• Aquino axed key flood-control project in 2010

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    Just a few hours of rain resulted in massive flooding in Manila last week, with commuters, rich and poor, outraged at government’s helplessness.

    Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang reported a “master-plan” for flood control was underway, but that would take several years to implement.

    “You can’t assign responsibility to an agency or one person,” said Carandang of the flood.

    Oh, but there is somebody responsible, and that person was the one who blocked the project—a major one—that could have significantly helped solve the perennial problem: President Aquino.

    There was a master plan already in existence way back in 2009, with the first phase scheduled to start in 2010, but Mr. Aquino had aborted it.

    Reprinted in full below is my article on the subject, originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on August 15, 2012.

    Neither Aquino nor any of his officials has challenged any single assertion or data in this piece. There is an important update on the issue below.

    * * *

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd axed in November 2010 one of the country’s most ambitious flood-control projects that was scheduled to start that year. If he had not cancelled that milestone undertaking, it would have been completed last month [July 2012] and would have significantly mitigated the disastrous flooding of recent weeks.

    The venture was the Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project, which, as part of its plan to save the lake, would have dredged it of 4.6 million cubic meters of silt and waste so it would contain more floodwaters. The project would have also involved the deepening of the critical 7-kilometer Napindan Channel in Taytay so that it could better and more quickly draw floodwaters away from the metropolis to the lake.

    Costing P18.7 billion, the project was to be undertaken by the 150-year-old Belgian dredging firm Baagerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDZ) and financed by a loan from the BNP Paribas Fortis bank, with Brussels providing a P7-billion grant—the biggest development aid it would have given the country ever.

    “A much deeper Laguna de Bay would relieve residents of Metro Manila, Rizal and Laguna of the flooding that happened at the height of [Tropical Storm] Ondoy and [Typhoon] Pepeng,” Laguna Gov. Jorge Ejercito, an ardent supporter of the project, summed up the aim of the planned massive dredging—in September 2010.

    Why did Mr. Aquino cancel such a crucial project? Because of his irrational, apoplectic bias that everything his predecessor did or planned was corrupt. Just a few months after he assumed office, Mr. Aquino claimed that the project was a “midnight” corrupt deal during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

    “They have been trumpeting that corruption tainted the project,” the Laguna governor said angrily in 2010. “But where is their evidence? Just to find fault in the past administration, Laguna residents will be at the receiving end of their vengeful politics.” To this day, Mr. Aquino has not presented an iota of evidence, or even any specific charge of corruption, in the project.

    On the other hand, then Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme vouched for the project’s integrity, and even submitted to Mr. Aquino an independent engineering firm’s evaluation of the project. “As I understand from the report of this expert, which is enclosed, the project can be an undeniable improvement for the Metro Manila area and alleviate flooding, improve local transport infrastructure and increase water capacity,” Leterme wrote in a letter to Mr. Aquino in March 2011.

    Leterme, now deputy secretary general of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, appealed to Mr. Aquino to allow the Belgian contractor to respond to the allegations against the project. Mr. Aquino rebuffed Leterme. Instead, he ramped up his opprobrium against the project, saying as recently as last week that the project was a “big joke” since it would “just dump silt to be recovered to another portion of the lake.” (In his memorandum canceling the project, though, Mr. Aquino gave no explanation for his action.)

    That is an utter lie. The project very clearly specified that the dredged material would be deposited in designated sites off Taytay-Angono and San Pedro, which in fact would become reclaimed land where waste-water treatment facilities would be built.

    Seven government departments, agencies and interdepartmental bodies evaluated the project for three years, and endorsed it for immediate implementation in 2010. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in his approval of the project’s foreign funding: “Its purpose is to improve the Lake’s capacity as a catch basin to reduce flooding in nearby towns and cities.”

    Mr. Aquino’s Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in her August 2010 legal opinion, found nothing wrong with it: “The project cannot be construed as a midnight deal since it is covered by official development assistance from the Belgian government.” The Laguna Lake Development Authority general manager whom Mr. Aquino appointed supported the project.

    Fish pen operators in the lake, environmentalist NGOs, and most of the political leadership of towns around Laguna de Bay passionately pushed for the undertaking, since it would have stopped the lake’s environmental deterioration and lead to the transformation of the lakeshore into a modern area with fish ports, ferry terminals, and marina complexes.

    Other than Mr. Aquino and Sen. Franklin Drilon who claimed “dredging is a rich source of corruption,” the main opposition to the project came from Pamalakaya, the communists’ agitprop group for fishermen’s issues—a member of Communist Party founder Jose Ma. Sison’s International League of Peoples’ Struggle.

    The story gets worse. As a result of Mr. Aquino’s reckless, unilateral cancellation of the project, P6 billion of taxpayers’ money could be lost. Firstly, government has to pay by the end of this month the P420-million penalty for the cancellation of the bank loan.

    The gigantic cost though would be the P4 billion that would be paid to the Belgian contractor if it wins the suit it filed for Mr. Aquino’s cancellation of the project at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

    Government’s legal expenses would amount, going by its Fraport case in the same venue, to at least P2 billion. The judges for the dispute were designated last Feb. 29, and the case formally started on June 25.

    The cancellation of this crucial flood-control project will go down in Philippine history as the country’s most tragic, most shameful episode in which billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money were wasted, hundreds of lives were taken, and hundreds of thousands of flooded Filipinos put in misery because of the irresponsible ill-will of a President toward his predecessor.

    UPDATE

    The case against the Philippine government at the ICSID has been proceeding at the court’s normal pace.

    On June 25, 2012 the Belgian firm BDZ filed its “memorial”, the technical term for such petitions at the ICSID. A highlight of the complaint was that Aquino’s administration had not even formally informed the Belgian firm that it was stopping the contract.

    BDZ representatives in Manila learned about this only when they listened to Aquino’s speech ridiculing it, and condemning it as a grossly corrupt project of President Arroyo. After a week, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima informed the firms’ representatives over the phone to tell them that he was instructed not to sign the final documents for the project to proceed. After about a month of trying—unsuccessfully—to get documents that would have officially informed them that the Philippine government was aborting the projects, BDZ officials in Manila gave up and left the country.

    After nearly three years since Aquino ordered the project stopped on grounds that it was ridden with corruption, his officials have been unable to produce any single evidence of graft involving the project, nor even explain how corruption could have been undertaken through the lake-dredging contract.

    From October 17 to December 11, 2012 all procedural matters at the ICSID were settled, and our government filed its counter-memorial. On April 29, 2013, the Belgian firm filed its reply on the Philippine government’s arguments.

    BDZ’s claims is expected to reach the equivalent of P5 billion, because of the peso’s deprecation. If the country loses the case, it would be P5 billion down the drain, an amount that if had been used for the flood-control project would have alleviated the misery of millions of Manila residents by this time.

    So far, the government has reportedly nearly spent P500 million in legal fees and expenses of its Washington-based counsel White and Case and local counsel Justice Florentino P. Feliciano.

    Both Mr. Feliciano and White and Case are also the government’s private counsels defending it against the suit filed by Fraport AG Frankfurt Airport Services involving the contract to build the NAIA terminal III.

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    37 Comments

    1. We have been encountering major floods, more major than this recent 2013 floodings in Metro Manila. The only difference was, no one was too transparent (or cared to know) to talk about it. The so-called ambitious project should have been done way before Ondoy happened. That project only was stirred and initiated because of that. In my opinion, with the rampant corruption that happened in the past, I don’t blame Pres. Aquino for axing such a project. He did needed to review it first and see it it that the endeavor is lawful/justifiable before approving on such, otherwise, he will just be inheriting and carrying on corruptions to no end.

      • Has there been evidence presented thus far to support allegations that it was a corrupt deal? Was there a counter plan given? Nada.

    2. Flood is an engineering problem that cannot be solved by politics. To reiterate what I have posted in another with regards to the problem of flood and potential solutions:

      =====
      The simplistic answer (i.e. idiot-friendly) to the problem can be described by the following hydrologic process:

      1.) Precipitation (rainfall intensity) exceeds the rate of absorption of natural ground and the vegetation cover (infriltration) and the environments’ capacity to evaporate (evapo-transpiration) its ambient water/moisture thus producing excess rainwater in the surface (surface run-off)

      2.) Due to natural terrain (topography), surface run-off and infiltrating water (groundwater) will flow to the lowest portion either to the sea/ocean or basins (lakes/ponds/). The transportation mechanism will be the following:
      2a.) For surface run-off, by drainage (gravity flow) through natural conduits and waterways (i.e. rivers and its tributaries)
      2b.) For groundwater, by percolation to the aquifer/aquitard/aquifuge.

      3.) Flood occurs when either or in any combination of the following conditions are satisfied:
      3a.) The intensity of rainfall exceeds the capacity of natural or catchment basins (eg.lakes, flood plain, dams / reservoirs) to contain the volume thus the overflow of surface run-off.
      3b.) The intensity of rainfall exceeds the rate of infiltration/percolation to the ground, and it also exceeds the capacity of the aquifer/aquitard/aquifuge to store water, thus surface run-off.
      3c.) The rate of flow of surface run-off to natural conduits exceeds the capacity of the waterways to discharge/drain to the basins/lakes or open sea/oceans.
      3d.) Extreme change in weather patterns such as strong storm surges, and increasing mean sea level.

      The parameters therefore for flood to occur are:

      A.) Capacity to contain surface run-off
      Factors:
      -Insufficient reservoirs
      -Lack of retention ponds/lakes

      B.) Capacity to store surface run-off
      Factors:
      -Insufficient water sheds and vegetative cover (deforestation, indiscriminate land conversion, etc.)
      -Surface run-off not percolating to the ground aquifer/aquitard/aquifuge
      -Ingress of saline water to the groundwater aquifer/aquitard/aquifuge due to grounwater drawdown or pumping from development areas (eg. residential subdivision using groundwater pumps)

      C.) Capacity to discharge surface run-off
      Factors:
      -Inefficient sewer/stormwater network and system
      -Diminishing natural waterways due to economic development (eg. riverside development, informal settlers)
      -Clogged waterways either by garbage or siltation

      D.) Climate Change
      Factors:
      – Change in weather patterns (extended and/or wetter rainy season,extended and/or drier/hotter summers)
      – Rising sea levels
      – etc.

      =================================

      S O L U T I O N

      Having defined the parameters for flood to occur, the structural solution therefore should address each or in any combination of the following the parameters.

      A.) Capacity to contain Surface Run-off
      – Typical solutions are as follows:
      a.1) Provision for dams and reservoirs
      a.2) Provision for retention ponds & lakes

      B.) Capacity to store
      -Typical solutions are as follows:
      b.1) Watersheds and vegetative cover
      b.2) Artificial Recharging wells
      b.3) Swales

      C.) Capacity to discharge
      -Typical solutions are as follows:
      c.1) separate network for each of the stormwater, residential sewer and industrial sewer lines.
      c.2) increasing waterways capacity either, or in any combination of the following: dredging the river bed, widening the waterways, raising the embankment by providing dikes or levees.
      c.3) reduce the potential of siltation and scouring either or in any combination of the following: bioswales along embankment, baffle chutes to reduce velocity,riprap/gabions/rock armours along embankment,etc.
      c.4) diversion for other purposes such as irrigation, power generation, water supply, transportation, etc.

      D.) Climate Change
      – Typical solutions include:
      d.1) Scenario Planning
      d.2) Improved forecasting techniques
      d.3) Infrastructure adaptation

      The above solutions will be part of a comprehensive water management framework in a regional or national scale and should be incorporated in the land use zonation planning,natural hazard & disaster risk mitigation plan, infrastructure development plan, and economic development plan of the region concerned.

      source:
      http://www.pinoyexchange.com/forums/showthread.php?t=534391&page=3

    3. I am in the waste water cleaning business and believe me… dredging is NOT the solution. It only aims to deepen the laguna lake. It is a temporary solution that will leave us in debt of at least P11.7B. That’s a lot of money and a lot of debt!

      The article mentions that the dredged material will be used to reclaim land. While it will make the lake deeper, that amount of reclaimed land will just make the lake smaller.

      I suggest that the Government focus on the source of the problem and not just adopt a temporary fix like dredging.

      • I am not a technical person but I think the rationale for dredging the lake is quite straightforward. A pail half-filled with soil will carry less water; remove the dirt and it will carry more. Do that with the lake and you will see the logic.

      • A temporary fix is better than none. At least for the time being something could be done about the flooding while a better plan is drafted.

      • I agree with your illustration.

        Consider however, that the soil being mentioned here is not just ordinary soil but toxic soil. Disposing it by the lake shores will not only eat up on the size of the lake (reduce the size of your pail) but also cause health risks with high mitigation costs.

        Maybe some of the readers here may provide information on where the previously dredged silt were thrown and whether it is the possible for it to returning to the lake after being thrown there.

        The budget being mentioned here is for dredging works and does not elaborate on how and how much more will be required to address silt treatment and the health hazards that come along with it.

        Cheaper technologies are already available that will eat up the silt right where it is (no need to dredge). Wouldn’t that be a better solution?

        The Gov’t will just have to do some research and explore more effective and cost effective measures than dredging.

    4. President Aquino should respond to this article and explain his side. Local media should publicize this mistake (if indeed it is).

      I am also very deeply troubled by this administration’s tendency to be over-defensive when its shortcomings are pointed out by the media. Instead of being open to criticism, they label the criticizers as dissenters only looking to impede progress. This is unfortunate as progress relies on constant re-evaluation and scrutiny of policy.

      President Aquino, if you still haven’t, please respond to Mr. Tiglao’s article as soon as possible.

    5. The daily flooding we now experience is no different from the blackouts we had under his mother’s term. The reason? Political vendetta. Cory axed the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant without putting in place a fall back plan to prevent the now historic blackouts. We are still paying in billions for reneging the contract of the BNPP. Now her erstwhile brilliant sonofagun reneged the contract for this international project with nary an explanation. So we Filipinos have to AGAIN suffer and bear this problem brought about by an inept and incompetent president. We are the laughing stock of our asian neighbours, this problem is non existent with
      in their borders. kakahiya tayo.

      • In retrospect, if I had the option I would have just torn the BNPP down and paid off everything else immediately so we wouldn’t have to worry about the long term.

        If the prim and proper Japanese couldn’t avert a nuclear disaster at Fukushima, imagine how badly the corruption would have run the BNPP into a wasteland.

    6. He should also destroy the RORO ports and the call center industry for that matter. I’m sure they’re all tainted with corruption since it was GMA who started them. Or better yet, maybe he should just sabotage the economy. It was during GMA’s term that the momentum for economic growth started and i’m sure it had everything to do with corruption.

      ang matuwid na daan ay nalubog na sa baha… baha ng kabobohan

      • dredging reminds me of pinatubo stories where a lot of contractors simply bulldozed a bit here and there and billed the government lots of money. When asked for the visible results, the answer is;”Natabunan na ulit ng lahar!”.

        In the same vein, how can the government quantify the sediments dredged?

        I also have my reservations about spending a lot of money in dredging the lake. Can we actually dredge the lake faster than the rate that sediments are filling it up? Based on what I was told about ports with shallow depths, it has to be dredged every year.

        That’s probably the reason why the project was scrapped. There is no use dredging the lake if the cause (siltation) will not be effectively addressed. Dredging will only be a huge waste of money.

    7. capitan inggo on

      those who say pinoy is right…. i wish your’re right !!! but look around what happened corruption is very rampant left and right from barrangay to the highest level of the land….

    8. THIS IS ONE
      of the MOST STUPID IDEA of an ABNOYMAL Philippine PWEsident to ABROGATE ONE SUCH IMPORTANT PROJECT! TOO FUNNY! WAS IT BECAUSE the FPGMA started this project??? KE BABAW na reason!

      ¡Hay, QUÉ ESTÚPIDO!
      Now, we’re ‘paying’ for Abnoy’s TOO INSENSATE DECISION.
      BAHA dito, BAHA doon! BAHA kung saan, saan! AND, too ABALA for EVERYBODY, juice ko ‘day! ¡QUÉ BARBARIDAD! …bingT✿ܓ

      • am not a Pnoy fanatic but i agree his decision to abort the dredging project. it is in fact a big joke that would cause us taxpayers billions of money.

      • Did you read this bit, *francis*? His aborting the project in itself will cost us those billions for breach of contract (so unprofessional at that because the Govt didn’t give any formal notice to the Belgian parties involved), among other things.

        “As a result of Mr. Aquino’s reckless, unilateral cancellation of the project, P6 billion of taxpayers’ money could be lost. Firstly, government has to pay by the end of this month the P420-million penalty for the cancellation of the bank loan.”

      • without explaining why, you are like the person mr tiglao is referring to in this article

    9. The rainy season is upon us. How many more lives will Benignoramus have in his hands by year’s end? It has got to stop. 3 more years is too much.

    10. i agree. there is ONE person to blame: the head of state, the commander in chief, who axed such a life-saving project that addressed the urgency to control the catastrophic floods for millions of people.

      • Mr. Tiglao has very good points raised here. Canceling that Laguna flood control project was one of the flaws of the Aquino administration on its first year in office. It may have been understandable at the time when Mr. Aquino and his people perhaps thoughts that whatever project Mrs. Gloria Arroyo started, was tainted with corruption. Which was why Mr. Aquino was extra careful about flooding so much into infrastructure projects, which many economists criticized for the government’s dull spending. The administration has since realized where it may have erred grievously.

    11. Its time to wake up to reality. We don’t need a government who doesn’t have a concrete plan for the nation’s future. We don’t need a government who boast of “matuwid na daan” where in fact all they have is their own selfish ambitions and puts the blame for the past administration for all the mistakes they have created and encounter. An administration though bombarded with all the corruption issues they can think of, now clearly shows that they have a vision and goal for the nation’s welfare.

    12. domingo ligot on

      My family used to live in Provident Village in Marikina when the Ondoy floods happened. We lost everything and were it not for some miracle, too long to narate here, we almost lost our own lives as well. I did not realize until now that the project to dredge Laguna Lake should have prevented the devastation suffered by me and so many others. This is the height of insensitivity and stupidity to have it cancelled on the mere allegation that it was fraught with corruption when it was entered into disregarding that it had the blessings of the Belgian govrrtment and the perpetuation of the clear damage and suffering we have been suffering all our lives the project would have solved if implemented.

    13. Voice from the Wilderness on

      Indeed, history was repeated again in this flood control project as in the case of the abandoned Bataan Nuclear Power Plant where the hapless taxpayers of this country were made to pay for the stupid decision of the first aquino presidency which can be classified as a kind of MADONNA Complex political disease of mother and child political curse. This political curse can only be exorcised if no one of the aquinos are in political power but the future bodes ill will for the country as another aquino was again elected in the senate and his/her controversial actress sister is also poised to enter politics. What then Quo Vadis Philippines?

    14. Irrational indeed. just like the people who voted for this madman and his minions and puppets in his administration. The country was alright before he came. Why could n’t they have just have left him to play with his guns and Porsches and computer games as a private citizen? Put him back where he belongs and where he poses no danger to the public. Impeach him.

    15. ernesto albay on

      Its afact that mostly our infrastructure projects are all tainted with CORRUPTION. Cancelling projects that were approved will be costly on the part of the GOVERMENT, LOST TIME, MONEY and STATURE on foreign investment. How can we encourage foreign investment in our country if we cancelled contracts approved by previous administration.

      Lets say there is corruption, in the implementation is the only way to correct or reduced the corruption made.Before dredging start a survey will be conducted on the area to be dredge, From that survey you will know much volume of materials being taken out and final survey will be undertaken once the project will be turnover.As long as the implementing agency is not corrupt, even its tainted still can be reduced the cost unless its a LUMP SUM that they will dredge the area and once its done then they walk away and ask for PAYMENT.

      We have lots of TALENTED ENGINEERS to undertake these project with efficiency and with less lesser EVIL.Our problem is that you get the PROJECT and how much is my PERCENTAGE over the CONTRACT PRICE.

      It is better to IMPLEMENT the PROJECT than CANCELLING. Its is just due deligence must be undertaken only during CONSTRUCTION. Its very costly once you go to arbitration, legal fees alone is very exhorbitant, do you recover that money and also you lost integrity on international affairs, nobody will ever come and entertain offers.

      • Everybody knows floodwaters do not go directly to the lake. There are many gaps, low-lying areas before the lake yet to be flooded. PNoy is right to axe
        graft ridden project.

      • Oo, *bongdavid*, pero dadaan sila sa iba pang waterways na du’n din pupunta. So, what you said doesn’t quite apply in this case. Read this:

        http://www.llda.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=312

        “Using the P780 million budget for the project, LLDA, together with DPWH, will implement the construction and rehabilitation of river control structures on various rivers flowing into Laguna Lake such as on Mabitac, Sta. Maria, Sta. Cruz, Biñan, and San Pedro Rivers in the province of Laguna, as the government’s response to prevent the same damage and devastation caused by previous floods due to typhoons and heavy rains.”

      • Also, please read the article again regarding this ‘corruption’ you mention:

        “… To this day, Mr. Aquino has not presented an iota of evidence, or even any specific charge of corruption, in the project.

        “On the other hand, then Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme vouched for the project’s integrity, and even submitted to Mr. Aquino an independent engineering firm’s evaluation of the project. ‘As I understand from the report of this expert, which is enclosed, the project can be an undeniable improvement for the Metro Manila area and alleviate flooding, improve local transport infrastructure and increase water capacity,’ Leterme wrote in a letter to Mr. Aquino in March 2011.

        “Leterme, now deputy secretary general of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, appealed to Mr. Aquino to allow the Belgian contractor to respond to the allegations against the project. Mr. Aquino rebuffed Leterme. Instead, he ramped up his opprobrium against the project, saying as recently as last week that the project was a ‘big joke’ since it would ‘just dump silt to be recovered to another portion of the lake.’ (In his memorandum canceling the project, though, Mr. Aquino gave no explanation for his action.)

        “That is an utter lie. The project very clearly specified that the dredged material would be deposited in designated sites off Taytay-Angono and San Pedro, which in fact would become reclaimed land where waste-water treatment facilities would be built.

        “Seven government departments, agencies and interdepartmental bodies evaluated the project for three years, and endorsed it for immediate implementation in 2010.”

        And…

        “Mr. Aquino’s Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in her August 2010 legal opinion, found nothing wrong with it: ‘The project cannot be construed as a midnight deal since it is covered by official development assistance from the Belgian government.'”

      • hey chris, are you a filipino?
        why you’re calling the The Philippine President ‘stupid’.
        careful with your words…

      • hey camelo what’s your problem…chris is telling the truth… your philippine president is very really stupid including you…

      • what’s the connection of not being a filipino and calling the president stupid?

        many filipinos think that the president is, so what’s your problem?