Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson got a pat on the back from President Benigno Aquino III himself just three days after the capital suffered untold miseries for the flooding and gridlock that accompanied the outset of the rainy season.
The public may be blaming the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for Monday’s flooding and traffic woes, but the Chief Executive appeared satisfied with the performance of Singson, whom he christened the “water czar.”
To show his admiration for Singson and his department, the President on Thursday motored to the DPWH main office at Port Area, Manila, and gifted each of the agency’s officials and employees a P10,000 “anniversary bonus.”
In a speech to keynote the 115th founding anniversary of the once corruption-plagued agency, the President justified the grant of such a bonus even as lawmakers called for an audit of the flood control projects over the last three years that have yet to prevent the capital from turning into a “Waterworld”— in reference to the postapocalyptic science fiction film.
Mr. Aquino said the DPWH people under Singson’s watch should be rewarded for their hard work, efficiency, cost-effective and timely services, and adherence to his “straight path” mantra of public service.
He later outlined to reporters what he believed was the marked improvement in the flood situation in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Asked about the flooding that engulfed many parts of the capital last Thursday and Monday, the President pointed out that the floods did not even reach the upper half of the tires of some vehicles.
Proof of pudding
Apparently protesting observations that it only took a few hours of rain for the floods to rise, he said “the pictures that I saw in the papers … show that the (car) did not submerge up to half of the tire.” The floodwater “barely covered the rubber portion of the tire,” he said.
He said this could be “proof” that “what Secretary Singson is doing—which he promised us—seems to be effective.”
“The (flood) problem is enormous … but (through DPWH’s efforts) the floods could recede faster,” said the President.
The President said MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino told him two instances that contributed to traffic jams—one drainage was covered with a G.I. sheet and the other with plastic and rocks.
“So I’ve tasked the Department of Interior and Local Government, specifically the Philippine National Police under [it], to investigate whether this was deliberate,” he said.
Mr. Aquino echoed what Singson and other Palace officials had been telling the media to explain the sudden rise of floodwaters during monsoon downpours. He said rainfall from the denuded Sierra Madre mountain range had drastically limited the capacity of Metro Manila’s rivers and creeks, resulting in flooding.
“The flow at its peak can reach 3,600 cubic meters per second, okay? The river [channels] can accommodate [water], at the narrowest portions, the minimum [flow] is about a thousand cubic meters per second,” he said.
To lessen runoff from Sierra Madre making its way to Metro Manila via Marikina, he said he had ordered a logging ban and massive tree planting under the National Greening Project in the area.
According to him, the watershed management program would take some 20 to 25 years to be able to contribute to flood mitigation, while the plan to build a 90-km road dike around Laguna Lake and 2.6-km box culvert from Dapitan to Tondo in Manila would take some time.
He said the flood master plan had many other components, but assured the public that this would not be done on a “piecemeal basis” since every local government unit would be part of the process as part of efforts to arrive at a “permanent solution” to floods.
He said Singson, as “our water czar,” was tasked to streamline the work of 32 agencies and offices which have overlapping jurisdictions over water issues “so that they will help each other instead of being a problem to each other.”