ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI) managing director Gina Lopez
urges all Lopez Group officers and staff members to join the Philippine International Marathon 2009: A Run for the Pasig River on November 8, 2009.
Lopez, concurrent president of Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig (KBPIP),
challenges Lopez Group member companies to “walk it like they talk it” by forming teams to participate in the run, which will have 3-km, 5-km, 10-km distances aside from a full marathon.
The international marathon aims to raise funds for KBPIP’s work that has become more urgent and worthy of support in the face of rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts following the massive flooding caused by typhoon Ondoy
in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces in September. KBPIP at the forefront
Since 2008, KBPIP has been at the forefront of moves to clear the Pasig River and tributaries of informal settlers in order to restore the environmental balance and get the water flowing again. KBPIP is spearheaded by AFI and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The 27-kilometer Pasig
River is said to serve as the sole outlet of Laguna Lake, into which 100 streams drain. Lopez had earlier obtained the cooperation of local governments and partners to clear Estero de Paco in Manila of informal settlers. The three kilometer stretch is a major tributary of the Pasig River. KBPIP intends to relocate the 5,000 settlers in the area to BayaniJuan sa Calauan
in Laguna within five years. To date, 300 families out of the annual target of 1,000 families are building new lives in the 107-hectare resettlement site. The race route will allow participants to see for themselves how badly the river needs to be cleared of settlers and garbage. Contingent from Lopez Group
Lopez aims to have 20,000 runners take part in the race, with a 3,000-strong contingent hopefully representing various Lopez Group companies. “If you care strong enough to make the Pasig River clean, this is your chance to make a statement and run for the river,”
The epic damage to property and loss of lives in the wake of typhoons Ondoy
have brought to the fore the need to follow the principles of urban planning and the importance of clearing Philippine waterways.
According to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), the floods from Ondoy
(international name Ketsana
), which concentrated its fury mainly on Metro Manila, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas Rizal and Quezon) and Central Luzon, caused some P4.6 billion in damage (P1.5B worth to infrastructure and about P3.175B to agriculture). Nearly two million persons were affected, while the death toll was placed at almost 300. Misery not over yet
A few days later, Pepeng
(international name Parma) descended on North and Central Luzon, leaving some P8.142B worth of damage (P1.607B in infrastructure plus P6.532B in agriculture) within 10 days. It also left in its wake 375 deaths, and affected more than three million people.
Meanwhile, several weeks after Ondoy
, the misery is not over yet for thousands of Filipinos who have no choice but to swim, float or wade as they go about their daily lives in a real-life “Waterworld.”
For those living near the Laguna Lake watershed, for example, the chief of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) has reported before the Senate committee on climate change that it will take four to five months to drain some 2.5 billion cubic meters of floodwater from the lake. Poor urban planning
A noted architect and urban planner went so far as to place the blame for “the massive loss of life and property” squarely on the doorstep of government agencies and private developers, who practiced “poor urban planning and allowed commercial and residential structures to be built in flood-prone areas.”
In an interview with ANC, Felino Palafox Jr. said three development areas in particular “should prepare for flooding, earthquakes and possible changes in topography,”
as pinpointed by a 1977 World Bank-funded study.
The Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning (Metroplan) project identified these as Marikina Valley, the western shores of Laguna de Bay, and the Manila Bay coastal area. Palafox said the construction of the Manggahan Floodway, which would divert floodwaters from reaching Metro Manila by diverting the water to Laguna Bay, was recommended by the Metroplan as part of a flood-mapping strategy. Burnham’s plan
The Parañaque spillway was supposed to be built in order to flush out the excess water from Laguna Bay into Manila Bay. However, the plan was scrapped after buying up properties for rights-of-way was deemed too expensive.
Urban planners and environmental planners should have followed American architect Daniel Burnham’s plan of a Manila like Paris, with the Pasig River as the equivalent of the European capital’s River Seine, the architect added.
Burnham’s vision was shunted aside in the 1940s when the Americans left; left to the mercy of whimsical natives, Manila was rebuilt in higgledypiggledy fashion. According to Palafox, the city we see today is a result of “us not following the plans and proposals.” “If you are an urban planner, an environmental planner, these have been planned as early as 1905,”
he noted. Learning from the past
Palafox urged Philippine urban planners to address the issues of climate change and flooding by “redesigning cities in the country by looking at the lessons of the past and seeing what other countries are doing.”
He also encouraged a switch to vertical urbanism—or “building tall”—instead of the traditional horizontal urbanism. “…There should no longer be individual houses, it should be mixed use. You live upstairs, you work in the middle and you shop downstairs,”
Meanwhile, it’s time to start clearing those esteros and KBPIP can do it with your help. Organize your running team and make a difference in the future of Metro Manila. You can help prevent massive flooding by running for the Pasig River now!