Cebu City halts work on Monterrazas till flooding solved
For the second time since 2008, the developer of Monterrazas de Cebu in the mountains of Cebu City was issued a cease-and-desist order to prevent more flooding of lowland residences during a heavy rain.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama signed the order stopping Genvi Development Corp. from continuing its work until seven conditions are met.
Monsoon rains yesterday intensified into Tropical Storm Juaning with a recurring threat of downpours like last week’s deluge that caused six-feet-deep water in eight sitios of barangay Guadalupe at the foot of the subdivision project site.
The 200-hectare Monterrazas de Cebu offers lots for sale in a proposed elite subdivision overlooking the city but has struggled with problems of drainage and flooding since it started.
After investing millions to build dams and riprap walls, the project developer is still usually blamed for flooding in the lowlands.
Lormilo Galo, Genvi’s vice president for business development, said the company is ready to work with the city government.
“During the meeting last Friday, we already told Mayor Rama we are wiling to suspend all earthworks in the area so we can really see where the problem is,” said Galo.
He said based on their Saturday survey of the area, which is a natural basin, the problem was the lack of interconnection of different drainage systems.
“We saw the need to implement a comprehensive drainage system. We saw that the drainage systems are not connected. The water from our drainage doesn’t flow into the drainage of the subdivisions below,” he said.
“We will volunteer to work on that.”
Galo said all 14 detention ponds built in Monterrazas to hold silt and runoff water from the mountains are functioning.
Sometimes the water that flows down is muddy.
“What we can’t control is the color of the water, which is normal because our heavy equipment is doing some digging,” said Galo.
Genvi has been working on North Vale, a seven-hectare segment with an investment of about P150 million, after developing other phases called The Peaks and the North Ridge.
Steps to reduce flooding risks were outlined in the mayor’s order dated July 25:
1. Adopt soil erosion measures.
2. Build more viable water impounding areas in all catchment areas to reduce volume and velocity of water flowing down.
3. Desilt settling ponds, creeks and drainage systems as part of comprehensive flood mitigating measures.
4. Help affected persons rehabilitate damage brought by flash floods and soil erosion.
5. Submit a site development plan for the subdivision and connecting to all other areas/subdivisions that serve as outlets and receiving end of water flow.
6. Comply with other measures to be given as need arises.
In April 15, 2008, City Hall also revoked Monterrazas’ development permit after a major flood in the lowlands. The mayor at the time, Tomas Osmeña, required the developer to build retention ponds to hold back runoff water.
Genvi Development Corp. is now working on Phase 1, which covers an area of 55 hectares.
The heavy rains on July 20 sent water, silt and mud rushing down to eight sitios in barangay Guadalupe affecting about 100 families. They blamed the Monterrazas development project for the massive flooding.
In sitio Dakit alone, floodwaters reached more than six feet. Families had earlier vacated to higher grounds in 2009.
Mayor Rama visited sitio Dakit on Saturday during a downpour and saw the water level rise to waist deep about 3 p.m. He said that the cease-and-desist order would stay until Monterrazas is able to comply with all conditions.
The order covers barangays Guadalupe, Tisa, Labangon, Buhisan and Sapangdaku of Cebu City.
When then Mayor Osmeña revoked the development permit of the developer of Monterrazas in 2008, he ordered more retention ponds built to prevent runoff water from flowing down to residential areas below, particularly sitio Dakit.
The permit was reinstated on Nov. 15, 2009.
Monterrazas was required to give a monthly report of its work in progress and a copy of their operations manual on how to use their retarding dam.
The Cebu City government was also supposed to “regularly” inspect the project.But no regular inspections were made, admitted Gemma Camomot of the city planning office, just a check of sitio Dakit to see if the detention pond was effective.
Alvin Santillana, head of the city disaster office, said suspending work on Monterrazas was necessary because households below were placed in “high risk” of flooding up to the waist or more than five feet during a heavy rain.
Trees and vegetation were bulldozed in the uplands roads and subdivision lots, worsening soil erosion..
Runoff water also used the roads, ditches and drainage system as passage ways.
Culverts downhill were not large enough to accommodate the larger volume of rainwater, leading to floods in neighborhoods nearby.
The Monterrazas developer is having problems especially with the Southplains Subdivision nearby.
The homeowners association refused a proposal to put up bigger culverts that would pass by the subdivision and connect to the city’s drainage system.
“Mayor Rama saw work was in progress when we visited the development site on Saturday. We do not have to wait for disaster to happen, properties damaged or lives will be loss,” said Santillana.
Santillana said that while small culverts receive runoff water from Monterrazas, creeks and rivers in the lowland are also constricted because of illegal structures.
Engineer Joel Reston of the city engineering office said city inspectors last visited the Monterrazas development site on October 2010.
He said the planning office has to reevaluate their development plan.