MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino wants structures built along waterways removed fast, following the flooding of several parts of Metro Manila and nearby areas.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said structures along waterways reduce the capacity of river systems to hold rainwater.
He said these structures have to go.
"Kung meron pang mga nandyan na nakatirik na structures, you reduce the capacity of those river systems. We need to clear them, we need to dredge them, we need to improve the walls and embankments of these rivers so that we are able to restore capacities," he said.
Singson recalled seeing structures built along the Pampanga Delta that aggravated flooding during the onslaught of Typhoon Pedring last year. The government has started removing these structures.
"We have started removing. I just received instructions from the President that when push comes to shove, we will have to blast 'yung mga kabahayan doon, kung hindi pa sila aalis within a certain period. We just continue to meet with the LGUs. I think it has come to a point that we will have to set a deadline when they should be taken out," he said.
Singson said the government has identified 125,000 families living along waterways in Metro Manila and 60,000 to 70,000 families living around Laguna Lake.
He said houses are being built along natural floodplains even if waterways are subject to easement under the Water Code of the Philippines.
"Talagang high risk areas 'yun. Dapat wala sila roon. These will have to be addressed. They have to be removed," Singson said.
An inter-agency task force headed by DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo has earlier been formed to spearhead the relocation of families living along waterways.
No deadline yet
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Secretary Ricky Carandang said the task force is coordinating with local governments to implement the relocation. No deadline or timeframe has been set yet.
Singson said strong political will is needed to clear the waterways of structures.
"Obviously, that needs a very strong political will to be able to address that," he said.
Singson recalled that former President Fidel Ramos mobilized the police and military to remove the illegal fish pens in water tributaries.
Solid waste aggravating floods
Singson couldn't emphasize more the need for the proper disposal of solid waste.
He said drainage and pumping systems clogged by garbage aggravated the overflowing of waterways.
"'Yung ating pumping stations, for example, imbes na mapatakbo mo nang tuloy-tuloy 'yan, you have to stop, dahil 'yung propeller ng pumping stations, talagang hindi umaandar dahil nagkabuhol-buhol na ang mga plastic bags doon. Hindi na mapa-ikot, hindi na mapaandar. So they have to stop. Syempre, 'pag pinahinto mo 'yan, 'yung baha tumatagal. Definitely, 'yung solid waste problem is aggravating the flooding situation," Singson said.
Singson is proposing that the LGUs pass ordinances that would require real estate developers to come up with their own water catchment basins instead of discharging water into the city drainage systems.
Prioritize P5-B flood control projects
The DPWH is prioritizing P5 billion worth of "high impact" flood mitigation projects in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, including the repair and upgrade of dikes in Central Luzon that should be completed within the year.
This also involves the improvement of floodway systems in Valenzuela, Meycauayan and Obando in Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna.
Singson is also proposing to upgrade the old pumping system in Metro Manila being managed by the MMDA.
The DPWH has created a Flood Management Master Plan that would ideally be carried out up to 2035, entailing P352 billion in funds.
The projects would include the dredging of waterways, building and heightening of flood walls, excavation, and rehabilitation of floodways.
The government is targeting to reduce the swelling of waterways, having identified the excess flow of water from rivers and lakes as the biggest source of flood water in Metro Manila.
"Combine that with high tide, ayan na, nakita na natin 'yung epekto niyan: excess run of water, sobrang ulan, umaapaw 'yung mga waterways and then masasabayan ng high tide. That's the event that we dread," Singson said.
Meantime, the DPWH continues to repair roads damaged by floods and left with potholes.
Singson said the most heavily damaged roads were the ones being used by loaded trucks.
The DPWH will upgrade the specifications for the roads, by reinforcing the concrete and not just using asphalt.
"It looks like asphalt on those roads is not going to work. So we're thinking of upgrading our specifications and use reinforced concrete on these segments. Hindi na namin lalagyan ng aspalto. Kakapalan na lang namin ang kongkreto at lalagyan namin ng reinforcement," Singson said.