The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for comprehensive development planning to help mitigate the effects of strong typhoons in the country brought about by climate change.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the need to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation into development planning has become increasingly urgent in light of destructive weather disturbances in recent years.
“The best way to mitigate the impacts of changing climate is through proper development planning, especially in urban areas like Metro Manila,” Paje said.
He said the government, not the private sector, should take the lead in the process by providing tools and knowledge to ensure that urban development, both existing and new, is suitably adapted to impacts of climate change.
Paje noted the Philippines was on its way to adopting a 50-year master plan drawn up by the Cabinet cluster on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The master plan will include the use of geohazard maps to guide local governments in crafting land use plans to ensure that housing developments are not built in areas prone to landslides and floods, and the conservation of watershed areas to increase their carrying capacities to prevent floods and soil erosion in low-lying areas.
According to Paje, the National Capital Region and surrounding provinces such as Laguna, Bulacan and Cavite were geographically suited to drain rainwater naturally into the Manila Bay and Laguna Lake.
But he said that unplanned expansion and incorrect infrastructure has made Metro Manila prone to floods.
“We have allowed buildings to be constructed over our natural waterways, completely covering them and effectively reducing the number of creeks, esteros and rivers in Metro Manila by more than two-thirds, from more than 600 in the 1950s to less than 200 today,” Paje said.
The situation was worsened by heavy siltation and clogging in what is left of the waterways, an “urban thrombosis” where tributaries can no longer accommodate the volume of rain that climate change brings, robbing water its “right of way” and causing rivers to swell, he said.
JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ