11 August 2012
Preparing for the 3rd Ondoy :
What happened in Metro Manila and nearby Luzon Provinces this week should spur urgent action so as to prevent similar misery and damage from happening all over again, and what happened was not even in the category of Ondoy, the record-breaking typhoon which hit Manila last September 2009. Pnoy proposed a “permanent solution” to the perennial problem of families evacuating their homes because of flooding by building an 8km dike around Meycauayan River worth Php 2.2 billion pesos and a road ring dike to mitigate the flooding of Laguna Lake.
Should Pnoy stop there and just ask for the residents to be patient for these infrastructures to be finished within 2 to 3 years? What if another Ondoy-type of weather disturbance comes while these affected families wait for the completion of these projects ? Imagine, this habagat that’s not even a typhoon comes less than 3 years from Ondoy, and PAGASA is predicting more monsoon rains coming in this season of rains of which August is usually its peak month.
An urban planner from Rockefeller Foundation, Benjamin Dela Pena, suggested putting people first in a series of steps designed to make Metro Manila livable, by setting up a bus rapid transit system since 85 percent of the population in Metro Manila uses public transportation, building more flexible bicycle facilities, and suggesting that public officials take public transportation once a month so that they are reminded that they have to solve this problem urgently and fast.
Back in 1999, the government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies already identified Metro Manila’s problems : lack of a coordinated transport and traffic management, insufficient flood control, solid waste management, land use, housing and urban poverty. It proposed a form of a decentralized system of metropolitan governance which is now the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, so at least we can consider that this aspect of the problem has already been taken cared of.
But one other politically unpalatable option that may need to be considered to permanently solve these perennially recurring problems is – why not just move people out of Metro Manila?
The National Anti-Poverty Commission has a Php 38 billion plan to relocate Metro Manila’s 5 million informal settlers within 5 years but this is criticized for being impractical and “anti-poor” as it will take these settlers away from where they can earn their livelihood. This plan should now be implemented in earnest but it should be accompanied by the implementation of an old plan under FVR’s administration to relocate the central offices of key government agencies and distribute it to other regions. This is already being done by the private sector, such as the business process outsourcing (BPO) entities that are already moving away from Metro Manila. This should be prioritized, but all the other plans to decongest Metro Manila should now urgently acted upon, before the 3rd Ondoy comes.

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