Gov’t threatens to blow up illegal structures, pens
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson on Saturday said the national government would go to the extent of blowing up structures that block waterways to ease flooding in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon.
If only Malacañang can translate his words into action and finally muster the political will to relocate 125,000 families in the metropolis alone.
Following a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Aquino, Singson disclosed plans to “blast all of the illegal pens in waterways” in Laguna Lake and to “remove” all obstructions within water channels in Luzon to solve, once and for all, the perennial flooding in these areas.
At a briefing, Singson said the government would forcibly remove all illegal structures to clear water channels of all “obstructions,” be they houses or fish pens.
The President created an interagency body headed by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo to implement this plan.
“I have identified a little over … 125,000 families on waterways alone in Metro Manila and about 60,000 to 70,000 in waterways around Laguna Lake that should not have been there,” Singson said.
He said the government had started removing illegal structures. “I just received instructions from the President that [if] push comes to shove, we will have to blast the houses if they won’t leave within a certain period. And we [will] just continue to meet with the LGUs. I think, it has come to a point that we will have to set a deadline when they should be [removed].”
Singson recalled that during the term of President Fidel Ramos, the government brought in the military to “blast all the illegal fish pens in the waterways.”
Singson hinted that the directive could include structures within water channels in the Pampanga delta.
He described “natural floodplains,” such as the Pampanga delta as “high-risk areas” for floods and thus not suitable for residential, commercial or industrial use.
“They have to be removed,” Singson said.
He said the intention was not to have any settlements in these floodplains. “There should be no houses in these places because they are expected to be flooded every time there’s rain.”
On Sunday, while leading the distribution of relief goods in Rodriguez, Rizal province, Mr. Aquino vowed to use “political will” to institute sweeping changes in urban planning to protect lives and reduce damage to property during inclement weather.
Before a crowd of 2,000 flood victims, the President reported that visiting flooded areas had given him a wider perspective of the extent of the flooding problem.
He also saw countless shanties and properties built in the river basins, obstructing the natural flow of floodwaters and sewage.
He pointed out that erecting houses on or beside the spillway was counterintuitive because they caused the swelling of floodwaters during a heavy downpour.
“We should not put ourselves in harm’s way. That’s what we will work on,” said Mr. Aquino.
At the Cabinet meeting, the President approved the implementation within two weeks’ time of “high-priority” and “high-impact” flood control projects, which include the repair of breached dikes, the upgrading of aging pumping stations and the clearing of clogged waterways.
The short-term projects, which will initially cost some P5 billion, are expected to be finished in a year’s time.
The meeting in Malacañang was convened by the President to assess the damage wrought by “Habagat 2012.”
Mr. Aquino, who toured flooded areas in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Laguna province last week, finalized his short- and long-term solutions to flooding with secretaries of concerned agencies during the two-hour Palace meeting.
However, for flood mitigation measures in the longer term, the government is looking at a whopping P352 billion to bankroll a “flood management master plan for Metro Manila and surrounding areas,” which was reported by the Inquirer on Sunday.
“But keep in mind [that] this is over a long period—that the planning period was up to 2035,” Singson said.
He said the government was studying 4,354 square kilometers, including the river basins of Pasig-Marikina and Laguna Lake.
“We want flood management on a river basin approach. What it means is we don’t want piecemeal [solutions in the] downstream, but look at the whole river basin and address the flooding on a permanent basis,” he said.
Singson provided the media with a list of things to do at a briefing following the Cabinet meeting.
“We have a long list of identified high-impact priority projects worth P5 billion. That’s what we are working on,” an upbeat Singson said at the briefing broadcast live over Radyo ng Bayan and PTV-4.
“Now, the master planners prepared a long shopping list of structural mitigation measures [which will cost] a total of P352 billion [or P351.7 billion],” he said.
For local government units, which do not have the wherewithal to build dams or dikes, Malacañang said they should focus on solid waste management, and the strict implementation of the ban on erecting structures that obstruct waterways.
Under the Water Code, there is a required easement from waterways within which to build houses or concrete structures.
The code, enacted in 1976, also bans the “unauthorized obstruction of a river or waterway, or occupancy of a riverbank or seashore without permission.”
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