Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Aiming to reduce the vulnerability of Metro Manila and outlying provinces to flooding during heavy rains, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has introduced a master plan for effective and comprehensive flood management in the region up to 2035.
The plan, which calls for at least 351.72 billion pesos (US$8.4 billion) in infrastructure spending, also aims to "develop a safe society that is resilient to floods," according to Patrick Gatan, head of the DPWH's Project Management Office for Major Flood Control Projects.
On July 31, the National Economic and Development Authority's (Neda) Sub-Committee on Water Resources approved the plan, which covers a total of 11 infrastructure projects, including the construction of a large dam in Marikina that will cost 198.43 billion pesos.
But the master plan still needs the final approval of the Neda board headed by President Aquino, Gatan said in an interview with the Inquirer.
After getting Malaca?ang's approval, the DPWH plans to "start processing [requests for funding] and start preparatory tasks for the design of the priority projects," Gatan said.
Apparently aware of the master plan, the President announced on Thursday, during his four-hour swing through evacuation centers in Marikina, Quezon City, Valenzuela and Navotas, that there were at least three infrastructure projects that could be finished in two to three years to deal with the perennial flooding in the metropolis and outlying areas.
He referred to a ring-road dike on the rim of Laguna de Bay, embankments and catch basins in the Marikina River watershed and an 8-kilometer dike and pumping station in Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) area.
Aquino, however, did not disclose specifics of the projects.
In a DPWH report furnished the Inquirer, Gatan said "the construction of the Marikina large dam plus improvements on the Pasig and Marikina river embankments are considered very high priority projects of the department."
"They're joint No. 1 on DPWH's short list of 11 structural mitigation measures .... They are intended to slow down floodwaters cascading into Metro Manila and nearby areas during heavy rains," Gatan said.
The agency also listed the West Laguna lakeshore land-raising, with a budget requirement of 25.2 billion pesos, as a "very high priority" project.
High priority projects
The "high priority" projects are the Manila core area drainage improvements, 27.2 billion pesos; East Manggahan Floodway and improvement in Cainta and Taytay rivers, 26 billion pesos; Malabon-Tullahan river improvements, 21.6 billion pesos; Meycauayan river improvements, 14.04 billion pesos; Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan river improvements, 8.631 billion pesos; land-raising for small cities around Laguna lake, 7.15 billion pesos; and improvement of inflow rivers to Laguna lake, 637 million pesos.
Also in the plan are "marginal priority" projects: South Para?aque-Las Pi?as river improvements, 17.3 billion pesos; and West Manggahan area drainage improvements, 5.52 billion pesos.
Under its public investment program, the DPWH earlier planned to set aside only 84 billion pesos for its flood control projects from 2011 to 2016.
Gatan said he was confident that most, if not all, of the 11 projects would be completed before the end of President Aquino's term.
Marikina large dam
"The construction of the Marikina large dam would take a little more time. It has to go through the bidding process, which may take at least a year, then another year for sourcing of funds, also one year or more for detailed engineering and the procurement process, and finally the construction or project implementation phase of the project, which may take six years," he said.
Gatan said the master plan represented the Aquino administration's seriousness in dealing with the perennial flooding in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.
"The political will is there," he said. "The master plan will serve as the government's road map and vision in managing floods until 2035."
The plan, which has been ready since February, is the administration's response to calls for solutions to the effects of wild weather, such as the widespread devastation caused by Tropical Storm "Ondoy" and Typhoon "Pepeng" in late September and early October 2009.
Metro sits on flood plain
Metro Manila, which sits on a flood plain for three rivers-the Marikina, Napindan and Pasig rivers-sank again early this week due to torrential monsoon rains. The relentless rains also flooded wide swaths of central and northern Luzon, killing at least 77 people and leaving 1 billion pesos in damage to agriculture.
With a $1.5-million technical grant from the World Bank and the Australian Aid for International Development, the DPWH conducted a flood risk assessment study for Metro Manila and nearby communities from February 2011 to February this year.
"Aside from understanding recent typhoons, using the information to develop flood hazard maps and mathematical models and setting target flood safety levels for the rivers and Laguna lake, DPWH also studied various alternative mitigation measures in formulating the master plan," Gatan said.
The DPWH also "looked into the impact on affected populations for each option and incorporated on-site developments or nearby resettlement projects as integral parts of project development," Gatan said.
He said the 11 projects would require the "resettlement" of at least 787,106 people, many of whom are illegal settlers, including 330,708 along Pasig-Marikina river; 299,879 in Laguna lakeshore towns; 141,557 in San Juan river; 104,223 in Upper Marikina and Wawa rivers; 84,928 in Manggahan Floodway; 39,456 in Malabon-Tullahan river; 35,320 in Meycauayan river; and 30,278 in South Para?aque-Las Pi?as river.
But Gatan gave assurance that "social issues would also receive the highest priority from the DPWH."
In another report, the DPWH said that "as of Dec 31, 2011, a total of 14,853 [illegal] structures along esteros, rivers and other waterways leading to Manila Bay, as well as 161 illegal fish pens in Regions III (Central Luzon) and IV-A (Calabarzon) had been dismantled."
"As of first quarter of 2012, a total of 195 kilometres, covering 112 rivers and 41 sections of drainage canals nationwide, were also cleared. An additional 422 illegal structures along rivers in Region II (Cagayan Valley) were also dismantled," the DPWH said.
* US$1 = 42 pesos