The recent inundation this week of Metro Manila and the contiguous provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Rizal clearly shows the miserable failure of the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH) to address the perennial problem of flooding. In the past three years under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, it seems that the flood situation has even worsened as never before, instead of improving it.
Exactly a year ago in August of 2012, the DPWH suddenly unveiled an ambitious P371.72 Billion comprehensive Flood Control Master Plan that would purportedly be the final solution to the annual inundation of the National Capital Region (NCR) and provinces in Southern Luzon and Central Luzon. This was ostensibly done in response to the heavy flooding in the metropolis and environs that occurred in the same month August last year.
However, exactly one year has passed and none of the 11 projects has been implemented that includes the raising of breached dikes in Pampanga, Malabon and Navotas. The upgrading of the pumping stations in Metro Manila has also not been done as shown during the flooding in mid- June and July.
Based on the statements of President B.S. Aquino III, components of the master plan are still in their planning or design stage.
DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson explained to reporters last Thursday that a major project of the Flood Control Master Plan is the P 23 Billion “Ring Road Dike” for Laguna.
However, when Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was asked on the status of the dike project, he does not seem to have any idea. All Mr. Lacierda could say was: “According to Secretary Singson, the ring road dike is part of the long-term solutions included in the master plan for flood management in Metro Manila and Laguna Lake.” He added that the project will be on a BOT (Built Operate Transfer) scheme and subject for approval by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA.)
After President Aquino visited the flooded areas of San Pedro and Biñan in Laguna and Imus and Kawit in Cavite, he promised to ensure the completion of two major flood control projects for the two provinces. These are the Ring Road Dike for Laguna and Rizal and the “Retarding Basin” for Cavite.
However, the Chief Executive revealed that both projects are still in the planning or design stage and negotiation phase, respectively.
For all intents and purposes, there will be no improvement in the flood situation in Laguna and Cavite the next two years (2013-2015). Whatever will be accomplished, if ever, will only be realized in the last year of the Aquino presidency, from 2015 to 2016. This is because it will take at least two years from today before the Ring Road Dike referred to as “C-6 Extension to Laguna” and the “Retarding Basin” can be completed.
On the DPWH’s proposed 50-hetare “Retarding Basin” for Cavite, there appears to be nothing definite yet on it as per statement of President Aquino that “ if we procure the property . . . it is estimated to be finished between one year to one year and a half.” P-Noy said that the government is still negotiating for the purchase of the 50-hectare private property. Assuming that the land for the ‘Retarding Basin” that will contain the floodwaters coming from the rivers and waterways of Imus and Bacoor is finally bought by the end of the year 2013, “one year and a half” would mean completion by mid-2015.
President Aquino also divulged that the Ring Road Dike for Laguna, which is “a solution that provide huge relief ,” is still in its “finalization of design” phase. Assuming that it is already on its final stage, it will take until the end of the year 2013 when the plan is finally finished and then approved by NEDA. Then it will take at least another three months, First Quarter of 2014, before the project is bidded and awarded on BOT scheme, now referred to as the “Public Private Partnership (PPP)” of the Aquino administration.
Hence, the estimated P23.0 Billion Ring Road Dike project for Laguna will most likely be completed by early 2016. So the worsening flooding in San Pedro, Biñan and Cabuyao in Laguna can be expected to continue from now until 2015. The “huge relief” that President Aquino promised the people of Laguna will only happen in the last month of his presidency in June 2016 in time when the southwest monsoon rain starts pouring in.
Given the deterioration on the flood situation in Metro Manila and in the coastal towns of Laguna and Rizal, it is important to recall that President B.S. Aquino III deferred and later unilaterally and arbitrarily cancelled the multi-billion dredging project of Laguna de Bay in late 2010. The P18.7 Billion dredging project could have removed some 4.6 million cubic meters of silt in Laguna de Bay and deepened the 7-km Napindan Channel in Pasig-Taytay that was designed to divert the floodwaters from the metropolis to the bay.
The financing for the rehabilitation of Laguna de Bay was covered by Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Belgian government with a grant component of of P7.0 Billion, the single biggest development aid that could have been given to our country. The project was to be undertaken by an established 150-year-old Belgian dredging company and to commence on July 2010 and completed in July 2012. It could have spared millions of our people from the severe flooding that have afflicted us since last year.
It is truly unfortunate that P-Noy has chosen to sacrifice the welfare of his countrymen, whom he claims to be his “ BOSS,” for his misguided and mistaken belief that government-to-government contract was a “midnight deal” tainted with corruption. The Filipino people should not be the victims of the shameless and puerile ill-will he has towards his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.