By J. Stacey Baird
In support of Brgy Ma-a Federation of Homeowners Association Open Letter on landslide threats in Matina Shrine Hills and flooding in its lower environs
SUBDIVISION LOCATION ASSUMPTIONS MUST CHANGE
Applications or approvals for subdivision development assume a certain level and frequency of rainfall and a certain “acceptable” level of risk to those nearby. Those assumptions, in light of experience and accelerating Climate Change are no longer valid. Anything can happen and likely will.
Flood and earth movements are often caused by human activities that weaken hills above or support below. If we look at past landslide disasters anywhere in the world, we see much the same thing.
When huge rains are no longer absorbed by trees and ground cover, they will find their way to the sea – drowning cars, homes, roads and people. Similarly, Nacilla village in Ma-a experienced large landslides in June and is reported in great danger. Nacilla is a harbinger, a bringer of warning, of the future of Shrine Hills.
Should unauthorized ill-conceived subdivisions or unauthorized constructions be approved after-the-fact for “Humanitarian Reasons” or should they be denied for Humanitarian Reasons? In the case of erring Developers, humanitarian reasons are often financial reasons, important but hardly as important as human life and welfare.
Should the lives, livelihoods and amenities of neighboring communities be traded for the financial reasons of erring Developers? Turn-downs will discourage ignorance as a competitive tool for obtaining development approval at the expense of the greater good.
SUBDIVISION DEVELOPERS ARE DIFFERENT THAN CITY PLANNERS
This is not an indictment or to say that Developers are mean spirited or evil. Most are honest and have conscientious loving people working for them. But, they do not think like City Planners. Or, their focus would be much broader.
It seems that Developers by the nature of what they do, focus most of their attention on the development itself, to make it attractive and useful to potential customers, to motivate customers to buy. History has shown us that Developer understanding of their affects on the amenities and livability of outside communities are often not clearly in focus or desirably sensitive.
Developers often fail to “think outside the box” meaning, outside their own subdivision. It may be seen as “extra, possibly unnecessary, expenses that will force us to raise our selling price to a non-competitive level.”
Davaoenyos have elected or appointed a City Council, City Planning Officers and City Engineers to understand how Developers think and to bend Developer thought to a broader community picture and greater good through leadership and law.
If we enforce Code and building regulations consistently and equally for all Developers according to the terrain, conditions and surrounding communities, Developers will experience consistency, know what to expect and have the same relative costs. Patrick Guasa, an eminent planner has said similar things, as have others, many times. All the pieces of the puzzle must fit the needs of the City.
We need the City Council to stand by its commitment to “strictness” not only in matters of flooding but also locations approved for development. They must be champions of the City as a whole rather than of localized development projects. We all need to think about the New Reality of our closed economy. The New Reality is we must be aware we will live in – and with – whatever we produce, useful goods or waste. It can no longer be shipped or floated downstream. There is no “down stream.” We are already there.
Just as we are moving ahead to separate our household wastes, we must evaluate what adds beauty and utility to the whole city and what creates waste and destruction of lives, the quality of life and the environment.
I believe the great majority in Davao, if asked, will say they need and expect to be protected, particularly in these times of Climate Change. Certainly, the City Government does its best to protect people and spends great sums of tax money after disasters. Why not, for humanitarian reasons, prevent disasters in the first place? Improving the Locational Clearance and Development Permit process is the place to start.
What are some of tools that might be used to improve those and related processes? A short list might include
Hire more city engineers and inspectors or provide better transportation such as city cars and motorcycles to increase engineering inspection coverage and stamina.
Train engineers and inspectors to be more assertive, ask questions, improve reporting and follow up.
Increased Councilor awareness of local construction activities and willingness to ask hard questions.
Instruction or familiarization for city councilors, legal advisers and courts on the basics and principals of city planning and consequences of epic fails such as Matina Pangi and Matina Crossing.
Target Planned areas in need of rehabilitation and re-use, perhaps offering incentives.
Require immediate posting of multi-million Peso Performance and Completion Bonds to protect the city environment. (Such bonds are authorized under Department of Natural Resource rules in general, not merely in Mining situations.)
What are some of the things the Public should do?
Ask questions, such as, “What is going on here?”
Report suspected unauthorized construction to Barangay officials and Councilors.
Realize that indeed, something can be done about it.
Let Councilors know their caution is strongly support and that Developer promises shall be supervised and enforced to the full extent of the law.
Support a requirement for posting of multi-million Peso Performance Bonds for Developers.
Recognize and re-elect Councilors whose performance in improving the city merits re-election.