PHYSICAL FEATURES AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITION
I. GEOGRAPHICAL AND NATURAL FEATURES
The city center sits on a valley bounded on the right by the Amandiwing mountain range and on the left by sloping forest lands. Areas beyond the city center are large highly-restricted agricultural lands that are irrigated and covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The 984-hectare Ormoc-Merida Wildlife Sanctuary, which is up for NIPA proclamation and heritage sites such as the Yamashita line are among the city’s treasures. Slopes range from Class M (level to nearly level) to Class Q (moderately steep to very steep, or 30%-50%).
Situated on the northwestern coastal plain of Leyte Island, the City of Ormoc is characterized by a varied terrain. Part of Mt. Mindiwin, its eastern portion is generally hilly and mountainous, reaching a peak of 1,000 meters above sea level. On the other hand, its western and southwestern portions are nearly level to undulating lands that form the Ormoc Valley.
With this topography, recovery and rehabilitation planning in the City is subject to constraints due to flooding and rain-induced landslides. Development near river banks or in areas with steep slopes shall be minimized if not prevented. In addition, a large portion of the City is protected. One key biodiversity area (KBA) located within the Eastern Visayas Biodiversity Corridor covers part of Ormoc City. This is the Anonang-Lobi Mountain Range, which has an estimated area of 58,052 hectares that runs north to south of Western Leyte.
B. Water Bodies
Natural features such as the Lake Danao Natural Park, numerous rivers and streams and vast mangrove sites offer eco-tourism development potentials. Major river systems include Bao River in the north, Pagsangahan in the south and Anilao and Malbasag in the city proper.
Lake Danao in Ormoc City is listed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as one of the major lakes in the Philippines. With an estimated area of 197 hectares, the lake is nestled within the Lake Danao Natural Park, a NIPAS-proclaimed protected area located in the northeastern upland areas of Ormoc. There are two smaller lakes both situated within the Tongonan Geothermal Reservation Field: Lake Kasudsuran in Barangay Ga-as in the southeast, while Lake Janagdan in Barangay Cabintan in the northeast. Both lakes are deemed as potential eco-tourism sites in the City.
Ormoc City is also host to fish sanctuaries and marine reserve areas. Fish sanctuaries located in three barangays Macabug, Ipil, and Camp Downes cover a total of 32 hectares. On the other hand, marine reserve areas covering around 15 hectares can be found in four barangays, namely Bantigue, Batuan, San Antonio, and Punta.
Environmental constraints are also present in the coastal areas of Ormoc particularly on storm surges and tsunami.
C. Protected Areas
Ormoc’s eastern side is part of a biodiversity area and is also dominantly classified as protected forest and watershed. Other protected areas include land covered by the Strategic Crop Sub-development Zone, Strategic Fishery Sub-development Zone, Strategic Livestock Sub-development Zone and the Network of Protected Area of Agricultural and Agro-industrial Development (NPAAAD) and National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
Agricultural lands have been converted to give way for the development of renewable energy facilities. Others have been converted to temporary and permanent housing communities. These land conversions were allowed based on the DAR AO No. 1 or the 2002 Comprehensive Rules on Land Use Conversion.
Policies and programs must be geared toward mitigating disasters. Environmentally-critical areas are prone to natural calamities such as geologic hazards, floods, and typhoons. Despite the risk posed by such locations, most socio-economically vulnerable communities residing along the coastal areas facing Ormoc Bay and along the banks of the two major river systems in the City opt to remain there. Provisions of Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines relative to easements must be followed.
Considerable effort must be done to clear the canals and river banks from informal settlers. They are most vulnerable to disasters and as such must be transferred to safer relocation sites and provided with support and access to sustainable livelihoods.
Nature tourism is Ormoc’s asset that must be enhanced and developed. A tourism plan could provide guidelines for and set the protection of ecologically sensitive areas. The long coastal area has a lot of potential for tourism and development. Measures have to be set in place for the development and protection of Lake Danao from the onslaught of tourism facilities.
D. Built-up Areas
Ormoc is generally agricultural and forested. Land use is intense in the city center, but density abruptly decreases in the barangays encircling the vast lowlands. Notwithstanding the risks posed by natural hazards, development opportunities abound given the very small percentage of built-up area relative to its total land area.
Built-up areas comprise 5.75% or 2.67 hectares of its total land area of 464.3 hectares. The urban built-up areas compose half of this and are mostly concentrated in the Poblacion facing the Ormoc Bay. Urban land uses include commercial, residential, institutional, industrial, open spaces and special land uses.
Development priority areas largely allocated for industrial uses are found in Barangays Luna, Dolores and Dayhagan, northeast of the Poblacion and at Barangay Ipil, to its west. These low to high industrial developments are located in generally agriculture lands and do not pose immediate danger to existing settlements and the natural environment.
Linear developments are gradually emerging along the municipal roads supporting the satellite nodes connecting them to the urban core, serving as their distribution center. The developments along the transportation spines consist of low residential density to medium intensity mixed-uses.
Rehabilitation of the airport would also have a possible effect on its surrounding areas, developing support services such as tourism, housing, and utilities uses. Such services could enhance and support the City’s agro-commercial activities.
In addition to these emerging urban centers, the Ormoc Township promotes Ormoc’s thrust towards inclusive growth and development.
Ormoc has a huge labor base as revealed by both the maps and the tables below. The working population from age 15 to 64 is relatively distributed across the urban and rural barangays. Male population and female population are almost equal and also proportionately distributed in all barangays.
A. Population Distribution by Age
Table 1-1: Population Distribution by Age
B. Population Distribution by Sex
Table 1-2: Population Distribution by Sex
The current urban pattern of Ormoc City is greatly concentrated at the south near the coastal area. Several nodes providing specialized uses to complement the urban center have been identified creating a clustered development. The direction of growth is to discourage linear development along the highways where scattered developments now exist, instead regulating growth along these paths to encourage clustering at the sub-nodal developments.
III. EXISTING LAND USE AND LAND USE TRENDS
A. Existing Land Use
The 464.30 square kilometer area of land making up the City of Ormoc is largely agricultural and protected forest in use. Only about 6% of the total land area is built up with the bulk of it concentrated along Ormoc Bay. The settlement pattern is one where the city center dominates with small patches of residential areas dispersed outside the urban core. Linear settlements also follow the main roads leading to special uses such as the geothermal plant and economic zones. Apart from the Ormoc Bay, the city’s strongest defining elements include other natural features such as the Amandiwing mountain range on the east, the intricate network of rivers and streams and the vast productive agricultural land. Man-made features such as the radial roads and highway system and the spatial disposition of special developments also regulated the growth of settlements beyond the city center.
General land and water uses in Ormoc City based on the 1999 Master Development Plan represents a dominant land use in agriculture followed by forest areas.
A total of 31,395.13 hectares or 67.62% of the total land area is alienable. Inalienable land includes the forest areas that are mostly on the mountain range (refer to Table 1-4 and Figure 1-15). Within the forestlands are forest reserves that also form part of the key biodiversity area that covers other parts of Leyte. A vast eco-tourism area and watershed also make up the protected forest area.
Currently, only the Lake Danao Natural Park has been declared as a NIPA since 1998, but another natural site has been proposed for being designated as a protected area, the Tongonan Hot Spring National Park.
B. Land Utilization
Land use is intense in the city center where density is at 397 persons per square kilometer based on the 2009 Census. Building heights range from single to five stories in the old town core. Density abruptly goes down in the barangays encircling the vast lowlands. Notwithstanding the risks posed by natural hazards, development opportunities abound given the very small percentage of built-up area.
1. Residential Types
The city center is generally characterized by R-1 and R-2 dwellings with a few R-3 areas. A cluster of mixed use buildings and single detached houses line along major transportation routes. Outside of the city core R-1 community developments are sparse but are commonly found along the barangay roads. These dwellings are usually made of indigenous materials with several ones made of concrete or combination of materials. Shanties are dispersed but numerous and usually found along the roads traversing agricultural lands.
2. Ormoc City Proper
Ormoc has a vibrant urban core with mixed uses, retail establishments, shop houses, major services, hotels, transportation hubs. It has a large residential population supporting it the revenue-generating areas. Old residential structures are interspersed with the newer ones. These are mostly found near the Poblacion’s old municipal core.
In the second ring around the city core, middle class housing laid out in grid pattern can be found. These are the most serviced residential areas that are near schools, hospitals and protective services. They are also within walking distance from commercial centers and offices.
A new government center is located to the north-west of the old municipal core. Most institutional structures gravitate towards this area. Southward to its east, toward the historic core, commercial and R-2 uses, hotels, transportation hubs and services gradually increase.
The old municipal core, which has a coastal plaza plan, facing the Ormoc Bay, remains vibrant. It contains the historic Puenta Dela Reina built in the sixteenth century, the shell of the old city hall, adjacent to the St. Peter and Paul’s Parish, and the Jose Rizal monument. While hosting newer structures such as the Ormoc City Superdome, commercial buildings, dining establishments, and hotels along Aviles, Burgos and Larrazabal, San Pedro and Bonifacio Streets, the latter two serve to define the edge of the core containing the large open spaces found in the City. These are the Children’s Park, Ormoc City Park, and the Rizal Monument Park. Hawkers and stall owners selling fruits, vegetables and cut flowers abound along these streets and park edges.
3. Agricultural Communities
Residential bases in the farm areas are small clusters of houses that are organized around irrigated land. Linear communities are gradually developing along municipal roads traversing the agricultural lands. Shanties and informal settlements have cropped up in areas where industrial uses have been developing north and south west of the city core. Efforts to support upland farming have also resulted in the proliferation of housing along the slopes where terraced farm lots can be found. Some agricultural communities are being redefined with the entry of service and utility-related facilities such as water treatment plants.
4. Specialized Areas
The presence of the geo-thermal plant, solar power farms and SALT communities serves to create systems-based settlements, generating a stronger community core with a higher likelihood for survival. These special developments are anchors, as they provide opportunities and advantages to communities developing as clusters along the municipal roads or growing radially from these core developments. These communities are mostly found in the rolling geographic locations at higher elevations, which eventually can supplement the farming communities in the lowlands. As they develop and grow, these settlements could serve as newer urban developments.
5. Coastal and Riverside
Ormoc City has a long coastal area that is 70% lined with dense settlements. Its numerous rivers and streams also attract residents, especially households that subsist on fishing and sand quarrying. Ormoc’s physical characteristics make it prone to flooding and erosion. Despite these threats, a great number of the population thrive along the water bodies.
6. Informal Settlements
Informal settlements are found mainly in the agricultural, industrial, and riverside areas. While essentially unregulated, these areas complement the production areas where industries ranging from agriculture and backyard type activities to large-scale manufacturing and alternative energy-related activities are located.
Publicly-owned lands such as the 36-hectare military reservation in Camp Downes have also been informally settled on. This supposedly no-build zone is now host to many informal settler families (ISF), including those of retired military personnel. The development projects in the designated government center around the new city hall in Barangay Cogon, likewise, need to be put on hold until after the land can be cleared of ISFs.
At the aftermath of the Typhoon Yolanda, the local government has also assigned previous agricultural areas northeast of the city as new residential communities. Current state of development includes staging areas for relocatees, which will eventually be replaced by permanent residential developments.