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In the aftermath of the habagat flood this month, Laguna Lake has been compared to a toilet that could not flush, as its polluted waters overflowed into surrounding communities, some of which are still flooded. It happened in 2009 too, during Typhoon Ondoy. The disaster just three years after Ondoy has renewed calls for a major artificial floodway to drain excess water from the lake to Manila Bay. But it would need to pass through densely populated Paranãque. In particular, the outspoken architect and urban planner Felino Palafox has been making the rounds of TV networks advocating this major infrastructure project as a solution to Metro Manila's perennial flooding problem.
DPWH officials, however, say the relocation of so many people in the path of the proposed floodway, similar to the Manggahan Floodway that helps drain the Marikina River into Laguna Lake, would make the project impractical.
“The problem is the 'right of way' to open a channel through heavily populated Parañaque,” DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson said via text.
For his part, DPWH’s flood control director Patrick Getan explained in a separate interview with GMA News Online that Palafox’s ideas were outdated as it was based on a 1975 World Bank report.
“’Yung Parañaque spillway, 1975 pa iyon. Hindi na rin pwede iyon sa ngayon kasi marami ng squatter sa lugar. Saka P18 billion ang halaga ng project na ‘yun,” Getan said.
Furthermore, he noted that a spillway will not guarantee a flood-free Parañaque area.
Getan countered that land-raising for small cities around Laguna Lake will be more effective. It also comes at a lower cost of P7.1 billion
As to dredging the Laguna Lake, the flood control director said, “Dredging is not necessarily effective. ‘Pag hinukay kasi ‘yung Laguna de Bay, ‘pag nag-high tide, level pa rin siya ng Manila Bay.” Despite the Manggahan Floodway that drains the Marikina River to Laguna Lake, Marikina's riverside communities were still inundated last week.
In the meantime, the DPWH presented a new Flood Management Master Plan to the President on Monday.
“The master plan shows a long list of flood infrastructure projects that will be implemented over the long term - until 2035,” Singson explained.
The P351.7-billion master plan identifies 11 high priority projects, which will lessen if not prevent flooding in Metro Manila and its surrounding areas.
While the master plan awaits approval by the President, Getan named some projects that the Public Works department can start on:
1. Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase III
2. Flood Risk Management Project of Cagayan, Tagoloan & Imus River
3. Panay Rover Flood Control Project Phase I
Even though a number of the infrastructure projects under a specific program called Post “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” Short-Term Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (POPSTIRP) – which was intended to ease the destruction brought by flooding – have been completed, no new major flood control infrastructure has been built in Metro Manila since Ondoy.
The projects under POPSTIRP, specifically those located in the National Capital Region, were rehabilitation activities. They repaired dikes, river walls, roads and bridges.
The Department of Public Works and Highway’s (DPWH) major flood control projects were made following a 1990 flood control master plan and not because of the country’s experience with Ondoy, the agency’s flood control engineer Lydia Aguilar told GMA News Online on Friday.
The flood control measures included in the 20-year-old plan are:
1. West Manggahan Floodway Project – completed 2008
2. Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) Phase I Project – to be completed by 2012
3. Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase II – ongoing
Still, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson insisted that the department has not been sitting idly since Ondoy, noting that POPSTIRP projects in over five regions worth P3 billion have been finished.
“[For Metro Manila,] we are doing Pasig-Marikina flood control and river wall improvement. We have been doing drainage improvement in several flooded areas,” he explained.
After the recent monsoon-caused flooding, Singson said that the Public Works department has been concentrating on post-disaster assessment.
“We are also identifying projects to be prioritized like [the repair of] dikes on major rivers and the clearing of waterways,” Singson said. — DVM/HS, GMA News