broke out.

Fire drills

?Just like in most buildings here in Metro Manila, occupants are subjected to occasional fire drills. Why not do the same in select communities where fire is most likely to break out. Also, an emergency broadcasting system must be set up to enable TV and radio stations to receive warnings and information,? Palafox says.

He admits that the pressures for development in areas unsuitable for development exist and will continue to exist.

?But without action, high and unnecessary environmental, social and economic costs will be inevitable,? he stresses while hoping that his recent report will not again be archived and become another reference material when another big disaster hit the country.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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