Green vs greed


The creation of a “Reconstruction Commission” to assess the damage caused by




as well as solicit funds for rehabilitation efforts is a smart and timely move by PGMA. I talked with PLDT chair Manny Pangilinan – who had been chosen to head this new body – but I was not sure whether to congratulate or condole with him since the task is obviously enormous. Manny just laughed and agreed the task ahead is indeed a big challenge for him personally.

MVP is probably the only one who has the credibility to solicit the huge funds necessary for this gargantuan task. Our friends from the international community are very happy to see that he is at the helm of this body because of his credibility. MVP has the experience to efficiently utilize the funds necessary and decide which projects to prioritize.

GMA should include some of the best people for this new body like Joey Salceda whom I was listening to the other night on ANC. Joey was in fact the one who proposed the creation of the reconstruction commission, and whatever you may say about GMA’s economic adviser, there’s no question he knows what he is talking about. The Albay governor was cited by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a model worthy to emulate for instituting disaster preparedness and mitigation programs in his province. A few months ago, the UN hailed Albay for initiating risk reduction programs to achieve “zero casualty” during disasters. As a matter of fact, Salceda ordered preemptive evacuation for over 70,000 residents in areas vulnerable to flooding and landslides. So instead of adding to the relief and evacuation problems of the national government, Albay ended up donating a million pesos for Metro Manila victims.

Another one is our friend, Architect Jun Palafox, who says now is as good a time as any to reassess urban planning for Metro Manila. This is an opportunity that must not go to waste, and we can only hope that people will not resort to ningas cogon once they start to see the waters subside and when rehabilitation starts to take shape. It’s rather sad to note that it had to take a disaster like Ondoy and Pepeng for everyone to sit up and realize how big the problem has become. As Jun pointed out, a master plan for Metro Manila has been made as early as 1977 with specifications regarding building heights, easements and recommendations on what must be done in flood-prone areas. But as usual, greedy developers took shortcuts and corrupt government employees turned a blind eye on building code and zoning violations, like 5-meter requirements for easements reduced to just one meter, for instance.

Over the years, many developers have carved out subdivisions from hills and mountains – obviously contributing to the susceptibility of surrounding areas to floods and earthquakes. Whether it’s true or not that there are spirits residing in the mountains, one can’t help but wonder if indeed, there is wisdom in the warning of some ethnic groups not to disturb the mountains for fear of awakening the wrath of the spirits dwelling within. Be that as it may, there is no question that our building code must now take into consideration the unpredictability of weather patterns due to climate change, and the increasing susceptibility of Metro Manila and other provinces to floods and other calamities. As pointed out by some urban planning experts, standards must now be changed to take into account climate change and other factors.

Clearly, there is a need for a more novel approach to construction using non-traditional methods and new materials that would be flexible enough to allow water to pass through without weakening the structure. A tragic incident which happened during the height of the flood was the death of Smart co-founder David Fernando when the perimeter wall of his house in Loyola Grand Villas collapsed. We’re sure the wall was sturdy, but there’s a big possibility that it was not made to withstand a strong flood and mudflow such as the one brought by Ondoy, aggravated by the fact that incessant rains must have considerably weakened the wall.

Of course, there is Loren Legarda who has been warning people about risk reduction measures and the need to go “green.” All these disasters could have been averted if only people paid more attention and if LGUs exercised stronger political will to root out informal settlers along creeks, the banks of Pasig River and its tributaries. Everyone agrees the squatter settlements have been a major cause of the clogging of waterways, and they must not be allowed to return primarily because they will be risking their lives once again, and secondly, their presence will just hamper rehabilitation efforts and set it back to zero.

LGUs could learn a thing or two from Gina Lopez who has been successful in cleaning up esteros and relocating the squatters because she also made sure the relocation side had adequate facilities, and that relocatees would be provided livelihood opportunities as well. In simple words, she did not just uproot these people from the river banks and leave them to hang and dry. As Joey Salceda noted, Gina is doing a good job, so she would undoubtedly have useful inputs for the reconstruction commission.

One thing is clear: we need a “green” president (but not necessarily a “greenhorn” of a leader who has no experience and is wet between the ears) who can get rid of the greed for power and greed for profit by corrupt officials and unscrupulous developers. More importantly, we need someone who has the experience and the vision to see what lies ahead in the future of this country.

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Email: [email protected]

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