Danger Zoning Matters: City of Davao’s Hazard Sensitive Zoning Ordinance

Upon first look at the updated zoning ordinance of Davao City for 2012-2021 one can notice the adherence to form, following the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board’s Model Zoning Ordinance. A textbook representation of how guidelines are followed in lieu of real world application. It follows form from the Title Page down to the Administration and Enforcement article. Few can be said to what is not to be found in the updated ordinance. However, one can comment on the additional features of the zoning ordinance which are related into the current advocacies of government in disaster risk reduction management and climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly in the identification of areas with high risk for natural hazards.

In Article IV – Zone Classification, Section 1.1 Land Slide Susceptible Zones. Areas located within the land slide prone based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City; the City identified areas which are susceptible to landslide, hence provided additional building restrictions or land use regulations in these areas. Further, Section 1.2 Flood Susceptible Zones. Areas located within the flood prone based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City also included additional restrictions for building settlements or structures in the area. The Zone Regulations for these danger areas were stipulated under Sections 1.2 and 1.3 of Article V. Section 1.2 Additional Provision on Areas with High Flood Susceptibility based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City Watersheds Conducted by DENR-MINES and Geosciences Bureau R-XI and Section 1.3 Additional Provisions on Areas with Landslide Susceptibility Based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City Watersheds Conducted by DENR-MINES and Geosciences Bureau R-XI, require new developments to secure clearances from the regional MGB and provide for applicable or approved mitigating measures for slope protection before Locational Clearances can be granted by the Local Government Unit. The restrictions are reasonable and within the jurisdiction of the executive agencies mandated to regulate land use on natural hazard identified areas.

The initiative of the Davao City government to restrict land use on danger zones is laudable, however; decades of inadequate regulation of land use in built up areas have exposed citizens to the natural hazards determined by the mines and geosciences bureau of DENR. At the end of the Marcos dictatorship in Post-EDSA 1 1986, the Duterte’s have ruled the southern city for more than two decades which saw the sleepy port town grow into a regional center for industry and commerce, but this growth is more private sector led than public sector planned. The consequences of weak planning regulation brought about by a political dynasty that espouses popular development planning, spending, and spatial strategy; reduced the capacity of the local government to enforce well thought out urban plans. Many of the residential zones are within the 2012 identified danger zones for flood and landslide susceptibility. It follows then the burden of residents within these areas, formal or informal, to comply with the additional restrictions/use regulations mentioned above. Now, many would appeal for a certificate of non-conformance due to financial restrictions of those who could not comply to invest in engineering solutions mitigating impacts of flood or landslides. But these remedies would become moot, if in the end when these hazards turn to disasters and loss of lives and properties are inevitable.

Land use restrictions such as those in areas of flood and land slide susceptibility would not be enforced without sufficient administrative and institutional support. Based on the documents provided by the City of Davao, a total of 3,246 personnel are working for the City Government. 27 are elected officials, while 2,892 or 89.09% with permanent appointment, 4 or .14 percent temporary and 323 personnel or 9.95% are co-terminus. The City Planning and Development Office have 69 positions in charge to monitor the implementation of the city’s land use pattern. With a small office to regulate 244,000 hectares of land, the office might not be able to fulfill its mandate efficiently and effectively.

In lieu of the administrative/institutional challenges of implementing the zoning ordinance, the City has done what it can with it has. This observation is based on studying the general zoning map, and the proposed urban zoning map of the city. Several factors that facilitate zoning is the adaptation of a spatial strategy that the city called Barangay Urban Centers, and District Urban Centers, as first and second level of service providers respectively. With a vast territorial boundary, with a rural north, and urban south; the spatial strategy to develop basic services delivery platforms can be said to augment the lack of personnel from the City Government. However, even with a popular political dynasty at the helm of Davao City; it is this same circumstance that impedes land use planning implementation. By not wanting to get into the wrong side of the family, it is possible that civil servants in the planning office would bend to the call and haw of the local chief executive, and in the process disregarding the rule of law and exposing people to unnecessary risks.

The recourses one can recommend to strengthen zoning implementation is to improve the capacity of the planning office, increase its staff complement with qualified personnel, and to improve local governance by leveling the playing field to other competent politically astute individuals. By improving the capacity and increasing the staff complement of the planning office, individuals in the office can increase their efficiency with new knowledge and skills that would benefit the City. Also by improving local governance, transparency and accountability would be take the forefront of basic service delivery in the tune of proper land use zoning administration; where to build not and where to build  with gold.


Updated Zoning Ordinance of Davao City 2012-2021. City of Davao. Republic of the Philippines

HLRB Guidelines. Model Zoning Ordinance Volume X. 1996

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