CARMAGGEDON – or the state of extreme helplessness after getting stuck in a horrendous traffic jam – gripped thousands of motorists and commuters in Metro Manila and nearby provinces after heavy rains flooded major thoroughfares on Tuesday night.
Flash floods shuttered many roads in Makati, Manila, Quezon City, San Juan and Mandaluyong during the evening rush hour stranding thousands of people.
Many passengers were forced to get off and waded through flooded streets. Commuters helplessly sought shelter as they waited for the flood to subside.
Crisanto Saruca, head of the MMDA Traffic Discipline Office (TDO), said flood control teams were immediately deployed to flooded areas, but were unable to unclog the drains.
“Our teams already cleaned up the drainage system so that flood water would now easily subside. Our flood control team with portable pumps were also on stand by,” he said.
Motorists spent the entire evening sitting in their cars. Those who have mobile Internet connections turned to social media to vent their ire, many blamed the government for the horror they went through.
An executive of a telecommunications company said she’s been stuck for four hours in Makati City while a media company employee used emojis to express her frustration. Both – ironically – came from a media event that launched an online app that meant to help commuters travel with ease.
OFW party-list Rep. Roy Señeres, on his Facebook account, said he left his Batasang Pambansa office at 7 p.m. and arrived home in Las Piñas City at 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Gangs of teenaged boys were also seen preying on stranded motorists
At the corner of Legarda and Mendiola in Manila, a gang of six pelted a taxicab with stones after the driver refused to let them go on board.
Along E. Rodriguez Ave. near the corner of G. Araneta Avenue in Quezon City, a teenaged boy approached the car of a Times editor and snatched its side mirror. No police or barangay authority were in sight in both occasions.
“Government’s efforts to improve traffic flow along EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) and major thoroughfares were greatly hindered last night by heavy rains and flash floods that were experienced during the rush hour of homeward-bound commuting,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
He said it was already past 11 p.m. when traffic started moving again after the floods have subsided.
“We understand the plight of many who were stranded and delayed considerably in reaching their homes and destinations and we seek their kind understanding,” Coloma, a transport undersecretary in the first Aquino administration, said.
The Highway Patrol Group which has taken over traffic management on EDSA was also caught off guard with the turn of events.
Chief Supt. Arnold Gunnacao, chief of the HPG, said they had anticipated the floods and were already planning to map out alternate routes, but their request for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to give them a list of flood-prone areas was overtaken by the thunderstorm and heavy rains.
“I requested MMDA for a copy or a list of areas kung saan magkakaroon ng baha, kaya lang di umabot ang request,” he told reporters.
“At least last night, we were able to identify the flooded areas so we are formulating our plans already if there would be flooding in Magallanes, Guadalupe, Buendia or in front of Camp Aguinaldo,” he added.
“Nag-divert kami ng traffic sa areas na hindi baha at puwedeng daanan. Unfortunately, ‘yung nasa dulo na ng EDSA southbound, hindi na natin mapa-divert kasi wala nang daan. Pero ‘yung mga nasa Guadalupe, napalabas namin ng C-5,” HPG spokesman Supt. Oliver Tanseco added.
Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, who was recently designated as the government’s “traffic coordinator”, sought the public’s understanding.
“The problem being complex requires the ‘whole of government’ approach, which also involves other agencies such as DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications), LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), and LTO (Land Transportation Office),” said Almendras.
At the same time, the official acknowledged the “hard work and continuous efforts of the HPG and MMDA for working together in order to address the traffic situation in Metro Manila.”
“The past two days are proof that the initial steps being taken to ease the traffic situation were effective, and government will continue to strive to improve our interaction and interoperability among concerned government agencies,” Almendras stressed.
“We continue to appeal to the public for their cooperation in following traffic rules and regulations that greatly impacts traffic flow and management,” he added.
HPG’s Gunnacao complained that contrary to what MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino had pledged before they took over EDSA, the agency has yet to hand over operational command of the 150 MMDA traffic constables.
He said until Tuesday night, the MMDA had insisted on deploying its personnel separately and beyond the control of the HPG.
Flooding to continue
Widespread flooding in Metro Manila would continue even if all of the government’s 360 flood- mitigating projects worth P8.848 billion are completed, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
DPWH Maintenance Division chief engineer Rey Rosario on Wednesday said Tuesday’s flash floods was a result of heavy rains and high tide, and non-operational pumping stations.
Rosario clarified though that the DPWH has nothing to do with operations of the 54 pumping stations all over Metro Manila which he said is being managed by the MMDA. Control of the pumping stations were handed over to the MMDA when then Chairman Bayani Fernando was concurrent DPWH Secretary.
Rosario explained that despite ongoing engineering interventions to mitigate flooding in Mero Manila, it could not be totally eliminated because of other underlying factors.
“Even with all the projects we have, we cannot totally eliminate flooding but only reduced it to a minimum degree because Metro Manila is below sea level.” Rosario told The Manila Times.
He also pointed out that the lack of discipline among residents in the disposal of their garbage is another contributory factor to the perennial problem on flooding.
Rosario stressed that there should a “wholistic” approach to the problem, which should involved the participation of the residents and the local government units concerned in coordination with the DPWH and concerned government agencies.
In its budget report submitted early this year, the DPWH allotted some P46 billion for its flood control program nationwide.