New Tacloban must be built on higher ground


THE unprecedented horror that befell Tacloban City should prod officials to seriously consider rebuilding the city on higher and safer ground so that it withstand another typhoon as powerful as Yolanda, a renowned urban planner said.

Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. said that if he were to spearhead the rehabilitation of Tacloban, he would transform the city into the world’s center for climate change.

Tacloban is in the northeastern part of the island of Leyte with a land area of 201.7 square kilometers. The city, a port town, has 138 barangays. Like many places in the Philippines, much of Tacloban is low-lying. The spit of land on which the airport stands is well below five meters below sea level.

Because the city sits at the head of a bay, it absorbed the full force of the super typhoon.

Palafox said he would relocate the city to higher ground to spare it from storm surges whipped up by monster storms.

“Let’s locate the city to high ground, at least 10 meters above ground, also away from the fault line,” he told The Manila Times.

Many of the deaths in Yolanda were attributed to the tsunami-like surge that swamped entire communities.

Palafox said that structures in the new Tacloban should not only be disaster-resilient but also adapt to climate change.

“The new buildings in the city should be designed to address our problems in climate change,” he said.

He said the city’s seaport and airport, which were destroyed by Yolanda, should be improved to meet international standards.

The province should also have a strong, disaster-proof evacuation area.

He noted that most of the designated evacuation centers where people sought refuge were not spared from the wrath of the super typhoon.

With global attention centered on Tacloban, Palafox said this is the right time to make it as the world’s center for climate change.

The architect is willing to take part in the planning or remaking of a new Tacloban City.

United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos admitted that Tacloban needs to be rebuilt from the ground but it is impossible to say at this time as to how much will be needed for reconstruction and rebuilding efforts.

“It is far too soon to tell. This is a city devastated,” she said.

For now, what the local and national government can do is to identify the immediate needs for rehabilitation and reconstruction, so that details can be threshed out later on.

She said that it will take about six months before the city is cleared and prepped for rebuilding. And even then, the cost of the damage can be too extreme to be assessed in an instant.

Amos said that United Nations is working together with the government to estimate the cost of the city’s rehabilitation. The people, she said, would also need to do their share in rebuilding the city and communities.



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  1. sofronio babula on

    Actually, it is easier said than done for the reason that poor people especially fishermen wanted a place along the shore or bay for their livelihood. They are more comfortable without hassle of spending for transportation and they are already used living within the city. it also helps with their daily business like the one in Sagkahan district called “shed for fish vendors”. Another thing, the reason why the politicians have not political will to relocate these people along the bay or shore because they are important for their political career. These are actual voters who will vote for candidates who will tolerate them to stay where they want. Because of this Yolanda, perhaps the problem can be solved and hopefully they (politicians) can relocate them to higher ground areas and don’t care whether they win or lose the election.

  2. Yes I agree,Architect Falafox is the country’s premier Urban designer,but my own opinion here is before the implemention of the vision of rebuilding the flattened city I think as a third world country and too many critics on the entire archipelago, For sure we will be counting not months but years. The airport should be given the first priority because for decades it serves as the premiere link of Leyte and Samar. Otherwise the designer should reconsider talking to the local authorities where to build a temporary airstrip for the neighboring provinces…

  3. In addition to Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr.: An urgent & timely response to extreme calamities like typhoon Yolanda and the 7.2 earthquake should be a ‘must’ which is the establishment of Philippine Conservation Agency PCA. The primary responsibilities of a PCA are planting trees, unclogging rivers, monitor logging, safe waste disposal, and clearing debris after calamities. PCA workers must be trained to perform first aid, put up tents. & coordinate work with Department of Social Welfare Development & the Philippine Red Cross. PCA should have a detachment in all the provinces to facilitate immediate deployment in the event of calamities. PCA’s initial workers should be 10000 that will reduce the 3 million Filipinos who are looking for work.

  4. I was an OFW working as an engineer in Guam. In November , 1991 typhoon Yuri with maximum winds of 220 kilometers per hour (175 mph), making the typhoon to be the most powerful typhoon of both the 1991 season and the year 1991 slightly missed Guam but the intensity of the typhoon was really scary.

    Yet further before in 1962 Typhoon Karen hit Guam. It was the most tragic human disaster that happened 50 years ago. Karen devastated the island with gusty winds estimated to be up to 280 km/h (185 mph). Ninety-five percent of homes were damaged or destroyed, leaving at least 45,000 people homeless. It was regarded as the worst typhoon to ever strike the island.
    “In the wake of the storm left by Karen, a massive relief operation began that involved the evacuation of thousands of people in Guam to California, Hawaii, or Wake Island. Thousands were sheltered in public buildings and later tent villages for many months. More than $60 million in relief funds were sent to Guam over the following years to aid in rehabilitation. Though the storm’s effects were devastating, it was later attributed with improving the overall quality of life as building codes were reformed and the economy was revitalized”.

    Today, almost all of the residences in Guam is located aboveground and the roof and walls of houses are made of concrete. Windows are provided with protection against typhoon.

    The best place to evacuate the people of Leyte is in Subic, where the government would be able to efficiently address the human needs of the Leyteanos such as medical aid, water, food, shelter, education and other activities that would make the life at least normal if not bearable. We can start with women, children, senior citizens and those with immediate medical needs. Strong bodied men will be left to be made part of the reconstruction of Tacloban and other towns.

    Subic is designed as a logistic augmentation base of the 7th Fleet before when the US Naval Base is under the US. It has a an all weather harbor for air craft carriers and even large medical ships can sustain its presence for a number of years. It has an airport, large hangars, hospital facilities, school buildings that can be converted to classrooms that can accommodate elementary and high school students. It has large spaces for temporary housing and tent spaces. It is a place where you can secure the area. It can accommodate temporarily 15,000 to 20,000 families.

    I am familiar with this place because I use to go to Subic as a design consultant for MEPF design services when it was under the control of the US military.