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400,000 squatters key to fixing Philippine floods: official

Imelda shoe collection survives Philippine flood: report
A museum guard's quick thinking saved part of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos's infamous shoe collection when huge floods devastated the nation's capital, a report said Thursday. The 200-pair display was moved upstairs just before flood waters swamped the ground floor of the Marikina Shoe Museum on the eastern outskirts of the capital, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, citing the city mayor. "A guard was able to take most of the pairs to the second floor. We will account for them in due time, but our priority right now is still the affected families," it quoted city mayor Marides Fernando as saying in an interview. Marikina, the Philippines' shoe production capital, was among the hardest hit areas when Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped record rains in and around Manila on September 26, killing nearly 300 people. Marcos's shoe collection has become one of the most notorious symbols of the life of luxury and excess she enjoyed during the 20-year reign of her dictator husband, Ferdinand Marcos. About 3,000 pairs of shoes were discovered in her quarters at the Malacanang presidential palace after she and her husband fled to US exile amid a bloodless "people power" revolt that ended Marcos rule in 1986. The former first lady, who returned to the Philippines shortly after her husband died in Hawaii in 1991, has long maintained that she collected so many shoes partly to promote the Marikina industry. The Marikina museum showcases the Marcos collection and an assortment of other footwear worn by former Philippine presidents, senators, ambassadors, and Marikina mayors. City mayor Fernando could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The telephones at the museum, which opened in 2001, were not working.
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Oct 8, 2009
At least 400,000 squatters blocking key drainage channels of a giant lake on the edge of the Philippine capital need to be uprooted to fix Manila's flooding crisis, a government official said Thursday.

The squatters are among one million people living on the shoreline of Laguna de Bay, which will stay flooded for up to five months unless drastic action is taken, Laguna Lake Development Authority chief Edgardo Manda told AFP.

"I have made a strong recommendation to remove these people from the danger zones and not allow them to go back," Manda said of the 400,000 squatters who are living mostly on what was once marshy wetlands.

"The authorities would probably need to erect barricades and station sentries in these areas."

The dramatic recommendation comes as large parts of eastern Manila remain flooded 12 days after Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped the heaviest rains in more than four decades on the city, killing at least 298 people.

Manda and other officials have acknowledged that chaotic urban planning, or no planning at all, exacerbated the crisis, particularly around Laguna, where shantytowns, factories and housing developments have overtaken farms.

However, Manda said he realised removing squatters from around the lake would be a "political decision" that may not sit well with politicians so close to national elections in May next year.

In those polls, local officials as well as a new president are chosen.

About 300,000 of the squatters are living in and around an illegal open garbage dump on wetlands that block two connecting rivers that are meant to channel excess water from the lake into Manila Bay to the west.

"The channel is constricted," Manda said, adding that clearing the squatters and garbage from the wetlands was key to allowing water to flow more freely.

About 100,000 other squatters live in houses on stilts on the lakeshore to the south, he added.

Aside from the one million people living near the immediate shoreline, which is likely to remain flooded for many months, at least one million others live in adjacent districts of eastern Manila that are also still under water.

President Gloria Arroyo's chief aide, Eduardo Ermita, on Wednesday announced a Belgian firm had been hired to dredge the Pasig river.

"Definitely this will help," Ermita said, but he did not address the issue of the squatters directly.

He also said the government was reviewing the process of granting permits to developers of residential areas along the 220-kilometre (137-mile) stretch of Laguna shoreline that were now partly submerged.

"These things must be looked into because we can see the effects," he told reporters.

Aside from working out a way to unplug the Laguna lake area, the government has been trying to care for more than 315,000 homeless flood survivors who remain in schools, sports arenas and other makeshift evacuation centres.

The government has warned that disease outbreaks are highly likely for those living in the shelters, as well as in the flooded areas around Laguna, because of unsanitary conditions.

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Taiwan leader's popularity rises after Typhoon Parma: poll
Taipei (AFP) Oct 8, 2009
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's popularity has risen sharply, as more than half the people on the island supported the way his government handled Typhoon Parma, a survey showed Thursday. Ma's approval rating climbed to 47.3 percent from a record low of 29.6 percent on August 19, less than two weeks after Typhoon Morakot lashed the island killing at least 619 people, according to a poll by ... read more

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