Gov’t mulls nationwide flood summit

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The perennial flooding in Metro Manila is back on the agenda of President Benigno Aquino III following Thursday’s downpour that triggered flash floods and snarled traffic for hours across the capital.

In a briefing at the Palace on Friday, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said that the government was planning to call a flood summit to synchronize flood-control efforts at the local and national levels and those by concerned agencies, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

“The agencies have actually been discussing this (flood summit). And next week there will be a meeting, elevated to the Cabinet level, to discuss (it),” Carandang said.

He added that a Cabinet-level discussion on the flood-control plan is underway to prepare the country for the expected onslaught of torrential rains and more floods at the onset of the rainy season.

Carandang later told the Inquirer that the Cabinet-level discussion would have to suffice for now instead of a nationwide flood summit that would require the participation of major stakeholders in affected areas across the country.

The Cabinet meeting to be presided over by President Aquino himself would “assess” the measures taken so far by the national government, the concerned agencies and local government units following last year’s habagat (southwestern monsoon) that paralyzed the capital for about a week, Carandang said.

“I was just talking to (DPWH) Secretary (Rogelio) Singson (Friday) morning, and the masterplan on flood control is underway. But you have to understand, it’s going to take several years to implement and it’s an interagency thing,” he added.

The communications secretary said the DPWH was tasked to draft the masterplan, but that its implementation would be farmed out to several agencies: the MMDA, DPWH and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), for the relocation of informal settlers.

“They’re all doing their part, and one of the components of that is the cleaning of the esteros (creeks)—and that’s already happening,” Carandang said, adding that “the plans of the DPWH to create containment basins, (is also) being done.”

The agency had also widened, to some extent, the banks of the Pasig River to increase its water-holding capacity, he added.

But, Carandang cautioned, “…Be aware that this is not going to happen overnight. The work, as we announced last year, will take a few years to complete and you will see the improvement, vast improvement, only in a few years. But the public can rest assured that the flood-control program continues.”

The Palace official also reminded the public of the need “to be responsible citizens.”

“I think we all have a responsibility—national government, local government, citizens. It’s something that we’re taking the lead on, trying to fix. We need cooperation from the public; you can’t assign responsibility to an agency or one person (alone). It’s the responsibility of many different agencies, and I can assure you they are working on it.”

Informal settlers

On informal settlers, whom MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino has blamed for garbage-choked esteros that, he said, caused this week’s flooding, Carandang said the problem of relocating them was not that easy.

“If you’re going to move them away from where they’re working, then you’d have to find some way for them to have livelihood; otherwise, they’ll just return, and it’s not going to solve the problem,” he said.

The MMDA, DPWH, DILG and the National Housing Authority have been tasked to relocate from creeks, canals and riverbanks some 500,000 informal settler families in Metro Manila through a “multi-year, multibillion peso project,” Carandang said.

But it will take some time, he added.

Tolentino meanwhile blamed the ongoing road repair work throughout Metro Manila for the flash floods and traffic that crippled the capital Thursday night.

“Their purpose is to prevent floods, but they’ve become contributing factors to (the flooding) while [the repair work is] ongoing,” Tolentino said after sifting through a four-page list of ongoing road rehabilitation work by the DPWH and drainage improvement work by water utilities.

In the list are 70 such projects across the metropolis, mostly in Quezon City, Manila, Caloocan and Pasay. With a report by Jaymee T. Gamil

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