Massive infrastructure work seen solution to C. Luzon floods
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Former Sen. Richard Gordon has urged the government to implement massive infrastructure work in Central Luzon to stop floods and address what he called the “cycle of disaster and poverty” in the region.
Gordon, in a statement, said every time heavy rain occurs in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, floods due to denuded forests in Aurora and Nueva Ecija provinces trigger soil erosion and fill up shallow and silted rivers. Floodwater, he said, then destroys earth dikes, submerging farmlands in Central Luzon, the rice granary of the country.
“[Floods] always have a delayed impact on low-lying Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac [riverside] and coastal communities, which linger for weeks [and disrupt] livelihood activities,” said Gordon, chair of the Philippine Red Cross and a former mayor of Olongapo City.
He asked the government to reforest the Sierra Madre, do continuous desilting of rivers draining to Manila Bay, build interceptor canals and mini-dams to collect water for irrigation, and strengthen dikes along rivers.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson agreed with Gordon’s recommendation. “That is what the Pampanga River Basin Flood Control Master Plan is all about,” Singson told the Inquirer.
The master plan seeks to develop two retarding basins in San Antonio town in Nueva Ecija and Candaba town in Pampanga. It includes the dredging of river channels from the mouth of Manila Bay in Bulacan, he said.
The Regional Development Council (RDC) in Central Luzon approved in December a P2.11-billion infrastructure rehabilitation program for areas damaged by Typhoon “Lando” (international name: Koppu) in October.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), and NIA-Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS) are implementing the program.
“The strategy is to rehabilitate affected irrigation systems and transportation and communication linkages using upgraded climate and disaster standards and specifications,” said Severino Santos, vice chair of RDC and regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority.
The program requires the DPWH to repair 95.1 kilometers of national roads, rebuild 3.5 km of flood control dikes, and restore or build schools, town halls and multipurpose buildings. These cost P1.8 billion.
NIA was tasked to improve 62 km of main canals and other structures worth P158 million. UPRIIS will rehabilitate main canals, line canals and gravel roads in Nueva Ecija and Tarlac at a cost of P250 million.
The RDC also approved P1.57 billion for social services rehabilitation plan and P643 million for livelihood and business projects.
The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Lando left 24 people dead and displaced 1.4 million people in 1,184 villages in Central Luzon. The region lost P6.79 billion in crops, fishery and livestock. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
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