Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lessons Post-Pedring

Okay, so Typhoon Pedring (Nesat) has left the country...what now?  Everyone is busy cleaning up and repairs are needed.  But these are not the real solutions to the perennial flooding that occurs in Metro Manila.  This last onslaught affected not only the squatters, subdivisions, and the old city of Manila but big business establishments, hotels, condominiums and even the US embassy in areas that are not even flood prone in the past. Government agencies should start focusing and work as a team in the planning and implementation of an efficient flood control program.  It is also time for a rational housing program that will not displace people but allow them to continue to work and live in the area of their choice.  Data available on line have shown that a lot of assistance has been given to the Philippine government by foreign aid agencies specifically JICA, and in fact they have even come out with a manual in 2003 with the DPWH regarding flood control. The DPWH implementation which began in 2005 and ended in 2010, was made in chosen pilot areas other than Metro Manila and seems to be ongoing. But what about Metro Manila?  Flooding in Metro Manila and its suburbs is a by-product of rapid urban expansion, inadequate river channel capacities, and insufficient equipment for maintenance of existing drainage facilities, which are continuously clogged by squatting and garbage dumping.  There were several undertakings like the Mangahan Floodway Project which was conceived as an initial practical solution to mitigate chronic flooding in the Metro Manila. It was an ambitious project which would protect the greater Manila areas from peak flows with up to a 100-year recurrence interval.  So what failed?  According to this post in Pinoy Observer written in 2009, the MMDA has neglected to efficiently implement the flood control projects, which was started by DPWH but turned over to MMDA upon their insistence.  Another observation is that the whole length of the floodway has been occupied by squatters 5 to 6 rows thick. This has definitely added to the pollution and clogging of the floodway.

Manggahan Floodway on a clear day
Manggahan FLoodway during Typhoon Ondoy
Well, it seems to me that although flood control programs are in place, the inefficient operation, lack of monitoring and maintenance have rendered many of structural measures either insufficient or obsolete.  Newer structural measures will now have to be put in place, which of course will again cost money.  Equally important in any flood control program are the non-structural measures such as the effective operation of flood control structures, warning system, land use regulation, maintenance, etc.    It is also urgent that the informal settlers (squatters) living in the floodways, under the bridges, esteros, etc. should be relocated, not in God-forsaken places but in areas where they can work and make a decent living for their families.  Last summer, on my way to the airport we used the circumferential road passing by Libingan ng mga Bayani.  My driver pointed out to me the perimeter fences put up by government to ward off the squatters...of course, these people just had to make holes in these fences and they are back inside.  There was one thing I land...enough empty land behind the memorial grounds  to build a housing project of residential buildings similar to those I saw in Malaysia and Singapore.  I wondered out loud, why government cannot use this land for that purpose.  My driver provided the logical answer "walang pera yan, ma'am" (there is no money gained from that).  Oh yes, I forgot...this is the area of shopping malls, high end residencies, subdivisions and even a high end memorial park.  What business will a housing project bring here? Or to give a benefit of the doubt, maybe land use is limited.  But my logic tells me that even if the land use for this area is restricted by can always amend the law.  All that open space can accommodate at least 5 to 10 high-rises for public housing. If this government means what it says, they will put that land to good use and use it to provide decent housing for the people.

I love this country and I want to be proud of what we are and what we have. Our country ranking continues to slide down the ladder.  We must stop being spectators and start being citizens. We have had enough chances to do the right thing...let us make our government work for us. For love of country...the time is now.

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