Clear waterways across city
The Water Code of the Philippines is unambiguous: space that should be allotted beside waterways everywhere in the country to conserve these bodies of water.
“The banks or rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three (3) meters in urban areas, twenty (20) meters in agricultural areas and forty (40) meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, flotage, fishing and salvage.
“No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, flotage, fishing or salvage or to build structures of any kind.” (Article 51, Water Code of the Philippines)
What is strange about Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s order for tearing down structures along the Mahiga Creek in sitio Laing-Laing in barangay Mabolo, Cebu City is that it had to come after yet another series of floods that hit the city during heavy downpours as last week came to a close.
It is even “curiouser” that the city’s Drainage Master Plan needs to be reviewed some six years after it was conceived, when in fact it was not at all implemented.
All these just show that the government itself, to the detriment of the masses who do the wading and sailing through floodwaters when floods come rolling, has been afflicted by a kind of stupor right at the inception of the Drainage Master Plan, so that today, the plan needs review.
With the realities of urban migration, the plan may no longer reflect what needs to be done to declog the city’s drainage and this should be a lesson learned for urban planners about dispatch when it comes to the execution of lifesaving plans.
It may be late in the day, but Cebu City needs to proceed double-time with the clearing of its waterways—not only Mahiga (with relocation provided to residents and guards posted or patrols detailed to the cleared areas to make sure new structures don’t sprout anymore in these places).
A few months ago, the city’s Squatter Prevention Encroachment and Elimination Division reported that they also conducted quieter clearing operations along the Bulacao River in the south district. Perhaps the city can duplicate the measures they took in the Bulacao clearing to make sure that any further clearing operations in the city won’t be a tumultuous affair.
Officials need to have the same strength of resolve as Hercules had when he cleared the Augean stables. There are more riverbanks in the city that need to be cleared, to save lives not only today but tomorrow.
The affected won’t be just supposedly transient settlers but even universities, national government agencies, churches, barangays, real estate developers and others who by their own commission or by the omission of environment officials, ended up constructing buildings on the banks of creeks, rivers and streams, thereby accomplishing development at the cost of “recreation, navigation, flotage, fishing and salvage.”