Editorial: The agony of losing a home

"MAS mabuti pang manakawan kay sa masunugan," is oft-repeated by those who have become fire victims. It's because, when robbed, thieves only get what they way. Fires can turn to char everything you own.

This is the experience of the thousands of families who lost their homes Friday night. We can only urge more care in dealing with candles and gas lamps and electrical wirings and matches, and just about everything that can cause fire.

But Friday's fire was a nightmare no one ever wanted to be in, but is in fact in every urban planner's greatest fears. It had all the ingredients for a major disaster: densely packed wooden houses, tight alleys and wooden bridges, stronger than normal wind, and the very dry weather.

True, there is little we can do with all the inner city settlements packed with people and shanties. But the extent the fire spread from one barangay to another illustrates what our city is facing: a fast growing population that is trying to fit into very tight places to eke out a living in this boom city we call Davao.

This early, something has to be done to decongest these tight spaces - and given the situation that we can never relocate people to where they do not have any work opportunities because they will just pack up and return to where they are, building up now needs to be seriously considered. The Bliss Housing type of settlements that were introduced by the Marcos administration.

We cannot forever say this will be an expensive endeavor. Rather, we should by this time be considering the cost as against its benefits for better urban planning and living conditions of those who have less.

Something needs to be done and done now, because at the moment, the local government is enjoying full trust of the people, they are willing to abide by whatever the conditions and rules the local government lays down. There is no better time then to implement major improvements than now. We just have to look around and realize that what happened to Barangays 21, 22, and 23 last Friday can also happen in all other coastal settlement area in the city that are now packed with people.

We were lucky, no life was lost. But that was all it was, luck, and a load of community participation.


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