BLISS

MINDANAO DAILY MIRROR 2000 JUNE 15  

A few years ago one official - I can no longer remember if it was then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte or Mayor Benjamin de Guzman - suggested that BLISS-type housing projects be put up in Davao City to address the growing need for low-cost housing. The context was a warning aired by scientists that the rapidly increasing number of subdivisions built in Davao City would damage the environment, since large areas are cleared of trees to make way for development. The scientists particularly pointed out the danger of flooding; most of the subdivisions were being built in the uplands, and without trees rainwater would flow straight to the low-lying areas.

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As we see now, truer words were never said. Back then flooding was a concern, but today it is a calamity. Ever since the big flood in February Davao City residents have been afraid of strong rains because of the flooding that may occur. Just two weeks ago heavy rains submerged large portions of the downtown area, and in Matina where I was at the time the water was rushing through the streets like a river. In the most livable city in the Philippines, a lot of people are finding it hard to, well, live.

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But how does one balance the great need for housing and the protection of the environment? I guess that was what prompted the official to consider BLISS, a sort of low-cost multi-level condominium concept that former First Lady Imelda Marcos dreamed of. The origin notwithstanding, the idea has its good points. For one thing, one building can easily hold more than 20 families for a fraction of the land that regular housing would have required. Because of this, each unit is cheaper since the land cost is divided among the dwellers.

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It has been more than 10 years since I visited a BLISS building, but I remember that the one I use to go to (where a friend lived) was clean because the dwellers made a pact to keep it that way. At the same time I know that some units were unkempt and became hotbeds for drug dealing. In both cases, it is a matter of the dwellers deciding what they want to do with their building.

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On the whole, however, low-cost condominiums make a lot of sense, especially when one considers the alternative. We cannot forever clear hectares of land to make way for housing projects; at some point it will be counter-productive, and we will be left with a growing population that has nowhere to live. Perhaps the authorities should look into this possibility; we have nothing to lose from studying the proposal, and the gains are potentially enormous.

2000 Jon Joaquin. All rights reserved.