In Central Luzon, disasters outpace rebuilding work

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SAND BAGS act as last defense as water from the Gugu creek penetrates the San Fernando-Sto. Tomas-Minalin tail dike, a portion of which breached last month as heavy rain induced by the ‘habagat’ (southwest monsoon) flooded many parts of Central Luzon. E.I. REYMOND T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

The frequency of disasters in Central Luzon since Typhoon “Ondoy” in 2009 and the trails of destruction in their aftermath have shown to be outpacing rebuilding efforts in the region.

For instance, the 23 flood control projects conceived in the region after Ondoy and Typhoon “Pepeng,” reached an “overall

accomplishment of 76.77 percent” as of June 2013, according to a report from the National Economic and Development Authority

(Neda) for its regional project monitoring and evaluation system.

Flood control works were part of the Post-Ondoy and Pepeng Short-Term Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (Popstirp) of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and funded by a loan from Japan. Of the P1.9 billion for flood control nationwide, Central Luzon got P679.3 million. The region received P341.9 million of the P1.4 billion allotted for roads and bridges in various parts of the country.

The DPWH website, however, had no updates on the status of these projects on Monday.

The Neda said only 52.76 percent of the cost of flood control projects was used “because some contractors have yet to submit their billings, and works on some projects [were] suspended due to unworkable site condition and awaiting approval of variation order or time extension.”

One of the five contract packages that had been delayed was in Aurora province, covering the towns of Baler, San Luis and Dingalan. The rest were in Pampanga province, which takes in much of the water of 30 rivers draining to the Pampanga River before exiting to Manila Bay.

Schedule

The repairs of roads and bridges under Popstirp were completed within schedule, the report showed.

The DPWH’s website showed some new projects are not moving fast as well. The Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan Flood Control Project in Bulacan province, approved by the Neda after the habagat (southwest monsoon) in 2012 has an initial P200-million allocation but has yet to begin.

Proposed projects in the list prepared by the Regional Development Council (RDC) after

Typhoons “Pedring” and “Quiel” in 2011 and presented to President Aquino in Bulacan have moved some bit.

There is no immediate information if the Neda board has

approved these projects to unify the dam management protocols of the National Irrigation Administration, National Water Resources Board, National Power Corp. and the weather bureau.

What is known is that the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC), after Pedring, has been monitoring the conditions of Angat and Pantabangan dams in the provinces of Bulacan and Nueva Ecija, respectively.

Other sets of information are not available on the implementation of projects for disaster preparedness, emergency responses and rehabilitation whether at the regional, provincial or local levels.

The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 10121) tasks the Office of Civil Defense to conduct periodic

assessment and performance monitoring of member-agencies.

There is a black spot in moves to strengthen the Pampanga River Flood Forecasting and Warning System. To date, it has only five personnel and without a service vehicle to go around the region.

The revival of the Pampanga Delta Development Project Phase 2 in Bulacan, which has been suspended for 10 years, is still at the study level. The project’s staunchest proponent, Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado, is also pushing the revival of the Pampanga River Basin System, which has not taken off the ground.

The DPWH-Mount Pinatubo Emergency Project Management Office has fasttracked the Pinatubo Hazard Urgent Mitigation Project Phase 2, eyeing also to get P463 million more that the RDC endorsed to Neda.

The Tarlac River Improvement Project, Western River Basin Flood Control Project in Zambales,

Dinalupihan-Hermosa-Lubao Flood Control Project in Bataan and Pampanga and Central Luzon Link Expressway are either in the study stage or undergoing environmental impact assessment.

It was only recently that the RDC also approved five more rehabilitation projects in areas hit hard by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. These are in the damaged sections of the Daang Maharlika in Carranglan, Rizal and Pantabangan towns in Nueva Ecija and the Mancatian Bridge along the Angeles-Porac Road in Pampanga.

Local governments are still submitting inventories of equipment, personnel and other resources in disaster preparedness, rescue and emergencies. An audit of the compliance of local governments with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, with wrong disposal of garbage seen as compounding floods, is being wrapped up.

 

No deliberate delay

Processes that agencies do, including systems that are done to remove corruption, tend to slow down the implementation of projects, said Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc.

He cited the P137-million projects to repair the San Fernando-Sto. Tomas and Minalin Tail Dike and the P800-million revival of the old channel of the Pasig-Potrero River. Both were approved after the habagat in 2011 when the dike burst at four sections, flooding the Pampanga capital and nearby towns again after 15 years.

The funds for the tail dike were made available in March while the bidding was still to be finalized. The Pasig-Potrero River channel revival is at the study level.

Last month, the tail dike breached on the Minalin site, swamping 100 hectares of fishponds and about 1,000 houses.

Of the 55 ha that Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda was targeting as relocation sites for residents highly vulnerable to floods, the National Housing Authority has so far approved the sale of 3.3 ha in a portion of the San Isidro Resettlement in Magalang town.

In the entire 200 km length of the Pampanga River, more than 6,000 families live along the banks, and there are no local government-financed relocation sites for them.

Last month, Alvarado appealed to President Aquino to approve the public-private partnership for the construction of the Manila-Bulacan-Pampanga-Bataan Coastal Expressway.

This, he said, would serve as a dike and help ease floods in the coastal areas of Obando, Meycauayan, Marilao, Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiguinto, Malolos, Paombong, Bulakan, Hagonoy and Calumpit in Bulacan and some towns in Pampanga.

Alvarado said the strengthening of the Angat, Bustos and

Bulo dams has been lined up by the national government in 2014 or two years since the Neda board approved these.

Landslides on major roads and province-wide blackout have happened in Aurora during severe typhoons despite increasing funds for road construction and upgrade on the electric power system there.

Seen more daunting are the regular cycles of losses and damages that worsen poverty and increase the vulnerabilities of people to disasters.

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