Fiberglass boats, bamboo rafts to the rescue

TALISAY, Batangas—Rescuers reaching out to flooded areas in the Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) may soon be riding on boats made of fiberglass and collapsible bamboo rafts instead of the more expensive rubber boats.

The science community in the region has developed the fiberglass boats and rafts to boost the flood rescue capability of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC).


Disaster officials in the Calabarzon have turned to local, cheap and more accessible sources of boat materials, having learned their lessons from Tropical Storm Ondoy, considered the “most destructive” typhoon to hit the region since 1970.

“Fiberglass rescue boats are cost-effective (and cheaper) than (the traditional) rubber boats,” said Director Alexander Madrigal of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) regional office. The DoST designed the boat in October last year and funded the project.


The vessels were launched last month in a demonstration on a portion of the Taal Lake in Talisay town to local officials and representatives of other government agencies. Two units were turned over to the RDRRMC.


Madrigal said a fiberglass boat with built-in cabinets could cost 60-80 percent less than a rubber boat, which costs at least P300,000. “Flood-prone municipalities, especially the fifth and fourth-class (towns) could not afford rubber boats,” he said.

The DoST boat can carry 9 to 12 persons (with an average weight of 50-60 kilograms) and be driven by a motor or just a paddle, he said.

Unlike rubber, the fiberglass could not be easily punctured in case a rescue boat is navigated in “inland” flooding areas, he said. It is also light and can float in water with a depth of 2-3 meters.

The bamboo rafts were designed and made by the DoST’s Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI). Its wood preservation specialist, Catalino Pabuayon, noted that bamboo “is abundant” in the Philippines, especially the “kauayan tinik,” “kauayan kiling” and the “buho” species.

Thirteen bamboo poles were tied together to make the 12-foot raft that can carry 300 to 1000 kilograms. On top of the raft, a wooden plank is attached horizontally for a firmer grip of the poles.


‘Collapsible’ rafts

The plank can be easily taken off to “collapse” the raft in the same manner as one rolls a mat, Pabuayon said.

To make the vessel light, he said, bamboo brine was removed. Each pole is treated with a water-based preservative, copper chrome arsenate, to protect against rotting, he said.

“(The raft) can last up to 10 years,” Pabuayon said.

The FPRDI made 12 rafts, handing over five to the municipality of Sta. Cruz, five to Los Baños and two to the RDRRMC.

The two towns in Laguna were among those badly hit by Ondoy. Its rains caused the Taal Lake to rise, submerging several lakeshore towns in the provinces of Laguna and Rizal.

Council director Vicente Tomazar encouraged the local government units to adopt the technology as this could also bring livelihood to their residents.

Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, welcomed the disaster rescue innovations and called for their replication in other areas outside the Calabarzon. The official was guest during the project launch.

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TAGS: Boats, Calabarzon, design, floods, Innovation, Philippines, rafts, rescue boats, technology
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