Remembering ‘Ondoy’

A YEAR ago today, hundreds of families in Metro Manila lost their homes. Some lost their loved ones. Schools, churches, even malls were flooded. Lives and properties were lost in an instance.

A year after the “great flood” in recent history, a lot of things need to be done. Schools and other government facilities destroyed by floodwaters still await reconstruction.

The Department of Education alone said it needs at least a billion pesos to fund the rehabilitation of 2,441 elementary and high schools.

The government, however, scrapped the Public-Private Reconstruction Commission created by the former administration to oversee and raise funds for rehabilitation of affected sectors. (The commission was excluded in the list of agencies receiving funds under next year’s 1.645 trillion peso proposed budget.)

Environmental groups have warned that Metro Manila and nearby provinces can face another disaster as illegal logging continues in Sierra Madre, a 1.5 million-hectare mountain range east of Manila. The mountain range serves as the eastern wall of the main island of Luzon protecting it from Pacific Ocean storms.

According to Father Pete Montallana, chairman of the Save the Sierra Madre Network, Metro Manila doesn’t see what is happening there but is already feeling the consequences. “We cannot destroy Sierra Madre and continue to live…. It is a mother giving us life,” said Father Pete.

The priest parishioners continue to report illegal logging around the mountain range but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources fails to curb the activities.

The EcoWaste Coalition, meanwhile, reminded Filipinos to recycle to restore ecological balance and prevent last year’s tragedy. “Typhoon Ondoy taught us in a painful and costly way that practices destroying the ecosystems should be stopped,” said EcoWaste president Roy Alvarez.

About 21,700 hectares of Metro Manila’s 650,000-hectare land area were submerged by floods during the first hours of Ketsana’s onslaught last year.

Meanwhile, “Ondoy” became the inspiration for the United Acrhitects of the Philippines, the Climate Change Commission, the City of Taguig and the MyShelter Foundation to go beyond the traditional way of repairing after the storm, but building better habitat braced for a cycle of climate challenges.

The group said there is a need to reorient the focus from Low Carbon initiatives, and look to a vision of Zero Climate Casualty initiatives in planning our homes.

They are launching the Design Against the Elements (DAtE), a global design competition to look for new blueprints from the best architects from around the world for urban solution for communities already being hit by the early manifestations of climate change.

They believe that the project will bridge the movement of new ideas on how to build resiliency through the use of design and architecture which can lessen the impact of the yearly expected flooding and drought which cause massive migrations of low income urban sectors.

The winning design will be built in the prototype community for displaced teachers in Taguig. Up Close/Joe Torres

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