Marcos tells DPWH: Solve flooding in Central Luzon
CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday visited the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga and brought nearly P1 billion worth of assistance to victims of widespread flooding following the onslaught of Typhoons Egay (Doksuri) and Falcon (Khanun) that left a trail of devastation in a large part of Luzon in the past two weeks.
The President also directed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to come up with long-term solutions to the flooding in Central Luzon, including coming up with water impounding projects, even as he ordered the conduct of short-term solutions, such as river dredging, road elevation, and new bridge construction works.
The financial assistance from Malacañang and other national agencies came just as Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando informed the President during a briefing that his province suffered almost P769 million in agricultural losses and P500 million in damage to infrastructure due to the rain-induced flooding, worsened by the rising tide and release of water from the dams located in Bulacan.
A total of 296,426 families, or 1.8 million people, in the province’s 20 towns and four cities were affected by the floods, which continued to inundate low-lying areas due to the enhanced southwest monsoon, or “habagat,” Fernando told the President.
Initially, Bulacan province received P15 million as the first tranche of the P20-million aid; while the city of Malolos and the towns of San Miguel, Hagonoy, Pulilan, San Rafael, San Ildefonso, Bustos, Calumpit, Paombong, and Bulakan received P2 million each, the first tranche of the P3 million in aid.
Pampanga received a total of P64.8 million in aid from the President, said Gov. Dennis Pineda.
This included P15 million, as the first tranche of the P20 million allotted for the province; while the City of San Fernando and the towns of Guagua, Sasmuan, Lubao, Arayat, Mexico, Apalit, Candaba, Macabebe, Masantol, Minalin, San Luis, San Simon, Sto. Tomas, Bacolor, Sta. Ana and Porac all received P2 million, the first tranche of the P3 million in aid due to them.
Among the agencies that extended assistance to Pampanga, the Department of Social Welfare and Development distributed food packs and P10,000 to 1,000 beneficiaries; the Department of Labor and Employment extended P2.3 million to 500 beneficiaries under the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating mga Disadvantaged Workers (Tupad) program, on top of the P30 million it downloaded to its regional office for the Tupad program in the province; while the Department of Agriculture gave the province P21.6 million worth of grain and vegetable seeds for distribution to its farmers.
During a meeting with other Bulacan officials, Marcos was urged to direct appropriate agencies to dredge the rivers in Bulacan to ease the perennial flooding in the province.
In response, the President said his administration had already made initial efforts to address the flooding by creating the Office of Water Resources under his office while waiting for the passage of the law that would create a Department of Water Resources Management.
The President assured Bulacan officials and residents that the government already has a master plan for a flood control project as he also announced the suspension of the land development and reclamation in the coastal areas of Bulakan town pending a review.
“The reclamation there were all suspended now, except for one which had been reviewed and approved,” Marcos said.
Before visiting Bulacan, the President was in Pampanga where he approved the plan of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) Corp. to elevate the portion of the toll road under Tulaoc Bridge in San Simon town that had caused a gridlock since July 28 due to flooding
The President also directed the DPWH to elevate the bridge itself.
Rogelio Singson, president and CEO of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), told the Inquirer in an interview that NLEx’s 200-meter section under the Tulaoc bridge would be raised by 0.07 m. MPTC’s NLEx Corp. operates NLEx.
Singson, a former DPWH secretary during the Aquino administration, said the construction work would be completed in three months and would be done one side at a time, regardless of the schedule of the DPWH’s work on the bridge.
“The NLEx became a catchment basin,” he noted, adding that the road’s upgrade would start when the weather allows it.
Singson said NLEx Corp. was committed to finishing an interchange in Sto. Tomas in Pampanga. Sto. Tomas Mayor John Sambo asked Mr. Marcos to order the DPWH to start constructing a 1-kilometer connector road while Apalit Mayor Oscar Tetangco sought for the completion of a 1-km segment of MacArthur Highway in his town.
The NLEx-Sto. Tomas interchange and the Apalit span of MacArthur Highway would have served as alternate roads during the flooding.
As part of the long-term solutions to the flooding problem in Central Luzon, the President ordered the conduct of an extensive study on the proposed construction of an impounding system in Pampanga’s town of Candaba, noting that while dredging of rivers would have to be done, this would not permanently solve the perennial flooding in the region.
Some local officials present in the meeting have opposed the plan, noting that it would displace some 9,000 mostly farming residents of Candaba, which is a major rice producer in the region.
But the President assured that local governments would be consulted and would be the ones to approve the project, adding that residents who would be displaced could be relocated to other equally productive areas.
The Candaba impounding project was proposed in 2013 by Singson, as a solution to flooding concerns in the region. Under his proposal, the government will secure or buy around 200 hectares or 10 percent of the 2,000-ha swampland in Candaba to build a water-impounding area to prevent flooding in low-lying areas.