Tibaldo: Of dead rocks, loose soil and upland living

Consumers atbp.

WE HAVEN’T really learned from our past tragedies and sad experiences. It seems that we failed to fully understand, integrate and implement our pre, during and post disaster analysis, implementation plans (implan) and mitigating measures that we learned from the July 1990 Killer Earthquake experience. We have foresters who takes care of our forests, geologists who analyze the stability of the land and engineers who sees to it that vertical and horizontal edifices are structurally sound.

The weather forecasters and media can only do so much in warning us of impending risks but it is really upon us, the homeowners who must do all necessary precautionary measures and assure ourselves that we are staying on solid and safe ground.

I had several training on Mass Casualty Incident and Incident Command System but it is sad to learn from the Office of Civil Defense-CAR that Incident Command System or ICS is not fully implemented in PH.

Cordillera had Post Disaster Needs Analysis or PDNA for the 2015 Typhoon Lawin, Post Disaster Risk Assessment or PDRA for typhoon Ompong and now, search and rescue is ongoing in parts of the Cordillera for landslides caused by typhoon Rosita.

The landslide in Barangay Har’rang, Natonin Mountain Province that wiped a building of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) out of the landscape came unexpectedly as I knew the place as among the few places in the Cordillera with thick forests and lush vegetation.

Dr. Mary Margaret Acmor who is from the place explained to social media commenters that the heavily hit municipality of Natonin, Mountain Province have not denuded their mountains and introduced man-made activities such as mineral extraction. “We are not greedy enough to do so. We are not mining communities. We have our own communal forest conservation. Perhaps you all should see the place, the mountains are steeper than Baguio and Benguet. Why would raptors and cloud rats be seen if it were not for the forest cover that we have.”

Thinking of all the typhoon and landslide related incidents that happened recently in the uplands while cruising smoothly along the TPLEX, NLEX and SLEX on our way to Cuenca, Batangas, my housemate and only passenger who was busy reviewing online posts and messages suddenly exclaimed “there’s no more safe place in the Cordillera”. With that provoking exasperation, my mind soared wayward as to what mitigating measures can be done.

Eureka! I was revving up on a slight uphill along the central plains passing through flood water gateways below and I imagined that there must be culverts in areas that are not bridged. These cylindrical concrete for drainage purposes are meant to be covered with soil. It has withstood hundreds of tons of weight above it and perhaps it can be a model for upland housing. Can you imagine a bigger culvert for housing?

How I wish I can have this column at Sunstar Baguio converted into a cartoon to illustrate a big culvert-like dwelling in the uplands with complete household amenities like living rooms, toilet and bath with a kitchen. Of course, it must be anchored on a flattened stable ground that is not within the Mines and Geo-Sciences identified landslide hazard areas. Another proven structure that can be likened to the bomb shelters of the 1950s are the shipping containers vans that can be upcycled or refitted as a housing unit. Said container van is made of solid steel that can be cut, paired and welded to suit the needs of the homeowner.

These stackable gated big metal boxes can be had for as low as P40,000 for a 20 feet container and even cheaper for older ones. In opting for these metal containers, one has to treat the metal for anti-corrosion and employ an expert welder for the metal works like adding posts, doors, windows and extensions. Availing municipal building permit can be another thing to consider but a consultation with the local municipal engineer can more or less give an idea especially in the installation of electrical wires, plumbing and even the need for a septic tank.

The biblical passage “a wise man built his house upon a rock” may be true in most cases like the houses built at Sagada, Mountain Province, Baguio’s Rock Quarry, San Carlos Heights, Quirino Hill, and the painted houses of KM-3 in La Trinidad Benguet now known as Stobosa as these places weren’t heard of for incidents like landslides. Borrowing the words of Heraclitus, “nothing in this world is permanent except change,” the Greek philosopher meant that change is the only reality in nature and we have all made changes in our lives whether good or bad and be it expected or unexpected.

It is therefore important for us to know that when planning to buy a property, construct a house or rent a unit for a long term in the Cordillera, we must first check with the available data at the MGB if the site identified is not within the high risk areas for erosion, sinking and flooding. #IncidentCommandSystem, #1990KillerEarthquake


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