MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Thursday vowed to ensure the completion of two major flood control projects in Laguna and Cavite, the provinces in Southern Tagalog that bore the brunt of the floods caused by monsoon rains induced by Tropical Storm “Maring.”
The “ring road dike” around the rim of Laguna Bay, which will protect coastal towns in Laguna and Rizal from flooding, is part of the flood control master plan unveiled last year, Aquino said.
To contain flooding in Cavite, the government is negotiating the purchase of a 50-hectare property that would serve as a “retarding basin” for floodwaters coming from rivers and other waterways in Imus and Bacoor, according to Aquino, who visited areas in Southern Tagalog hardest hit by the floods.
Accompanied by select members of his Cabinet the past two days, the President visited Laguna and Cavite, which had been placed under a state of calamity because of the unprecedented flooding that engulfed low-lying towns in the provinces.
The flooding in Cavite reached as high as 2.4 meters on Monday morning.
Aquino visited two relocation centers in Cavite, leading the distribution of food packs to flood victims taking shelter at Tinabunan Elementary School in Imus and Binakayan National High School in Kawit.
On Wednesday, Aquino went to Biñan and San Pedro towns, both in Laguna.
On his visit to Cavite, he was accompanied by Secretaries Corazon Soliman, Voltaire Gazmin, Herminio Coloma, Joseph Emilio Abaya, Rene Almendras and former Cavite Gov. Erineo Maliksi, a member of
Aquino’s Liberal Party who lost the gubernatorial race to reelectionist Jonvic Remulla in the midterm elections last May.
Explaining his absence, Remulla said in a TV interview that he was not invited by Malacañang to join the President in the distribution of food packs to his constituents in Imus and Kawit.
But the governor thanked the President for bringing relief goods, saying: “We really do appreciate his visit.”
“Yes, Imus and Kawit were also affected, but it’s just the same floodwaters that hit us. In fact, all that water coming from Imus ends up in Bacoor Bay,” Bacoor Mayor Strike Revilla said in a phone interview.
Revilla is a brother of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., an ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now representative of Pampanga in Congress.
The Remullas and the Revillas were allies in the elections in May.
According to a staff member at City Hall, someone from the Presidential Security Group confirmed on Wednesday morning the President’s visit to Barangay (village) Habay in Bacoor.
“They were even the ones who identified which barangay [the President would go to]. But we were told just this morning that it was canceled, although Aquino did still go to Imus and Kawit. Bacoor is very near. What is five or 10 minutes for the President to drop by?” the employee said.
Revilla said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had promised to give 5,000 relief packs, so the city started to prepare the stubs for distribution to the residents.
The presidential visit and the relief distribution were canceled.
“If [Aquino] had a problem with the local leaders, that’s fine. But they should have pushed through with the relief distribution. I wouldn’t mind not being present there,” Revilla said.
“All I want is for the President to be fair and not to deprive our people of their share [in assistance] from the national government, all because of politics,” he said.
Politics aside, the President laid out his plan to deal with the flooding in Cavite and Laguna when he briefly talked to the evacuees in Imus before the distribution of the food packs.
“On the flooding, we will have a solution that will provide huge relief,” Aquino said, adding: “There is one project called the road-ring dike. So the dike will have a road also.”
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) refers to it as a “ring road” dike.
Aquino explained that the ring road dike along Laguna Bay was now in the final stage—“finalization of the design”—and thus the so-called megadike project suggested by Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito when he met the President during a visit to Biñan, Laguna, on Wednesday, would be unnecessary.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson explained to reporters that the flood control master plan contained two major projects for Laguna: the ring road dike, which, he said, was a top “priority,” and the “Pacific Spillway.”
He said the spillway was a “last priority” because it could be rendered redundant by a flood dam that would be constructed in the Sierra Madre mountain.
Asked about the status of the dike project, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said: “According to Secretary Singson, the ring road dike is part of the long-term solutions included in the master plan for flood management in Metro Manila and Laguna Lake.”
He said the government also referred to the road dike as the “C6 Extension to Laguna.”
“The DPWH has completed the business case study and will put the project under BOT (build operate transfer) implementation to be submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority for approval,” said Lacierda.
The DPWH did not disclose the cost of the project, but the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakayang Pilipinas said that the dike would cost P23 billion once completed, based on the 2020 Laguna Lake master plan.
It will have 11 pumping stations, 11 bridges and a four-lane road.
The DPWH’s comprehensive master plan, which calls for at least P351.72 billion in infrastructure spending, covers a total of 11 projects, including the raising of breached dikes in Pampanga, Malabon and Navotas cities, and the upgrading of various pumping stations in the metropolis.
Aquino said the ring road dike would have a reclamation component that would be “self-financing.”
Quoting former Rizal Gov. Casimiro “Junjun” Ynares, Mr. Aquino said the project proponent, in turn, would be allowed to develop a “third of the reclaimed area.”
“The [project] will open up a lot of areas around Laguna leading to development” besides improving the water-holding capacity of Laguna Bay, he said.
“So there will be control of the inflow of water [to the bay] once this road ring dike is established,” he said.
To contain flooding in Cavite, the President said the government was negotiating for the purchase of a 50-hectare private property that would serve as a “retarding basin” for floodwaters coming from the Imus and Bacoor rivers and other waterways.
“So if we procure the property… it’s estimated to be finished between one year to one year and a half. This will drastically lessen the flooding situation here,” the President said.
He said he visited the evacuees to ensure that their needs were being attended to by the government.
Simplified weather forecast
The President also repeated his order for the weather bureau and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to simplify the weather forecast so that it would be better understood by the public.
“We will remind them,” the President said, stressing that the “official language is [both] Filipino and English.”
But Aquino noted improvements in the way the weather bureau and disaster response officials had been communicating weather forecasts and warnings to the public.
From storm signals solely based on the wind’s gustiness, the weather bureau is also measuring the ferocity of the storms based on the amount of the rainfall, he said.—With a report from Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon