Harvesting floodwaters tops climate change plans
BAGUIO CITY – President Benigno Aquino III is studying an 18-year National Climate Change Action Plan that includes a proposal to collect and store for irrigation purposes rainwater that ends up flooding Metro Manila and coastal and riverside towns.
Elisea Gozun, presidential assistant for climate change, said Mr. Aquino had directed climate change experts to shape the framework of a program that would continue even after the end of his term in 2016.
Speaking on the sidelines of a July 14 bamboo development forum at the Baguio Country Club, Gozun said government agencies had been consulted and would incorporate their climate change projects as part of their allocations from the 2012 General Appropriations Act.
Harvesting floodwater was a proposal made by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson for the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) body of environmental projects, she said.
“The idea was to mainstream climate change projects, so for the public works sector, the government reviewed the half a billion pesos allocated for flood control,” Gozun said.
She said Singson’s solution “was to capture floodwater and use this for irrigation,” which would support the action plan’s food program designed to withstand a scenario of extreme weather changes.
Singson first referred to the concept last year when he graced the Baguio Day celebration. He said he wanted to pilot the rain harvesting project in Barangay City Camp, a village located at the deepest section of the city which wells up into a lagoon during rainy season.
The DPWH was supposed to rehabilitate a tunnel outlet for the City Camp Lagoon, but Singson ordered government engineers to design an underground container for floodwater instead.
Last month, Baguio Representative Bernardo Vergara, vice chairman of the committee on public works and highways at the House of Representatives, said Singson’s proposal has been included in the rehabilitation funds allocated this year for Barangay (village) City Camp.
Gozun said Singson’s plan involved the development of strategically located rainwater capture dams, with outlets to neighboring farmlands.
The dams in the provinces could also be harnessed to power mini-hydroelectric plants, she said.
Given scientific evidence that climate change would eventually raise sea levels, the DPWH also plans to build new inland highways for Metro Manila and other cities, instead of thoroughfares built near the coasts, Gozun said.
“Inland highway makes more economic sense because it makes [real estate more valuable] on both sides of the road,” she said.
The Department of Tourism is also proposing “climate proof” tourism projects, aware that stronger and heavier storms could discourage the usual tourism-related activities, Gozun said.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has completed a national geohazard map but the government is producing better maps to identify and isolate geologically vulnerable areas that could be reinforced with a reforestation plan, she said.
Gozun, a former environment secretary, said the Aquino administration has imposed a national logging ban and the national greening program as a first stage in addressing unpredictable weather brought about by climate change.
“What became most important [at this stage of climate change] is to protect what we already have,” she said.
Gozun said forests were valuable tools against climate change because trees absorb carbon dioxide.
Romualdo Sta. Ana, vice president of the Philippine Bamboo Foundation Inc., said the Philippines has the biggest deficiency in a list of forest growth rates in Asia, with a negative 1.4-percent rating.
Gozun said the odds could improve if the government starts growing bamboo forests. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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