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Gov't targets setting no-build zones

By Catherine Teves

MANILA, June 28 (PNA) — The Philippine government aims to reduce disaster risk of communities nationwide by identifying no-build zones where future human settlements will be disallowed, boosting President Benigno Aquino III's bid for better protection of life, limb and property.

"We'll have a conscious effort to determine criteria for the settlements' locations," said Sec. Ramon Paje from Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources which is partnering with other agencies on the matter.

He raised urgency for such criteria, noting settlements have been built in danger areas like natural floodways, fault line-traversed places and banks of waterways so communities there face hiked risk for disasters.

Climate change's repercussions – onslaught of weather extremes plus sea level and temperature rise – further elevates need for guiding physical development nationwide, he continued.

"We have the science and information to somehow tell if a place is dangerous, however," he said.

He noted government spends some PhP20 billion annually torehabilitate disaster-damaged settlements but savings can be realized if development is planned well.

"Rehabilitation is very costly to government but such expenditure can be reduced with correct planning," he said.

Government continues warning homeowners about looming disasters in danger areas where they live.

Relocation of informal settlers from danger areas also continues to keep them out of harm's way.

Paje said University of the Philippines, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, the science department and Development Academy of the Philippines agreed to partner with DENR on setting criteria for future settlements' locations.

He noted such agencies will share respective technical and non-technical expertise to develop the best criteria possible.

"President Aquino wants the matter studied so settlements won't just sprout anywhere," he said.

In guiding physical development, Paje said the partners will identify growth nodes or centers around the country to help locate future settlements accordingly.

High-density and multi-function development characterize growth nodes which are linked by roads as well as transport and communication systems to facilitate flow of people, goods and services.

Paje believes government must institutionalize such strategy to avoid having more haphazard development in the country.

"We should ultimately come up with a long-term physical development plan for the country," he said.

A report authorities released earlier this week in Metro Manila cited need for further mainstreaming climate change into government's planning and budgeting process so the country can increasingly build its resilience to the changing climate.

The World Bank-backed report 'Getting a Grip on Climate Change in the Philippines' urged such action as it warned available data indicate the two degree Celsius global warming increase experts previously projected can possibly rise to four degrees Celsius as early as 2060, jeopardizing socio-economic development worldwide.

Action is due as gaps in government's climate bid still exist, the report noted.

The report pointed out among such gaps are Philippine local development plans' insufficient alignment with the country's National Climate Change Action Plan. (PNA)

HBC/CJT/EBP

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