From Architect Armando N. Alli, PRBoA Chairman
During storm Ondoy’s brunt last Saturday, people had to ford barefoot the very cold, neck-deep, rushing floodwaters, with all of these happening within a few hundred meters of the Manggahan Floodway. Calls for help for the people/ motorists stranded at the floodway area in Taytay, Rizal Province were met by explanations that resources were already committed to help evacuate people who live on the floodway embankment i.e. informal settlers with permanent structures ranging from 2-4 storeys that all sit on public land supposedly reserved for flood control and possibly in violation of laws.
The big question we must now ask of our national and local government officials and the concerned entities in the private sector, is why has it come to this? Notwithstanding the 410 mm (16.7 inches) of record rainfall that poured that day and the apparent non-flooding of traditional flood-prone areas in Metro Manila, we are just wondering why Pasig City and Cainta and Taytay (in Rizal Province), which are all on the EAST side of the Manggahan Floodway system, continue to be inundated 2 days after the storm. As there appears to be little flooding at the west bank, there may be something horribly wrong with the flooding at the EAST bank areas, and it could be drainage-related.
Property damage is already at the tens of billions of pesos and many lives have been placed at great risk. This reminds us of the devastation that struck Iloilo City (flooding and mudslide), and Metro Manila (storm Milenyo and the toppled giant billboards) in the last 2-3 years and Ormoc City much earlier, all potentially preventable tragedies for which no one has probably been held accountable.
While this may not be the time for recriminations, the following officials could nonetheless be asked to publicly and politely explain why this is all happening to us: 1) the DPWH Secretary and the MMDA Chairman who are both in charge of the concerned flood control structures/ systems for their respective jurisdictions; 2) the DILG Secretary and the concerned LGU mayors and their Municipal/ City Engineers (civil engineers) who are in charge of their respective drainage/ flood control systems, particularly the components that should drain directly to the Manggahan Floodway; 3) the DPWH Secretary and LGU mayors again, the HUDCC Chairman and the LGU barangay officials and Building Officials (possibly civil engineers) concerned as to how and why several thousand structures of the informal settlers are now standing right there at the Manggahan Floodway embankment, possibly interfering with the operation and performance of the floodway system, putting the very lives of millions of people at great risk, and why the other waterways in the settled areas of the LGUs mentioned have continually narrowed over the years, with the mandated easements missing and already built upon by private property owners in possible violation of the Building Code and the Water Code.
The private property developers (some of whom are also aspiring for the highest public offices), subdivision planners and civil works engineers of the affected developments could also be asked to explain why their drainage systems are still not working 2-3 days after the rains have stopped and possibly why they packaged and sold low-lying properties that they could already have suspected as flood-prone.
While natural occurrences and emergencies, even climate change effects are all predictable up to a certain degree, it is human nature, the good and the bad samaritans in all of us, that are perhaps the most difficult to fathom. For some people, it is perhaps easier to risk someone else’s life and property. Perhaps some people think no one can touch them, that everyone has a price or that they are above the law. Official ineptness, indifference, apathy, naked greed, lust for power, lawlessness, undue tolerance, the feeling of abject helplessness and possibly even professional incompetence may all lie behind our present misfortune, and such defective human traits only served to multiply the effect of force majeure events.
Lives have been needlessly spent and properties laid to waste and more are and shall be at risk if we allow such a pitiful and shameful situation to continue. Storm Ondoy, shall happen again and the effects could be more devastating the next time around. If the entities named above cannot sufficiently explain to the public what happened, what is still happening and what shall still happen to prevent similar future occurrences, then they should perhaps resign or be removed from office (or from their professions) soonest, before they inflict more harm to the unsuspecting public. If these entities are running for higher public offices and if they win, I shudder at the prospect of things to come.