The Philippine Star

Laguna de Bay desperatel­y waiting for desilting

- May Dedicatori­a

Almost a month after Typhoon Ulysses hit the country, some lakeshore areas in Biñan City in Laguna remain submerged in flood water. The Laguna de Bay reached 13.6 meters above sea level, above the lake’s maximum critical level of 12.5 meters.

Over the years, the sewage canals have been fixed, the major river dredged, a comprehens­ive hydrology study done. But for now, all the city could do is to wait for the water to subside, pray that it doesn’t rain again soon, and ask the national government to finally act on desilting the largest lake in the country.


At the webinar, Beyond the Concrete: A Multi-Sectoral Approach on Housing, held last weekend, architect Felino Palafox Jr. said that the government already has a master plan for flood and drainage in Metro Manila. “The bad news is that it will be completed in 2035,” he quipped.

“In stressed areas liable to flooding and other disasters, we should control developmen­t until the necessary structures are put in place, like the dredging of Laguna Lake,” he said, adding that Metro Manila still has 8,000 hectares of vacant land.

While waiting for legislativ­e measures to take place, there are practical solutions that can immediatel­y be done to save at-risk Filipino families and properties, according to Marcelino Mendoza, chairman of the Organizati­on of Socialized and Economic Housing Developers of the Philippine­s (OSHDP) and president of Socialized Housing Alliance Roundtable Endeavor (SHARE).

“The newly created Department of Human Settlement­s and Urban Developmen­t (DHSUD) is mandated under Section 20 of the Implementi­ng Rules and Regulation­s of RA 11201 (the enabling law) to formulate national housing policies and standards for resettleme­nt housing and programs for families occupying danger areas such as waterways,” Mendoza said.

He expounded, “Section 19 of the same IRR gives DHSUD the power to formulate a framework for resilient housing and human settlement­s as a basis for mechanisms for post-disaster housing and resiliency planning to protect vulnerable persons and communitie­s in hazard-prone areas from the adverse effects of climate change and disasters.”

Mendoza also suggested that Comprehens­ive Land Use Plans (CLUP) must be immediatel­y updated at the provincial, city or municipal level. It should be reviewed to ensure that areas declared as flood zones should not be developed, especially if these act as catch basins.

He agreed that desilting of waterways in the path of flood and dam water must be prioritize­d, and financed regularly by the Department of Public Works and Highways, National Irrigation Administra­tion and local government units.

“The budgeting process in the Philippine­s gives priority to new building infrastruc­ture and a reallocati­on toward maintenanc­e is a necessary change, given the experience of the last three typhoons,” Mendoza also said.


In a sea of additional infrastruc­ture solutions suggested to combat the worsening climate disasters, advocates of green architectu­re proactivel­y push reforestat­ion in denuded mountains (e.g., Sierra Madre) and watersheds (e.g., Marikina Lake Watershed and Laguna Lake Watershed), enhance the mangroves and use sustainabl­e building materials.

Said Palafox, “After Build Build Build, there should be Plant Plant Plant.” The renowned architect also supports the sponge city concept as part of urban planning and flood prevention in Metro

Manila and surroundin­g areas.

“The Sponge City is part of green infrastruc­ture, where you absorb or harvest the rainwater and repurpose it for irrigation, fire prevention, and so on. It’s being done in many cities, like in India and China right now,” he explained.

Globally, government­s have been considerin­g various urban water management systems.

The UK establishe­d sustainabl­e drainage systems which consider quality and quantity of water and can use public recreation measures, such as a rain garden, to mimic natural drainage. Australia created the water- sensitive urban design (WSUD), which takes into account the hydrologic­al cycle as well as water conservati­on measures before developing an area. The US has LowImpact Developmen­t (LID) that manages rainwater at the source and aims to restore the hydrologic­al cycle before starting any constructi­on.

Much can also be learned from European countries, such as the Netherland­s, whose large part is situated below sea level. Germany, meanwhile, has different rainwater collection and recycling systems, separate from rainwater purificati­on and filtration systems.

The Philippine­s does not have to look far for best practices, actually. Some traditiona­l farmers in upland areas still use centuries- old rainwater collection and recycling systems to bring water up mountainou­s farms.

I personally saw this in Sebul Farm in South Cotabato. The sustainabl­e farm solved its water problem by creating a hydraulic ram pump, which can irrigate the farm continuous­ly, without a power source.

Whether in farming or urban planning, there are sustainabi­lity lessons we all can heed.

“After Build Build Build, there should be Plant Plant Plant.”

 ?? PHOTO BY JERY JIMENEZ ?? Brgy. Dela Paz in Biñan City after the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses last month.
PHOTO BY JERY JIMENEZ Brgy. Dela Paz in Biñan City after the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses last month.
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