Bulacan backs raised highway vs floodsPhilippine Daily Inquirer
CITY OF MALOLOS—The Bulacan government has supported Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson in pushing for several projects that could alleviate the annual monsoon flooding in the province, among them an elevated coastal highway programmed during the term of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
On Friday, Singson attended a session of the Central Luzon regional development council’s (RDC) sectoral committee on infrastructure development in Pampanga, which approved a national government plan to revive and build the Manila Bay-Cavite-Bataan Coastal Highway.
Arlene Pascual, head of the Bulacan provincial planning and development office, said the highway project was developed during the Marcos administration but was shelved by his successors.
The highway would be elevated and could serve as a barrier should Manila Bay swell up and flood the coastal towns of Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.
On Saturday, three Bulacan towns remained flooded, despite the sunny weather since Thursday following weeks of rain.
Officials said 29 villages of Calumpit town still have floods as high as 6 feet, while 21 villages of Hagonoy town suffer from 2-foot floods. Obando town, which is also affected by the high tide, has 11 villages under 2 feet of floodwater.
Since Friday, the region’s major dams have stopped discharging water from their reservoirs.
“The Department of Public Works and Highways is studying very carefully how best to help the local government units get their own dredgers,” Singson said.
“We are also looking for a natural catch basin where we could install an impounding system that would collect and contain the rainwater that brings you problems, so we can use it instead for agriculture and even as drinking water,” he said.
Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado, who chairs the RDC infrastructure committee, told Singson that the region may need to revive the Pampanga River Control System (PRCS), an agency tasked with maintaining and dredging the river systems in Bulacan and Pampanga.
He said the Labangan Channel, which serves as Bulacan’s major floodway, has a depth of 2 meters because of siltation, instead of its full 7-m capacity.
The PRCS used to operate two dredgers—the Damayan 1 and Damayan 2—but these were sent to Pampanga to protect the City of San Fernando when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991 and unleashed lahar, Alvarado said.
“It’s about time we dredge the heavily silted river systems in Bulacan. The solution is not to widen or build new flood control river systems but to de-silt our existing rivers,” he said.
“At first glance, we assume the rivers are very deep but these waterways are heavily silted and water quickly swells when it rains,” he said.
In the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, the regional disaster risk reduction and management council (RDRRMC) in Central Luzon said northern Zambales also bore the brunt of Tropical Storm “Helen,” with flash floods and landslides that forced 1,981 families to evacuate.
The rest of the 30,161 persons in 34 villages in Castillejos, Botolan, Candelaria, Iba, Masinloc and Palauig towns have stayed put in their homes.
As of Saturday, local governments were still assisting 16,105 persons inside and outside evacuation centers.
The landslides damaged 11 houses and left five families homeless.
The weather has been fair in most of Central Luzon since Saturday but 227 barangays in Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac remain under 1-4 feet of floodwater, the RDRRMC said.
At least 149 of the flooded villages are in Pampanga, 68 in Bulacan and 10 in Tarlac.
According to the RDRRMC, the floods have affected a total of 2.515 million persons in 1,402 barangays in six Central Luzon provinces.
The death toll due largely to drowning and electrocution reached 42 on Friday, with 13 fatalities in Bataan, 11 in Pampanga, nine in Bulacan, six in Zambales, two in Nueva Ecija, and one fatality in Olongapo City.
The local boards in Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga and Zambales have declared a state of calamity in their areas. The RDRRMC reported damages to infrastructure at P1.124 billion and agriculture at P900.580 million. Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon