The slums in Davao City’s CBD and the inferno


By  Cha Monforte


The Davao City in the mid 90s had become already an unfriendly host for the further increase of population. The continuous population concentration at its central business district (CBD) had caused further urban core deterioration and undue spillage of slums and informal settlements from the central shoreline of the Davao Gulf towards the north and south directions. I had such observation in 1995 in my critique series to Davao City Comprehensive Development Plan (1995-2020) published in the local Mindanao Daily Mirror.


The Bucana area, which was a refreshing ventilation of the old, smaller CBD after World War II, had become the City Hall’s nearest symbol of blight and congestion. The city’s slums spilled over to Talomo area. The known boulevard extending to the central shoreline had been massively occupied by informal settlements. It could have been thought of just a boulevard- an open park strip, a baywalk. Unplanned settlements after the war had made the fringes of Agdao District decayed from the start.

At that time, throughout Davao City’s widest territory, touted as the world’s largest a city has, there were at least 23 slum areas, 74 percent of which was concentrated at Agdao (with 11 areas) compared to the next informally settled area, Bucana (with 6 slum areas) and Talomo (with 4 slum areas). Population concentration was found within and around the city shell nuclei. Comparably, until this day the city’s CBD has been ever the major route into where continuous streams and big bulk of in-migrating population swamp down and informally settle given the life support systems offered by those who have earlier settled.

The dominant residential milieu in the CBD gives a vivid picture of its worst congestion.  That’s still the greatest irony of Davao City having a world’s largest area while it has a large conservation zone which eats up 98 percent of its territory. I woe then- and now- of the DCCD Plan (1995-2020) for its deficient attention given to the socialized housing needs of the informal sector and its neglect to the issue on urban land supply while not considering the linear highway- and industry-led urban pace of the city.

Nineteen years ago, I reckoned the extent of congestion in city’s 23 slum areas was something like there were 5 persons put in 100-square-meter lot. I reckon now an alarming congestion in the city’s slums which is far worst for those within the city’s CBD. This explains the rise of makeshift settlements in the CDB like the Barangays 23-C, 22-C and 21-C that were gutted by a fire inferno in the night of last April 4. It’s not a wonder why when a hectare of these slum settlements was eaten up by a fast, raging fire a high number of persons were affected. A report said that total of 2,235 houses were destroyed or not less than 6,000 persons were affected.

In the burned area alone, it’s something like there are 22 persons put in a 100-square-meter lot.  In Batas  Pambansa 220’s minimum lot area for row house under socialized housing category, a lot having 28 square meters is allowable to be lived by 3-4 persons. But in the burned area it’s about 5 persons per 28 square meters already. That’s congested already. Which explains the high number of persons affected in the fire that is now putting so much burden to the city government.

The makeshift and slum residential milieu of Barangays 23-C, 22-C and 21-C doesn’t give us a hard time to do self-explaining why the fire spread and engulfed so fast with many of the victims bringing only the clothing they wore and whatever light and most valuable including the pets they could easily carry in hastily escaping from the fast, raging inferno that struck at a part of the city’s boulevard of broken dreams. (follow @chamonforte in Twitter, FB)


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