Architecture, Urban Planning, and Engineering to address hazards before disasters


LAST week, I received a lot of positive response to my column topic addressing floods, and I would like to thank the readers for their inputs and seeing the big picture of the situation with me. In reality, my firm, Palafox Associates has prepared a comprehensive list of more than 100 recommendations over the past decade that we have sent to both the previous and the present administrations. With every major natural disaster like typhoons Ondoy, 2012, and 2014 Habagat, Super Typhoon Yolanda, and the earthquakes that devastated Bohol and Cebu, we modify our recommendations and add new ones based on new findings or information. I have never gotten tired of trying to persuade the government to adopt a comprehensive approach because someone with visionary leadership and political will might come along and finally see the big picture and act on it.

A month after typhoon Ondoy’s onslaught, Palafox Associates, with the help of our Dutch Architect Daniel Roos presented to then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her Cabinet, among others, the MMETROPLAN 1977, BURNHAM PLAN 1905, and put forward the 23 recommendations on Architecture, Urban Planning, and Engineering in the light of recent disastrous floods. Here are the recommendations we have put forward to the government:

Construction of essential adaptive infrastructures like building the Spillway from Laguna Lake to Manila Bay, road dikes around Laguna Lake

Clear all rivers, esteros, waterways, and lakes from silt and garbage

Control development in areas liable to disasters by identifying the flood-prone urban areas and relocate people living on it to higher ground

Build elevated walkways, sky bridges to connect buildings above flood waters

Create hazard mapping (earthquake, floods, fire and other hazards) and flood zoning overlay maps using the area’s 100-200 year flooding history to separate living spaces from flood-prone areas

Update the country’s Building and Structural Codes (structural, hydrologic, and geologic audit of government buildings and infrastructures)

Reforest the hills and mountains, create ‘green’ islands and water retention areas

Creation of disaster prevention bases (1 in every 10 hectares)

Creation of a flood, drainage, and sewerage master plan

Compartmentalization of existing urban areas through city polders

Revise subdivision laws, regulations, and restrictions

Awareness and Education of local government units

Review lessons learned from countries less prepared for disasters (Super Typhoon Yolanda) and learn from the best practices from advanced countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, USA and other more developed countries in Europe and North America.

Implement Solid Waste Management and pollution abatement measures

Update well into the 21st century the 1905 Burnham Plan, 1976-77 MMETROPLAN, and 2003 Manila Megalopolis Concept Plan 2020

Revise, Review and Update Building Code, Structural Code and other codes

Urban Metropolitan Management Review (too many overlapping functions among agencies- local, metropolitan, regional and national agencies)

Enforce the 10 meter easements along rivers and lakes and 3.5 meter easements along creeks and esteros

Urban Planning: land use, zoning, transport, infrastructure, location, density, type and timing of development. Also, adopt and promote vertical urbanism, not urban sprawl

Engineering: Flood management, drainage, sewerage, water supply, power supply, telecommunications, garbage, sanitation, and traffic

Architecture: Flood proof – design and construct houses, schools, churches, shops and other structures and infrastructures. Harvest rain water through cisterns and water retention ponds

Funding – provide funding requirements for planning, design, construction, management and maintenance of buildings and infrastructures

Political Will– the vision to carry out a comprehensive plan and political will to address climate change, flooding and urban planning to provide better living conditions and better quality of life and opportunities for social and economic advancement for all.

The firm also considered the different natural disasters that wreak havoc in our country every year and to address flooding, we recommended:

Improvement work on rivers, lakes, and tributaries to cope with heavy and excessive rainfalls

Secure water supply stations within 1.5 – 2 km distance from every household, with three (3) liters of drinking water per persons per day

Promote measures to check rainwater and store and filter water into the ground

Factories: Install rainwater storage tanks

Apartment Complexes: Enable non-building spaces as lakes for flood management

Roads: Water permeable pavements

Schools and residential areas: Rain water harvesting facilities

Farm lands: Increase soil’s water holding capacities

Parks: multi-purpose lakes, including flood management

Buildings: Underground water storage to harvest rain water

River mouths: Protection against reverse tides from the sea

Low-lying areas due to rising sea level
Minimize flood damage to lowlands by finding out past flood records and promoting vertical and adaptive architecture

Build lakes for flood management when developing large tracts of land

Enable sewerage systems to store rainwater

Use pavements to filter water through

Improve sewage systems with filtration boxes

Consolidate anti-flood facilities such as quake- and tidal wave-proof embankments

Strengthen drainage systems in urban areas

Mountains and hillside villages
64. Sand-arresting works to prevent landslides from heavy rainfall

65. Shore maintenance works in order to protect shoreline from erosion by typhoons and seasonal winds. 66. Increase water-holding capacities through reforestation and tree planting

From July 2010 to date, we have put forward to the President more than 100 recommendations to address hazards before these turn to disasters.


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  1. Eliseo Jr. P.Tenza on

    I have proposed that a vice President should be an Architect so that all these recommendations can be acted upon.
    As you have mentioned that it was presented to then Pres. Gloria Arroyo,
    there was definitely no action done.
    These recommendations goes to waste if the authorities does not study these and implement it. Let us change the organization of the government by putting an Architect as vice President in charge of the comprehensive approach to all the physical problems of the country.
    I recommend Architect Palafox jr. to run for the position of Vice President, and I ask the League of Philippine Architect endorse and campaign for him. I hope other association in the building industry and other associations do likewise.