ROTTERDAM – Floating communities may be the answer to the frequent flooding in the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila. It's a technique that the Netherlands has mastered and may soon be implemented in the Philippines.
At a recent trip to the Netherlands as key speaker at the Deltas in Times of Climate Change Conference held in Rotterdam, Senator Cynthia Villar met with water management experts and companies for a collaboration on starting a floating housing project in Manila.
Involved in the project are private Dutch companies Flexbase, Arcadis, Delta Sync and the Rotterdam University together with Villar’s Vista Land Corporation and Sipag Foundation and the University of the Philippines. An expected grant from the Dutch government is set to kick off the project.
The project aims to alleviate the vulnerability of poor communities in low-lying parts of Metro Manila. The low-cost floating housing project will be introduced in Muntinlupa.
"We will build a sample of floating houses in the Philippines, if we can build it at the cost we wanted which is approximately P500,000 per house. This is some sort of pilot project of 40 houses. If we are successful, they will bring in Dutch technology and if we are successful, it can be replicated in other places in the Philippines," said Villar.
During her speech before hundreds of attendees from different countries, Villar enumerated the effects of flooding and climate change in the country, particularly in the food and agriculture sector. According to Villar, Typhoon Yolanda caused at least two billion dollars in damages in the agriculture sector resulting in the country’s failure to be rice sufficient.
In Metro Manila alone, the damage brought by flooding is approximately $160 million every year with at least 71,000 houses totally damaged annually.
SUSTAINABLE FLOATING HOUSING
Rick Heikoop, water management professor at the Rotterdam University, is one of the proponents of the project together with Rutger de Graaf, Managing Director of Delta Sync, a company specializing in floating urbanization and flood proof urban development.
Heikoop studied urban planning for 4 years in the University of the Philippines and is familiar with the problems in the country.
Following the tradition of living with water in the Netherlands, which lies below sea level, Heikoop believes that some techniques used here can also be used in the Philippines and other delta cities. However, their focus is on urban poor communities who are most susceptible during typhoons and flooding because they are usually the ones who lose everything every time disasters occur.
"I have seen a lot of floating housing projects in the Netherlands and I thought maybe we could also make this technique available for urban poor communities in the Philippines because Manila is experiencing a lot of flooding in the last decade so we think we can use this floating housing project to reduce the vulnerability of the urban poor communities. Luckily, there was a subsidy from the Dutch government so they will partly finance the project,” said Heikoop in an interview with ABS-CBN.
In addition to the floating houses, livelihood facilities would also be built around the floating community which will be facilitated by the Villar Sipag Foundation.
To make the project sustainable, Heikoop said they will be renting out the pilot houses at an affordable price of P2,500 monthly for participating families. Once people are familiar with the concept of floating houses, they hope that it will be an alternative choice for house buyers in the future.
COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE
At the Deltas in Times of Climate Change Conference, experts and participants agreed that the effects of climate change in delta cities like Metro Manila cannot be ignored anymore. Being the leading expert in water management technology, the Netherlands is sharing its knowledge to other delta cities to help them combat the effects of climate change.
The Delta Approach is a combination of different strategies that the Netherlands implements to keep the country safe from flooding. The Delta Approach integrates sustainability, institutional, physical and social-economic aspects in its fight to keep afloat in the face of climate change.
During her presentation, former Environment Minister and now Delta Alliance Chairman Tinieke Huizinga said it is important for urban deltas to work together especially in these crucial times, and the knowledge of the Netherlands can also be applied to other countries.
“This Delta Approach is available for other countries so Delta Alliance for example is an organization that will make this Delta Approach also available for the Philippines if they are interested in it. And I think it is very important that what we found out in the Netherlands, that we share it with other deltas. Of course, not everything is the same in the Philippines as it is in the Netherlands but there are a few things that are the same and the Philippines can benefit from what we learned in the Netherlands and also maybe the Philippines can also teach the Netherlands some things," said Huizinga.
Huizinga emphasized that long-term solutions are what countries should strive for to address these problems.
Citing the case of the Philippines, Villar said there are many measures that might be too expensive to implement in the Philippines. However, she said that they are pushing for affordable solutions like more protection of mangrove forests, particularly in Metro Manila.
Villar said the 37 hectares of mangroves around the Las Pinas-Paranaque area protects these cities from typhoon surge. Aside from being natural typhoon barriers and a source of livelihood for fishermen, Villar said that mangrove forests can also be a tourist destination for people living in the city who are longing to spend their weekends with nature.
Meanwhile, Pasig City Mayor Maribel Eusebio, also present at the conference, said prevention and learning from previous disasters are what helped them protect their city from the recent flooding and typhoons.
"It took us five years before we saw the effects of our preventive measures. After Ondoy, we implemented different engineering works, built revetment walls, rehabilitated almost a hundred thousand linear meters of drainage system and trained our residents how to be prepared or evacuate during times of calamities and educated them on how to take care of the environment. Because of these a big part of Pasig City has been safe from the recent flooding in Metro Manila," said Eusebio.
Section Main Story,Focus,Metro Manila,Flooding,climate change,Dutch,global filipino,floating homes