MANILA, Philippines — The widespread flooding experienced last week in the metropolis has raised a question: Whatever happened to the master flood-control project promised by the government in 2012?
Malacañang responded on Sunday by echoing Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson’s statement that the timetable for drawing up and eventually implementing such a plan for Metro Manila would take years.
“This can’t be done overnight. We can’t solve this in two weeks. On the contrary, it will take years given the kind of infrastructure that has to be built, since we have to fix our floodways and waterways,” Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said over government-run radio station dzRB.
Last Thursday, heavy rain spawned by the southwest monsoon left many areas in the metropolis flooded, prompting schools to suspend classes, and leaving students and workers stranded.
After visiting areas devastated by floods due to monsoon-induced rain in August, President Aquino said catch basins in the Marikina Watershed, a ring-road dike along Laguna de Bay, and a dike and pumping station in the Camanava area would be built in two to three years’ time to address perennial flooding.
For years, runoffs from the 26,000-hectare denuded watershed have been a major cause of flooding in areas downstream such as Antipolo City, Rodriguez, San Mateo and Tanay towns—all in Rizal province— and Marikina City.
Massive flooding triggered by weeks of monsoon rains left wide swaths of destruction in the metropolis and Central and Southern Luzon on Aug. 7, 2012.
The aftermath was blamed on antiquated water pumping stations, blocked waterways and the denudation of the watershed areas in Sierra Madre.
In response, Singson unveiled a P351-billion master plan for flood-control management in the capital, for which some P5 billion was initially allocated by the National Economic Development Authority.
Singson had said then that his department was looking at a five-story cistern underneath the Burgos Circle in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, as a model for a water impounding facility to be set up at the Marikina Watershed.
At the Burgos Circle’s water impounding facility, floodwater is stored and later pumped out to creeks that flow into the bay after the rains, he added.
But unlike Burgos Circle’s facility, Singson said the proposed project in the Marikina watershed would have a dual role: impound water to protect the residents downstream and provide the capital with another source of potable water.
“It has to be the right project; it has to be at the right time at the right cost; that is what is important to us. That is our guide in all the projects that we’re implementing in the Aquino administration,” Valte said when reminded about the master plan.
Reacting to criticism that Aquino should not have scuttled his predecessor’s flood-control projects, including a costly dredging project at Laguna de Bay, Valte said these would still be under construction had they pushed through.
“If they were built, we won’t be experiencing their effect yet,” she said. “But it’s better to have a master flood-control plan, not just isolated projects, so there will be harmony and continuity, and to ensure that the effect to be enjoyed is really the intended [one].”
Meanwhile, the chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) asked the Department of Public Works and Highways and its contractors, on Sunday, to speed up the completion of the roughly 100 road repair projects underway in Metro Manila.
“If it’s possible to do it round-the-clock as long as traffic is not affected, let’s do it,” MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino said during the agency’s weekly radio program.
Tolentino said the road projects, mostly in Quezon City, Manila, Caloocan and Pasay, have been contributing to the flooding problem as the debris from diggings have ended up blocking the drainage inlets.
The construction of the two-kilometer-long Blumentritt interceptor which is supposed to curb flooding in Manila once finished, also aggravated the flooding problem in the España area, particularly on the University of Santo Tomas campus in Manila last Thursday, Tolentino said.