Expert bares four-point strategy to avert floodings of Metro Manila

October 10, 2009 12:30 pm 

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Oct. 10 -– An internationally known architect and urban planner called on the government to prioritize a four-point strategy to avert a repeat of the deadly flooding of Metro Manila and adjoing provinces brought about by tropical storm Ondoy.

”We must build a spillway in Paranaque City, reforest surrounding areas, dredge all waterways and review zoning plans,” architect and urban planner Felipe Palafox Jr. said at Kapihan sa Sulo forum on Saturday.

He believes government must implement the four-point strategy in its entirety to help save lives and property as well as to promote ecosystems-sensitive development.

The strategy would also help bring about more rationalized use of available resources, he said.

”The cost of flooding alone is already about P20 billion annually,” he warned.

Since such cost as well as damage to life and property is projected to rise over time, Palafox is convinced it is more practical for government to take a preventive, pro-active stance by investing in implementing the proposed strategy already rather than acting in piecemeal fashion to address the aftermath of future floods.

”The proposed eight kilometer-long Paranaque spillway connecting Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay will need about P20 billion to build but this infrastructure will serve us for years to come,” he said.

He considers the spillway a necessity since excess water in Laguna de Bay, the Philippines’ biggest lake which borders some Metro Manila areas, will drain into it on the way to Manila Bay.

”This way, water in the lake won’t overflow to communities surrounding it,” he said.

The lake’s waters overflowed as ‘Ondoy’ raged, flooding communities bordering it.

Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) estimates it’ll take some three months for flood water there to recede.

Latest available data boosted Palafox’s call to build the spillway as LLDA general manager Edgardo Manda reported that pollution was already decelerating the rate at which water drains from Laguna de Bay to Pasig River through Napindan Channel.

”The surrounding sub-watersheds of Antipolo City, Marikina City and San Mateo municipality drained into Laguna de Bay during ‘Ondoy’ alone water at the rate of 3,300 cubic meters per second,” he said.

Such water flowed into Napindan Channel at the rate of 150 cubic meters per second only so the lake overflowed, he noted.

Palafox noted measures under the proposed strategy aren’t new as these were among over 300 recommendations he and other experts made in the mid-‘70s for government’s Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project (Mmetroplan) project study.

Mmetroplan identified which areas in Metro Manila are flood-prone and unsuitable for development.

Palafox noted these areas, including Marikina City which is in a valley in Metro Manila’s eastern part, are those that bore the brunt of flooding during ‘Ondoy.’

Flooding in September 1970 also ravaged the same areas, he said.

”In the 1970s, we said if Metro Manila’s development towards the east can’t be stopped, government must provide the needed infrastructure for drainage, sewerage and flood control,” he said.

Government must rethink the way it authorized land uses so flooding-related death and destruction could be minimized, Palafox said.

”Uphill and mountain areas are supposed to be forested but are developed into subdivisions instead and our obsolete laws encourage this,” he said.

Palafox reiterated his call for a wholistic approach to avert calamities like flooding.

”The forces of nature can be tamed by urban planning, architecture, engineering, funding and political will,” he said.

He noted this approach works as seen in flood-prone Holland, where about half of land is reclaimed, and in Dubai where authorities built islands from mud and silt. (PNA)

RMA/CJT/rsm

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