The squatters get all the blame for the regular flooding of Metro Manila. ‘Tis said they throw their garbage every which way, thus despoiling and clogging the waterways.
Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras made the observation the other day, in an attempt to absolve DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson and MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino from responsibility over the recent flood that hit Metro Manila.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd had called the meeting to find out who was responsible and what the government could do to prevent or at least mitigate floods in the future. And it’s just as well. We’re looking at months of rains. Heavy rains.
Mr. Almendas was right about his colleagues being blameless but wrong about the squatters.
It’s true the squatters are guilty, but so is everybody else: the poor and the not-so-poor alike. Even the middle class and the rich do it, except that they have other people to pick after them.
If there are government officials who ought to be in that meeting with the President, it is the mayors of the 16 cities and towns that make up Metro Manila. It is they who should be made to answer for the destruction of properties, the inconvenience suffered by the people, and the occasional loss of lives every time the metropolis comes under water.
There wouldn’t be any problem at all, if these local governments use the money allocated for the purpose. But judging from the limited number of garbage trucks making the rounds every day, it is clear these cities only spend half of the budget, if at all.
Informal settlers—they are called that to make sure everybody understands they don’t have a right to be there—throw their garbage anywhere convenient simply because there just isn’t any truck coming around to haul it off.
One local government has close to a billion pesos appropriated annually. If its officials use half of the money intended for the purpose, instead of stealing it, every city street would have a garbage truck to itself doing the collection every morning and afternoon of every day.
For heaven’s sake, garbage collection is no rocket science! Yet local governments cannot do it right, and they spend billions of pesos annually on it.
The contractor makes sure garbage trucks make regular calls in subdivisions, but that’s because the residents there would raise hell if the community starts to stink.
Not in squatter areas. The inhabitants—they’re not called residents—would be lucky if they see a garbage truck once in two weeks. But they don’t complain. Nobody would listen anyway.
There are millions of squatters in the entire metropolis, but only a few thousand families live on riverbanks.
How much would it cost for the local government to put dumpsters in those areas and collect the content regularly, say, every two days? Not much, but that would reduce the slush fund intended for the mayor, vice-mayor, and members of the city council.
It will be hard to justify the tens of millions spent on the project every month if you simply call it garbage collection and disposal. So another local government has come up with a grandiose title: environmental protection and waste management. Still, trash is overwhelmed.
The squatters are just a convenient whipping boy for official incompetence–and corruption.