Planning and awareness are key to disaster management, experts agree

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“WE CAN also learn a lot from Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon,” UST architecture professor Rizalito Mercado says. “Its elevated expressway was torn down to revive the stream underneath.”

The recent heavy monsoon rains were a déjà vu to many Filipinos, bringing back memories of the “Ondoy” flooding in 2009.

History repeats itself as flash floods causing unprecedented damage to lives and properties are expected to recur.

In light of these fears, Sen. Loren Legarda, as well as University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture professors Rizalito Mercado, Enrique Sta. Maria and Manolo Noche,  agree that proper planning and education are necessary to stem the damage of heavy monsoon rains, bad weather, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said people should expect heavy monsoon rains to be the norm in the years to come.

“This is climate change,” she said. “And while we experience weather disturbances that bring stronger winds and heavier rains, we have to strengthen our efforts in preparing our communities.”

“We need to recover and rebuild our lives with this in mind,” Legarda explained. “We need to build back better, by further reducing people’s vulnerability, by further building our resilience to floods.”

She added that more and more countries were also suffering floods of unprecedented magnitude such as Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh.

“The Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, which have been cited as ‘the best laws in the world’ by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Ms Margareta Wahlstrom, must be complemented by effective implementation from the executive,” the senator said.

Arbitrary zoning

On the planning aspect, Mercado lamented that the flooding problem was compounded by haphazard enforcement of  zoning regulations. He cited the uncontrolled construction of high-rise buildings in Metro Manila.

“Zoning is adjusted based on market conditions with disregard of how these high-rise developments can affect the community,” he said. “Add that to the antiquated and overburdened drainage system, you have the perfect formula for more floods to an already flood-prone area.”

Sta. Maria, who’s also an in-house architect of the Pontifical University, said the clogged estuaries were a major cause of flooding.

“The informal settlers living near the esteros (estuaries)  discriminately dispose their trash there,” he said. “These people should be relocated away from these bodies of water, and be given information on the effects of their actions.”

Planning solutions

To prevent further casualties, Noche suggested rezoning the city by highlighting danger zones. There was also need for “re-greening.”

“Too much love for concrete results in water going nowhere,” he said.

He urged developers to  build up as opposed to horizontal development to conserve open spaces and help create a green buffer zone or parkway around the city.

SEN. LOREN Legarda says city planning should consider the impact of climate change.

“This would force developments to go vertical and leave a peripheral green field around the metropolis,” he said.

Noche and Mercado suggested that the Philippines should look at other countries for models of successful urban planning.

“Government should address issues of mass transportation by converting wide concrete roads into green strips and parks, just like Boston’s big dig, which resulted in freeways being relocated underground.” Noche said.

“The former expressways were converted into parks which increased the real estate valuation of property within the area and increased the quality of life.”

“We can also learn a lot from Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon,” Mercado said. “Its elevated expressway was torn down to revive the stream underneath.”

“The area is now laden with parks that weave all people to the urban fabric,” added Mercado, who explained that the renovation was undertaken when Myung-Bak Lee was Seoul mayor.

Lee is now president of South Korea.

“He risked everything and Seoul is now reaping the rewards of his political will,” said Mercado. “The person who is influential enough to put a halt on a flyover will surely make a good president.”

Sta. Maria said UST had also been doing its job in mitigating the damages of the flood, since the university was located in the Sampaloc district of Manila which was especially flood-prone.

“Aside from proper waste segregation and banning of polyestrene, we have also been relocating offices to the second floor to minimize the damage of floods,” Sta. Maria said. “As of now, the university is already trying to come up with a long-term solution to address the flood that plagues the campus.”

Education

The three UST professors said young Filipinos aspiring for careers in architecture and urban planning should be taught how to create environmentally responsive designs, as well as design principles on how to lessen the effects of disasters.

“Nature is not the problem, it is man,” said Noche. “As long as we do not respect the environment, climate, landscape, ecology, topography, hydrography and geography, these will eventually catch up with man’s abusive nature and ways.”

Mercado said students should be encouraged and trained to make designs with disaster mitigation and climate change as primary design considerations.

“Architecture goes beyond nice facades and aesthetics,” he said. “Safety aspects are paramount to every design.”

Mercado added that architecture should synergize with other disciplines such as landscape architecture, natural science, planning and environmental management—all geared toward sustainable development and climate change adaptation.

Sta. Maria said that when designing buildings students should consider how they would affect the surroundings.

“Students should be molded to design buildings and evaluate what their effects will be on the community,” he said. “They must learn to look at the bigger picture.”

 

Political will

Mercado said the government should have the political will to enforce zoning regulations and to bring down all the wrong infrastructure created in the past years that merely compounded disasters, such as flyovers.

“The lessons of ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Sendong’ should permeate all the stakeholders,” said Mercado. “Investors will be wary of putting their money in the Philippines because it will only be lost to disasters.”

Legarda urged public and private collaboration in disaster management.

“All sectors must work together,” she said. “The government must seriously look into improving the flood prevention and mitigation measures in the National Capital Region.

“The private sector, on the other hand, must strengthen their business continuity plans, especially for hospitals and other lifelines, which are vital for post-disaster activities.”

She urged people to heed disaster warnings and cooperate with the government when they would be asked to evacuate.

“The best choice we have is to make our nation disaster-resilient to free us, once and for all, from the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities every single time nature unleashes its wrath,” Legarda said.

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  • bantaybulee

    “This is climate change,” she said. “And while we experience weather disturbances that bring stronger winds and heavier rains, we have to strengthen our efforts in preparing our communities.”
    “We need to recover and rebuild our lives with this in mind,” Legarda explained. “We need to build back better, by further reducing people’s vulnerability, by further building our resilience to floods.”
    Wow, very wise words from our Senator Loren Legarda. This is true, that we need to keep in mind that the climate is changing. 

  • kuneherzzz

    It’s good that we caught this as early as now, because it’s never too late to adjust to climate change, nor is it too late to restore it. We can have a significant impact on the future of climate change and the effects it has. Just with the right movement from our government, communities, businesses, as well as the citizens, we have significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses we put out hence reducing the risk of greater global warming. However, to be able to do that, Loren Legarda said it best: “The Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, which have been cited as ‘the best laws in the world’ by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Ms Margareta Wahlstrom, must be complemented by effective implementation from the executive,” the senator said.

  • rollerboyz

    Did you know that in just 30 years, the climate-related disasters in the world has quadrupled? And if we don’t address the issue on climate change, we can see that these disasters will only get worse, and a lot more frequent. So it is best for us to continue to work for a model for the country to promote climate change reduction and management, as well as disaster risk management. And we probably have Loren Legarda to thank for that, for she has provided the laws necessary to counter-act against climate change. 

  • beeensprawt

    Sakin, my main concern always about Climate Change is the FOOD. I know it might seem a bit off topic, but believe me, these two things are directly related to one another. If the weather is really bad, it is impossible for famers to plant food crops well. So a large percentage of our food will decrease in supply, thus increasing the demand, and the price. That will create a difficult situation, most especially in our country, since we are still a developing country with so many who are hungry on the streets… We need to pay more attention to this particular issue, and im glad we have someone like Loren Legarda suppoting our causes. 

  • TON_SING_WAH

    (household,commercial waste )waste disposal and proper drainage system design based on actual..plus allowable percentage.for the next 50 yrs.but..they should also consider where to redirect dams overflow..,controlled cloud seeding…and avoid targeting the billion peso budget for calamity fund(^-^)..there were lots of issues to be consider here..dpwh and the central planning ..BIG JOB…

  • CyberPinoy

    All said but where is the action. Upto now we are still at a mercy of floods. Matitigas ulo ng mga local government officials at mga residente kaya kailangan na yan ng kamay na bakal para ma-implement. Sawa na kami sa puro sat-sat wala naman action.

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