'Wrong models used in Metro urban planning'

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 11 2012 11:15 PM | Updated as of Aug 12 2012 09:47 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Clamor for a permanent solution to address the worsening flood situation in Metro Manila again resonated following the recent severe flooding due to monsoon rains.

Because of the recent disaster, Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian of flood-hit Valenzuela posed this question on his Twitter account: Is it still safe to live in Metro Manila?

“Natatandaan ko noong tumama ang Ondoy, sabi ng weather forecasters 50 years bago maulit. Naghanda naman kami pero hindi natin inakala na ganoon kabilis. Wala pa ngang 4 years. Kung magiging regular na ganito, sabi ko, ‘Safe pa ba tumira sa Metro Manila?'” he told dzMM on Saturday.

Malabon Mayor Antolin Oreta III, meawhile, said Malabon is simply not equipped to handle the floods that ravaged thousands of homes in the city.

“Hindi talaga kakayanin. In fact, kung may dumating na isa pang bagyo, mamomroblema kami kung ano ba talaga ang gagawin,” said Oreta.

Metro Manila was ravaged by floods in 2009, caused by rains brought by tropical storm “Ondoy” and the monsoon.

Less than 3 years later, the same Metro Manila cities, including Marikina, Valenzuela and Malabon, were again hit by floods due to heavy downpour.

Director Raymund Liboro of the Department of Science and Technology said the amount of rainfall from August 6 to 8 surpassed the projected accumulated rainfall for the whole month of August.

The amount of rain dumped in 3 days set a record for accumulated amount of rainfall, according to Liboro.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said this kind of weather condition should be accepted as the "new normal" and advised the public to learn to adapt to climate change.

Adaptive architecture

But is preparing for floods enough to ensure the safety of the public?

For architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr., disaster prevention measures must also involve a comprehensive urban planning.

“We have to do something. Flooding and other disasters do not respect political boundaries and itong CAMANAVA, they are the biggest sufferers because they receive all the drainage from upstream,” he told dzMM on Saturday.

Palafox, who had submitted 83 urban planning recommendations to the previous administration, said the country must learn to adopt best practices implemented in other countries.

Palafox recommends that “adaptive architecture” or “adaptive engineering” be utilized in the construction of buildings in the cities.

He explained that this involves flood mapping and flood overlay zoning, wherein structures built in a recognized flood area should have a customized building code.

“Halimbawa, binaha ‘yung ground floor mo, hayaan mo na. Ibahin mo na ‘yung electrical system and no habitable rooms,” he said.

Palafox also recommended homes built on stilts for high flood-risk areas as well as interconnected elevated walkways, similar to the walkways built in canal-laden Venice, Italy.

Palafox said this will “make cities walkable” despite the floods.

Patriotic architecture

Palafox also noted that Metro Manila has been using the “wrong models” in its urban planning.

He said Metro Manila is a low-rise, sprawling community patterned after Los Angeles, California, when it should practice vertical urbanism similar to that of Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Palafox said he will again propose his ideas to the national government in light of the recent floods.

The world-renowned urban planner said he has been giving recommendations and suggestions to improve urban planning for free, something he’d like to refer to as “patriotic architecture.”

“I’ve been giving recommendations. I’ve done work in 37 countries, ‘yung 37 countries na ‘yan nakikinig sila sa akin and they pay us very well. Dito we are volunteering to save human lives and property,” he said.