Archive for Typhoon Ondoy

Philippine Sports: Burger King To Donate Wynne Arboleda’s “Lost Income” To Typhoon Victims

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine Current Events, Philippine News, Philippines Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by JJ Duque

Just finished writing the piece about the DSWD volunteers, and how Rock Ed Philippines founder Gang Badoy received word from DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral. Of course, I shared a copy of the post with Gang Badoy at her Facebook account, and sort of reconnected. For the past years, we’ve bumped into each other but without much conversation, or at the least just surface conversation.

Anyway – we had a chance to exchange more words than normal, and she gave props to the Philippines Fun Wall, and shared with me her petition which is – Burger King Inc. should donate Wynne Arboleda’s “lost income” to the survivors of recent Philippine typhoons.

The petition reads as:

To Concerned Filipinos:

In the light of the recent suspension (by the Philippine Basketeball Aassociation) of Burger King player Wynne Arboleda it has come to our attention that the quantified ‘loss of income’ he will have to accept as part of the penalties has been estimated to be approximately PhP 2.73Million.*

Less than a month ago our country withstood two consecutive typhoons that resulted to reducing many areas of our country into literal ‘states of calamity’ – many are rendered homeless, many are orphaned, many are robbed off property, capital, crops, capacity to earn, and even now deprived of hope. To this day, (Oct 19, 2009)thousands of families are still clueless on where or how to rebuild their lives.

It is from that note that this petition is being presented. We would like to pressure Burger King Inc and/or the Philippine Basketball Association to donate the salary set aside for Mr. Wynne Arboleda either to rehabilitate communities, to send relief goods to the still needy or organize a subsequent and periodic medical assistance program to flood-razed sites.

This group stems from the fact that the suspension was already passed and declared by the PBA therefore we have not and will not release any statement regarding the incident-per-se that got Mr. Arboleda suspended. All we know is that his suspension has been declared and PhP 2.73M is the estimated (now) savings of Burger King from that drop-out.

So let us state our petition again:

WE WOULD LIKE TO RESPECTFULLY AND REASONABLY REQUEST BURGER KING AND/OR THE PHILIPPINE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION OR WHOEVER CAN GIVE THE DIRECTIVE OVER THIS SITUATION – TO DONATE THE AMOUNT SET ASIDE FOR THE NOW-SUSPENDED ATHLETE – MR. WYNNE ARBOLEDA TO ANY EXISTING RELIEF AND REHAB OPERATION SET UP TO ASSIST SURVIVORS OF TYPHOONS ONDOY AND PEPENG.

REGARDING WHICH NGO/INSTITUTION TO SUPPORT: WE WILL LEAVE THAT TO THE DISCRETION OF THE UPPER-MANAGEMENT OF BURGER KING INC AND/OR THE PHILIPPINE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION.

We do this with utmost reason, we look forward to your kind consideration of this request all that we ask for is this – when you heed this petition, kindly inform us of your decision. It would comfort many of us to know that big businesses and corporations have real heart as well- please give us hope. This is not a request for EXTRAS Burger King, Inc – we are aware that this is not a real loss to your profits because the amount has been earmarked and promised to Mr. Arboleda before he was suspended anyway.

We will await your response with optimism and a complete trust in your Bayanihan spirit during this terribly needy time in our country.

Now for those who wish to sign the online petition, then just click here.

We Encourage Burger King To Donate The Forefeited Salary of Wynne Arboleda To The Typhoon Victims
We Encourage Burger King To Donate The Forefeited Salary of Wynne Arboleda To The Typhoon Victims

However, maybe the signed petition may not be needed because according to certain sources, it seems that Burger King Inc. has decided to take upon the suggestion of the petition to donate the ‘lost income’ of Wynne Arboleda to the typhoon victims anyway.

Gang Badoy explained that PBA sportscasters TJ Manotoc (who proposed the petition) and Patricia Hizon were not optimistic at first that Burger King would consider this because allocating that salary wasn’t that simple. Of course, nothing is.

But then, the petition does make a valid point – that 2.73M is already in the budget, and if it was supposed to be spent on Arboleda, but he can’t accpet it, then maybe it can be put to good use to help others who are in need of that cash, such as the many typhoon victims. Burger King Inc. must have realized that this was also a good way to protect their corporate image, and also do something to improve the reputation of Wynne Arboleda. In any case, the reports were published in Philstar.com about Wynne Arboleda pursuing the suggestion with Burger King Inc. management to donate his ‘lost salary.’ You can actually read the article on the donation of Wynne Arboleda by clicking here.

If that really holds true, and there is a true confirmation of the donation by Wynne Arboleda then it’s awesome that an online petition (on an idea suggested by TJ Manotoc and executed by Gang Badoy) has progressed to something helpful and tangible for the typhoon victims.

If you want to see the change, you just gotta be the change. Don’t feel afraid , to share your thoughts, and especially to act those ideas out! The hope for the country is the fact that every single Filipino is empowered to help out there fellow countryman. We indeed have the power to improve our country – through small steps – through a little persuasion in the proper perspective.

Impossible is nothing.

Philippine Current Events: DSWD Clarifies Hoarding Rumors and Welcomes Volunteers

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine Current Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2009 by JJ Duque

Last Friday (Oct. 23, 2009 ), the Philippine internet network went abuzz with alleged reports that the DSWD was hoarding international relief good donations. Apparently, a blogger named Ella (ellaganda.com) who volunteered to repack goods for the DSWD gave reports that the DSWD had a warehouse full of relief supplies that were not being distributed with the utmost urgency, and that there were not enough volunteers to go repack the goods.

This news circulated in the internet, particularly in Facebook, and many Filipino netizens and Facebook users reposted Ella’s report. Of course, many of these Facebook users vented their frustrations at the DSWD, and the media went to verify these reports.

Eventually, DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral defended the accusations lashed against her department. According to Esperanza Cabral, the relief goods found at the warehouse had yet to undergo an inventory check, and yes – the DSWD was short on volunteers to handle the huge inventory.

Since the situation escalated to this level, DSWD Esperanza Cabral took the initiative to get in touch with Gang Badoy of Rock Ed Philippines (www.rockedphilippines.org), and also one of those who reposted Ella’s recount on her blog. Esperanza Cabral invited Gang Badoy to come up with volunteers that she would accommodate to help repack these relief goods.

Gang Badoy, Founder of Rock Ed Philippines

Gang Badoy, Founder of Rock Ed Philippines

According to Gang Badoy, DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral agreed for Rock Ed Philippines to come up with a group of 50 volunteers per day to work at the 3pm-11pm shift from Monday to Friday. Altough the DSWD is working 24 hours a day to consolidate relief packing efforts, they have agreed to block a shift to accommodate private citizen volunteers (such as the Rock Ed Philippines NGO).

On a personal note – I suppose this is their manner to quell down the infuriated mob of Facebook users, and also to allow other volunteers to bare witness to the operations of the DSWD, so that they may be made aware before they past judgement as they had when they made a barrage re-posting that Friday of the alleged DSWD hoarding rumors.

Anyway, for those who want to volunteer for the DSWD and get a chance to see their warehouse full of relief goods, then just fill up the volunteer sign-up sheet by clicking on this link.

Lastly, I would like to thank Sandy Cabral (daughter of Esperanza Cabral) for getting in touch with me to make sure that the rumors regarding the alleged DSWD hoarding where first looked into before the unconfirmed news was sent out to Facebook. I won’t apologize for re-posting on the Philippines Fun Wall about Ella’s account. In fact, if this hadn’t happened, then I believe there wouldn’t be any focus on the DSWD and their efforts, adn the help that they so desperately need.

Philippine Current Events: DSWD Hoarding Relief Goods and Supplies For Typhoon Victims

Posted in All About The Philippines, Philippine Current Events, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2009 by JJ Duque

A blogger by the name of Ella (ellaganda.com) volunteered to do re-packing of relief goods for the DSWD. Apparently, to her dismay, Ella and her 8 group of friends were the only ones who were volunteering to repack a 1000 sq. m. warehouse full of relief goods.

According to DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral, the reason why the DSWD warehouse is still full of unpacked relief goods is because they lack volunteers. However, according to Ella, those who did wish to volunteer were turned away, citing that there were already too many volunteers.

Anyway, there is more to the story about the DSWD hoarding situation, and you can find out more about it from the post in the Multiply site of Gang Badoy, who reposted the story of Ella since her blog was blocked and shut down. COuld it be because she exposed the faults of the DSWD? Maybe.

The same excerpt can also be found on the blog of Jenni Epperson, complete with all the pictures of the stocks they have piled and unused in the DSWD warehouse.

Just Some of The Many Relief Goods Not Being Given Away Just Yet  By The DSWD

Just Some of The Many Relief Goods Not Being Given Away Just Yet By The DSWD

Just click on the links above, and see for yourself what the fucking problem is with the DSWD. And hopefully, someone raise awareness so that someone may act on this. FAST!

Dam If You Do, Dam If You Don’t

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by JJ Duque

The militant group Bayan said that National Disaster Coordinating Council chief and Secretary of Defense Gilbert Teodoro should also be held accountable for the flooding in Pangasinan.

Bayan chairperson Dr. Carol Araullo said, “Teodoro is as accountable as the dam executives. At the minimum, he should have promptly coordinated the timing and volume of the release [of water from San Roque dam] with the possible evacuation of residents and other preparations needed by the affected towns of Pangasinan.”

“It is appaling that he [Teodoro] is clueless on data as basic as the amount of water released by the San Roque Dam,” she added.

The San Roque dam’s critical level is at 290 meters above sea level. Based on available data, water levels already spiked as early as October 4 and continued to rise until October 9. Data from the weather bureau’s website showed that the water levels jumped from 281 meters to 284 meters above see level as early as October 4, and moved up to 289.1 meters from October 6 to October 9.

Had this data been diligently studied, and presented as a serious concern, then an earlier release of water may have brought down the water levels without having it reach the near critical water level of 290 meters. Also, if this information was already available on October 4, then perhaps Pangasinan residents could have been warned and informed for plans to release water from the dam.

At the very least, the effects of the release of so much water from the San Roque dam could’ve been looked into, and preparations could’ve been made to prevent the serious flooding it brought to Pangasinan, which left 80% of the province flooded and underwater. Coupled with the devastating winds and rains brought by typhoon Parma (typhoon Pepeng here in the Philippines), it is no wonder that the consequences were disastrous.

Water Released From San Roque Dam Responsible For Floods Around Rosales Town in Pangasinan Province

Water Released From San Roque Dam Responsible For Floods Around Rosales Town in Pangasinan Province

A similar situation also presented itself during tropical storm Ketsana (Ondoy here in the Philippines), wherein the water levels at the Angat Dam in Bulacan almost reached the critical level of 216 meters above sea level, and had to release its water in the midst of the tropical storm. Some have suggested that the release by the Angat Dam is what is responsibled for the flashfloods that ravaged and killed several people in the province of Bulacan, which includes Meycauayan City and in the towns of Marilao, Bocaue and Sta. Maria.

Of course, while it is necessary for the dams to open their spillways to prevent reaching a critical level where the dam could burst, the big complaint of citizens and a group like Bayan is that there were no announcements made by dam officials about the release of the water.

Malabon City police officer Rommel Habig, whose home was flooded during Ondoy, blames the negligent release of water from the Angat Dam as the cause of the massive flooding.

“There would have been enough time for the people to do what was necessary, if only they [dam officials] made an announcement earlier that the spillways would be opened,” said Habig.

“They issued an advisory only after the flashflood,” he claimed.

Personally,  I feel that dam officials should be accountable for their negligence in not informing the proper authorities about the critical state of the water levels, and not informing the public (especially the citizens who might be affected by the dam release) that the dam would release water.

Lives could’ve been saved and preparations could have been put into place to prevent such a disaster. While the dam officials may have saved the dam from bursting, and causing even more damage, their lack of foresight and initiative to inform those who might be affected is plain irresponsible. Their responsibility to protect the dam and prevent it from bursting should also include a responsibility to protect the citizens who might suffer when the water is relesed.

At the very least, someone should make a public notice, so that a boy might know to avoid swimming in the river because the currents would be stronger. However, without any warning issued by dam officials – the consequences have been very fatal indeed.

Philippine Environment: The Green Agenda Philippines: NOW!

Posted in All About The Philippines, Philippine Environment with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2009 by JJ Duque

[The following piece was written and shared by John Paul LAKAN Olivares]

In the past months we have been witness to the awesome power of nature a our inadequacies and failures in addressing environmental issues. This has been capitulated in the damage wrecked upon Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces by Bagyo Ondoy, and the damage to Northern Luzon by Bagyo Pepeng.

We, the concerned citizens of the Philippines, now speak up and decide to take charge of our communities in addressing this most urgent of all matters. From these tragedies we have seen the best of the Filipino people rise in unison for a greater purpose, as they united in light of other recent events (the death of President Corazon Aquino and Bro. Ed Manalo of the INC). Now, we must once again rise up and unite to change the very fabric of society, lest we wait in denial for nature to once again wreak havoc upon our country.

Support The Green Agenda Philippines and Sign Up For The 10 Million Movement Now

Support The Green Agenda Philippines and Sign Up For The 10 Million Movement Now

The Green Agenda Philippines: NOW!

The single most important issue the human race is facing is its own extinction due to effects created by the damage of our natural environment. From pollution to the degradation and loss of natural resources, such practices put to risk the very survival of our people. And if we do not address these concerns immediately, we will face greater effects of Global Warming, the shrinking of resources (famine), wars over food and water, disease brought upon by pollution and mutations, and much more.

No government or even the United Nations can address this problem with a long termed large scale impact, unless whole populations take the initiative to undo the damage and save ourselves.

Today, we, the ordinary Filipino citizens, can no longer deny that our environment is no longer stable due to human disregard, and now threatens the lives of all sectors of society. In this realization, we must take matters into our own hands for a truly community based social-environment peace revolution. This revolution starts now, with the 10 Million Movement, initiated by the Earth Day Network Philippines, as an online petition for people to signify their participation in the environmental awareness movement.

And in this relaunching of the 10 Million Movement, we seek to create a network of people and communities that will reclaim their stewardship of the planet and actively work to create a Green Philippines; and we, the Filipino People, become co-creators of a world that we would truly want to live in, through the process of self-empowerment and collective action.

From this network, we seek to build a new society that breaks the old paradigms of neglect, abuse and conflict; and create a Green Agenda that revolves around a humanist national community with a sustainable socio-economic culture.

From this network, we aim to link environmental organizations with Community and Sectoral Leaders, and develop local eco-friendly cultures through:

  • Conducting Environmental Awareness Education and Community
  • Consultations Developing Sustainable / Profitable Eco-Friendly Livelihood Initiatives
  • Creating Community Waste Segregation and Recycling Programs
  • Initiating Community Stewardship
  • Cleaning and Rehabilitating of local Natural Resources
  • Patronizing Eco-Friendly Products, Services, and Businesses
  • Develop a National Barangay Network, in which communities can share information on best practices and alternative eco-friendly technologies

From this network, we aim to convene all Local Environmental, Humanitarian and Peace Organizations to mount a unified campaign for a Green Philippines through:

  • Holding Eco-Awareness Festivals and Events
  • Conducting Regional and National Environmental Conferences
  • Lobbying for Government Legislation and Participation
  • Developing a National Environmental Council that monitors positive and negative developments, and links the necessary local organization and government agency to address the issue
  • Creating a National Information Portal that allows all members to share information in expertise, best practices, technological development, etc.

From this network, we aim to address the Business Sector and work with them to:

  • Support Environmental Programs as Part of Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Develop Eco-Friendly Business Practices
  • Create Profitable Eco-Friendly Products

From this network, we aim to partner with Media and work with them to:

  • Develop Environmental Awareness Programs Support Environmental
  • Organizations and Causes through free (or reduced rate) advertising and media reportage
  • Give reduced rate advertising for Eco-Friendly Products

From this network, we aim to link up with International Environmental Groups and Agencies to:

  • Create a Global Resource Center for Eco-Friendly Community Practices, Business Practices and Technologies
  • Create a Global Resource Center for International Funding for developing Eco-Friendly Community Practices, Business Practices and Technology

From this network, we aim to work with Academic Institutions to:

  • Help develop Curricula that addresses Environmental Awareness
  • Help build programs for students to participate and create their own Environmental Awareness Events
  • Create initiatives for students to develop Technologies, Business Practices and Products that are Eco-Friendly
  • Help construct a network of academic institutions and agencies that will allow information sharing on Eco-Friendly Community Practices, Business Practices and Technologies

From this network, we aim to work with Architectural, Engineering and Scientific Institutions to:

  • Develop technologies and systems that will reduce consumption of natural resources and maximize practical output without pollution
  • Develop technologies and systems that will recycle non-biodegradable waste, including construction material, to reduce consumption of existing natural resources
  • Develop eco-friendly waste disposal technologies and systems to deal with the continuing garbage problem
  • Develop eco-friendly alternative energy sources that will reduce consumption of fossil-based fuels

From this network, we aim to work with Local Government Units to:

  • Develop and support Eco-Friendly Community Programs Help build and support Sustainable Eco-Friendly Business Initiatives
  • Support and participate in Eco-Friendly Events

From this network, we aim to work with National Government to:

  • Create Eco-Friendly Legislations Support and Participate in Eco-Friendly Events
  • Develop a Comprehensive Long-Term Green Philippines Agenda

Now we come to you, not just to sign up for the 10 Million Movement, but to take that great step towards a Green Philippines, and in the future, a 90 Million Strong Filipino Green Revolution by 2012.

Sign up now. http://10mmovement.ning.com

Show Me The Money – Where Will The Money For Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng) Victims Go?

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2009 by JJ Duque

Typhoons Ketsana (Ondoy here in the Philippines) and Parma (Pepeng here in the Philippines) have caused so much devastation through so much flooding that hundreds of lives were lost, half a million people were rendered homeless, and all sorts of homes, property, agricultural lands and infrastructure were damaged.

There is no doubt that a whole lot of money will be spent on providing rescue and relief for the typhoon victims, and also for the rebuilding and reconstruction following the damage caused by the floods brought by Ketsana (Ondoy) and the other damage brought by Parma (Pepeng). The disaster has certainly brought about much concern from all over the world, which resulted in an outpouring of assistance in order to provide aid to these typhoon victims.

In the Philippines alone, there was a multitude of support to get the wheels of assistance turning. Several foundations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and those in the private sector gathered donations in cash and in kind to provide aid for those who were victimized by the floods and were forced to be displaced from their homes.

Medicines and basic necessities, such as food, water, clothing and toiletries were gathered and distributed at evacuation centers. Of course, a lot of money was also raised through donations both from the Philippines and from the international community.

Now I don’t know what the exact figures are, and I don’t really know who’s diligently keeping a tab on it, but there was definitely a lot of money raised. The combined effort of  television networks in the Philippines  raised approximately some  Php200 million so far. The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) has also collected donations via text and also through Paypal apart from direct cash donations.

The international relief effort has also raised a lot of funds through the likes of Australia, Japan, Germany, European Union, Spain, Great Britain, the United States, Canada and still others. With an average of $1 million being given by each country, the total funds raised could easily reach $10 million.

International organizations have also raised funds for the Ketsana typhoon victims, with the likes of UNICEF, AmeriCares, the Asian Development Bank and more contributing  a combined effort of a few million dollars.

The United Nations has also made an appeal to raise $74 million, and has already allocated $7 million from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund due to the devastation caused by Typhoon Ketsana and Super Typhoon Parma.

Lots of Funds Raised To Help The Victims, But Where Will It Really Go?

Lots of Funds Raised To Help The Victims, But Where Will It Really Go?

Now – I don’t know the exact sum of how much money was raised to directly help in the relief and rebuilding efforts caused by Ketsana and Parma, but that is definitely a lot of money, and to where does it exactly go?

When funds are donated from the local and international community,to whom is the check addressed to? Where are these funds kept and who is in charge of the disbursement of these funds? Of course, NGOs like the PNRC appropriate their funds for rescue and relief operations, which include the distribution of basic necessities and medical supplies, but then what about the other funds that are outside the reach of the PNRC?

Apparently, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) through DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. (Jun Ebdane) has  claimed that their agency lacked funds in construction projects that could’ve helped flood prevention.

“Our system of mega-dikes, dams and other flood mitigation projects in Metro Manila just couldn’t hold the high volume of water that Ondoy (Ketsana) brought to us. Although we have made plans for more flood mitigation projects ahead of time, funding problems have stalled their immediate implementaton,” explained Ebdane.

Jun Ebdane also suggested that squatters, or informal dwellers, who put up their shanty homes along riverbanks was one of the major causes to blame for the flooding. He cited a recent study conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency, which said:

“Flooding is becoming a more serious problem in Metro Manila and other flood-prone areas because of the rapid urban expansion, inadequate river channel capacities, and insufficient equipment for maintenance for existing drainage facilities, which have been continiously clogged by squatting and garbage dumping.”

In line with this, the DPWH is now asking for a bigger budget from the international financial aid in order for them to carry out their task in cleaning the drainage systems and the garbage left by Ketsan and Parma.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is also going to need funds for their projects in asissting the half a million (or more) that were made homeless by the storm. DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral said that the DSWD continues to provide assistance to the more than 122,00 families affected by typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy). The DSWD has released P22 million from its calamity fund for the purchase of relief goods, composed mostly of food, according to DSWD Public Affairs and Advocacy Division chief Precy Villa.

I’m not very good at math, but P22 million pesos is not even half a million US dollars (at an exchange rate of P48 to $1), and certainly there is supposedly a couple million dollars of funds that can be used to provide more goods, or even better facilities for evacuation centers.

Now – I don’t know where the money is going or how it will be spent, but someone better be a diligent accountant and take note of what is coming in and where it is going out.

The Philippine Senate has already expressed a strong opposition for President Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo‘s decision to declare the entire Philippines under a state of calamity and even extending it to a year. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Senators Noynoy Aquino III, Manny Villar Jr., Mar Roxas II, Chiz Escudero,  Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano warned against the relaxed rules in the disbursement of funds during a state of calamity, which might lead to abuses on the part of the executive branch, specifically with Malacañang, the various government departments, and the local government units.

According to the Senators the entire nation need not be placed under a state of calamity since not all areas were affected by Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng), such as Mindanao.

The senators also argued that rules during a state of calamity has regarding the disbursement and utilization of funds become more relaxed because of the urgency for their use.

“When you declare that is going to be for a year, there might be calls for augmentation as far as those funds depleted are concerned. (The question is) will all the funds really address the calamity or will be used for something else because the rules have been relaxed?” Senator Noynoy Aquino said.

“I do not want a prolonged state of calamity, because in the same way that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, calamity tends to corrupt.  The longer the declaration of a state of calamity, the longer the corruption,” Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.

Apart from the corruption, Senators also warned that a year-long state of calamity throughout the entire nation could drive out potential foreign investors, and could create more problems for the country such as job losses and supply shortage.

The Makati Business Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines and the Federation of Philippine Industries among other business groups were also keen to express that eventually Malacañang might eventually declare a state of emergency and the exercise of police powers.  Yes, something like Martial Law.

Maybe the Makati Business Club et al are getting ahead of themselves with conspiracy theories, but the bottom line is that 122,000 families and over half a million people will need financial aid to help them survive and remain healthy enough for them to get back on their feet again. Definitely, critical operations must be done to also curb the problem of garbage that clogs the drainage systems of major cities in our country, especially in the very congested areas of  the National Capital Region.  Funds must also be appropriated to the restoration of farm lands. Somewhere along the way – I just sincerely hope that the funds (that will amount to millions of dollars) will not be lost in the selfish pockets of those who will be responsible for them.

Who Do We Blame For Untrammeled Mega-Urbanization In Manila?

Posted in All About The Philippines, Philippine Environment, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2009 by JJ Duque
[The following piece was written by Kenneth Cardenas. It is being re-posted in the Philippines Funwall from his Facebook notes.]

We need to bring public scrutiny to bear on the big, if hard-to-answer, issues of unsustainable urbanization and land use planning.

It comes as no surprise that public anger in the aftermath of the Ondoy disaster has focused on corruption and incompetence among government officials: on how Arroyo’s Le Cirque dinner could have paid for disaster response equipment, how her son was spotted stocking up on booze even as people were dying in the rising floodwaters, and how unscrupulous politicians were taking advantage of the situation by plastering their grinning mugs all over relief goods. It is, after all, easier to lay responsibilities on names and faces rather than on structural causes.

There is, however, a critical aspect of the issue that evades easy association with names and faces, and is consequently not addressed by the public debate: the problem of untrammeled, private sector-led urbanization.

Whose face do we associate, for example, with the following problems?

1.) As Felino Palafox pointed out, large areas of the east bank of the Marikina River—the exact same areas that were subjected to a 2-meter flash flood—should not have been settled in the first place. Plans that have been drawn up in 1970 called for limits on construction in these areas and public works designed to withstand even the once-in-a-century flooding we saw last weekend.

2.) The west bank of the Marikina River, which should have been preserved as a watershed, was paved over as exclusive subdivisions (such as La Vista, Loyola Grand Villas, and Ayala Heights), schools (Ateneo de Manila and Miriam College) or settled as slums. In fact, the 1941 Frost Plan for Quezon City identified a protected area on the west bank that stretched from the La Mesa Reservoir in the north down to Libis in the south. (See figs. 1 and 2)

Fig. 1. The 1941 Frost Plan for Quezon City side-by-side with a satellite image of actual land use. Note the green protected area stretching from the Batasan area (military academy on the plan) all the way to Libis.
Fig. 2. Actual land use northeast of the UP Diliman campus. Note that in the original Frost Plan, this would have been protected parkland. Instead, it has been transformed into private subdivisions, a golf course, and slums.

Ideally, a forested catchment basin would have prevented flash flooding by maintaining soils with a high absorptive capacity, but as these slopes were graded and paved over for subdivisions, their ability of the soil to retain rainwater was severely compromised.

It is definitely no coincidence that these were perhaps the worst-hit areas in all of Quezon City, where mansions built on slopes unsuitable for residential areas collapsed and entire slums drowned in floodwaters.

3.) Further upstream in the Marikina River system, this process of paving over watersheds is being repeated by new suburban developments in the Sierra Madre foothills of Rizal. Interestingly, at least two presidential aspirants are heavily invested in this process.

I’ll leave it up to you to guess who.

4.) Last but not the least, an altogether more complex problem: a well-meaning policy requires that real estate developers allocate 20% of their “horizontal” house-and-lot developments to socialized housing. However, no such requirement exists for “vertical” condominium developments.

Since urban land prices are ridiculously high for our level of wealth, and since newly freed-up parcels (like Fort Bonifacio, Camp Bago Bantay and North Triangle) are typically privatized to the highest bidder, the tendency is for real estate developers to build condominiums for the low-risk, high-return markets of high income demographics.

There is absolutely no incentive to develop high-rise residences in the urban core for the majority of the population, effectively denying them, through pricing, the right to legitimate settlement in the urban core.

This has two consequences for how Mega Manila grows, how it is built, and how it was affected by tropical storm Ondoy.

The first is the growth of slums in core areas. Social groups that are so poor that they are not served even by socialized housing, but nonetheless depend on the city for employment, have no choice but to live in slums. As the events of the past weekend show, slums are disproportionately vulnerable to natural disasters, as they are often built on marginal land and have high population densities.

Systematically abandoned by the state and shunned by the market, a disproportionate number of poor Filipinos therefore have to live in slums. While we have roughly the same GDP/capita as Indonesia (Ph: 3,510; Id: 3,975) (PPP$, 2006), fully 44% of urban Filipinos live in slums, compared to 23% of urban Indonesians.

The second consequence is sprawl: the city grows out, rather than up. To tap demographics that are priced out of core urban lands, as well as to meet the government’s 20% socialized housing requirement, developers opt to build house-and-lot subdivisions in the urban periphery, where land is still relatively cheap, and where old landlords are eager to dispose of properties about to be subjected to agrarian reform. Thus, within the past two decades, Manila’s metropolitan area (as defined by a population density of at least 1,000 persons per square kilometer) has grown to become a 3,105 sq. km. monstrosity, with much of this growth occurring as encroachment on prime agricultural land in Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna.

This worsened the extent of this weekend’s disaster by expanding the land areas that were affected. With a larger land area to cover, transportation and communications for the relief effort was more difficult than it should have been, and the need to coordinate between different local governments prevented a quicker response.

More importantly, most of the growth occurs in suburban and peri-urban areas that do not have the infrastructure, manpower, and equipment to address these sorts of disasters. Keep in mind that some of the most hard-hit areas, such as Marilao in Bulacan, Biñan in Laguna, and San Mateo, Rodriguez and Cainta in Rizal fit this description perfectly: suburban areas that have seen explosive urbanization but did not see a corresponding improvement in infrastructure and local government capacity.

We therefore end up with a city that is more prone to natural disasters than it should be, in a century that will likely see an out-of-whack ecosystem throwing stronger typhoons and unpredictable monsoons at us.

Now, the hard questions: given our propensity to heap public anger on Jaque Bermejos and UglyYuBins, to publicly shame Mikey Arroyos and Manny Villars, and to present Gloria’s resignation as the solution to what is most definitely a persistent, structural problem, how do we, as a public, come to terms with this situation?

If it’s a matter of laying blame, shouldn’t we also be lining up the Ayalas, the Solivens, and hell, even the Jesuits for developing on lands that should have been preserved as watersheds? If we do, how would it solve these problems?

Or if it’s a matter of pinning hopes on our politicians: would a different president, a different NDCC, a different MMDA chair, and different mayors translate to substantial changes in how we build our city?