A broken record

    1376

    ‘Too bad; because if anyone just paid enough attention to this broken record, we wouldn’t have so many broken lives today – in Cagayan, in Isabela, in Pampanga and Marikina and Las Piñas…’

    DON’T build at the base of the basin; you’re asking for trouble. Instead build on the sides, on the slopes, on the high ground as they do in Europe.

    In so many words, Enrique Zobel in the 1990s kept warning about the potential of flooding affecting wide parts of Metro Manila, bringing with it loss of life and widespread destruction.

    Not many listened; at times he even just had an audience of one, me, during those times when I would ask him what he thought of the boom and growth of areas outside Metro Manila. He would repeat: builders – and regulators – should be conscious that Metro Manila is like a valley, with parts being even below sea level. Build wrong, and disaster follows.
    He didn’t live long enough to see Ondoy ravage Metro Manila and neighboring towns, but I’m sure he is talking about that one and Yolanda and Ulysses to St. Peter and whoever else would find his points of view both informed and interesting.

    Anyone who thinks that EZ’s comments were just musings of a retired executive, think again. They are in fact words that reflect years of practice and experience from the projects launched during his term at the helm of Ayala Corporation and its construction arm, Makati Development Corporation (MDC).

    In Ayala Alabang Village, the main road is Madrigal Avenue. It is an undulating wide road that curves around a big part of the village ending up (if I remember right) at Sarangani after the intersection with Country Club and University Drive. When EZ still lived in the village (and allowed me to first rent, and then buy, an employee housing unit on Mindanao Avenue) I would visit him on a regular basis to talk shop, debate political issues, bait him to tell me stories of the politically powerful and the (other) rich and famous, and also talk about his own career. And one day I remarked about the drive down Madrigal being something akin to riding the waves; why, I asked, didn’t Ayala just flatten the damn thing?

    Ahhh, he smiled, that would affect the natural flow of water. He patiently explained that Ayala kept the natural curvature of the terrain so that when the rains fell it would follow the normal path of rainfall, draining properly towards Laguna Lake. Hence, no floods. (I suppose that’s also why the village has a huge “canal” cutting through it.) When he explained it that way I immediately knew that I was hearing experience and common sense talking in one voice, and I was enlightened a million times over. But then it hit me – do other developers do the same thing?

    Or do they convert swampy land into housing areas by filling in the property with landfill – therefore messing up the natural contours of the area that impact the natural flow of water?

    And do our regulators — especially those in charge of issuing building permits to real estate firms – understand this as well?

    I can see EZ now explaining these to me over and over and over again. Just like a broken record repeats itself over and over and over again. Too bad; because if anyone just paid enough attention to this broken record, we wouldn’t have so many broken lives today – in Cagayan, in Isabela, in Pampanga and Marikina and Las Piñas and in so many other areas of the country.

    How many more broken lives before anyone listens and acts?