Immediate action to address flooding


WITH an average of 20 typhoons a year, the 100 million people of the Philippines are vulnerable to natural calamities. In order to avoid catastrophic aftermaths, everyone should be equipped with the right information on how to plan and prepare without being dependent on the government.

We all have been a witness to devastating effects of nature when a city is caught unprepared. We saw what happened if structures cannot withstand strong typhoons (Yolanda), and saw where the water went when our flood control and drainage systems can no longer accommodate the volume of water brought by rain (Ondoy and Habagat). During Ondoy, more than 4,000 cubic meters per second flowed down from the denuded mountains when the capacity of Pasig River is only 600 cubic meters. This resulted in the flooding of 80,000 hectares of urban land in Metro Manila and Laguna lakeshore communities.

Metro Manila alone is home to 11 million people and a work place to 16 million people and we saw what the people went through during Habagat and Ondoy, as we ourselves experienced it first-hand.

According to Pagasa, rain bringing high volume of water such as Habagat will be frequent.

Post-Ondoy recommendations
Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture group have prepared a brief list of recommendations on urban planning, architecture and engineering to address hazards toward safer cities, towns and communities. These recommendations were put forward to the government and the media. While we also submitted short-, medium-, and long-term measures, let us share with you some of the recommendations for immediate action:

Clear all rivers, esteros, waterways and lakes. Huge amounts of trash can be seen floating on these bodies of water. Regularly cleaning and dredging the waterways is needed to avoid severe flooding. We should also think about our fellowmen who live along the waterways. Historically, they are highly vulnerable to flooding. We have seen what happened to those living along Laguna Lake, Marikina River, San Juan River and Pasig River, and the esteros, among others.

Control development in areas vulnerable to disasters. In zoning of a local government, specific areas are identified as non-buildable. That is why both the homeowner and the government are responsible. The homeowner should be aware that he should not be there in the first place and the government should not have issued permits. As a vigilant citizen, for his own good, he must relocate. And the government should update and strictly implement zoning ordinances of the local government, including hazard zoning overlays and disaster preparedness plans. It can start by relocating homes, offices and facilities away from areas vulnerable to flooding and other disasters.

Construction of Parañaque spillway that would connect Laguna Lake and Manila Bay, complementing Pasig River. Floodwaters from the mountains to Marikina River and other waterways would need to pass through Pasig River to flow out to Manila Bay. Clearly, Pasig River cannot accommodate the volume of water. The Parañaque Spillway proposed in 1975 would have flushed out floodwaters from Laguna Lake to Manila Bay.

Creation of a flood, drainage and sewage master plan. When rain pours down the streets and neighborhoods, the only way that water will flow are through the drainage. But this drainage and other flood-control infrastructure should be free from trash and should be well-designed, up to standard and sufficient in size. The Metro Manila drainage and sewage master plan will reportedly be completed by 2035. Meanwhile, there are floods every year. We have proposed adaptive architecture and engineering while waiting for the drainage and flood control master plan to be implemented.

Creation of Emergency and Disaster Response Management plan and make sure that all citizens are aware of it. Before storm surges and flash floods occur, the government and the citizens should be aware what areas will be flooded and how high, information that could be obtained from flood zoning overlay maps. The government should educate the citizens what to do, what not to do and where to go in cases of flooding.

Build elevated walkways, sky bridges to connect buildings above floodwaters. We need to revaluate and rethink how we design our buildings as being an isolated development or structure. Because of flooding, among others, it would be highly recommended if buildings are made to be interconnected so that people will not need to walk the streets during flood.

For San Juan City Comprehensive Land Use and Zoning Development Plan, Palafox Associates has put forward, among many other recommendations: hazard overlay zoning, three levels of access (i.e. ground/street level, elevated and interconnected walkways, and interconnected monorail connected with the buildings and eventually to the Metro Rail Transit 3 plying EDSA and Light Rail Transit 2 plying Aurora Boulevard). Our plan for San Juan has been cited as a Smart City of the Future in Berlin, Germany, and also presented in Shanghai, China, in a conference organized by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat based in Chicago.

I hope our recommendations to address hazards before disasters strike and our plan for the city of San Juan will be realized and used as a model for smarter, safer and sustainable cities of the future in our country


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  1. Hector Gomez on

    Creation of detention and or retention basins or ponds should be required when a particular area is developed. This is to alleviate the amount of runoff that is going directly into the city or municipal drainage system and avoid large quantities of runoff that taxes the storm drainage systems heavily.