MANILA, Philippines - Government agencies are focused on relocating thousands of families living near the waterways to prevent disasters resulting from massive floods.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Thursday said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) are now finalizing when the relocation will take place while the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Housing Authority (NHA) are planning where the families will be relocated.
Roxas said affected residents should not worry because they will be relocated near their job sites or livelihood.
"Huwag po mabahala ang mga nakikinig dito, in city or near site ang relocation dito. Hindi sila itatapon kung saang malayo, sisiguraduhin nating magiging smooth ito dahil magiging malinaw at abot kaya ang paglilipatan," he said.
Roxas said the first phase of the relocation will affect 20,000 families residing in the 6 major waterways determined by the DPWH as priority areas: the San Juan River, Manggahan Floodway, Estero Tripa de Gallina, Maricaban Creek, Tullahan River and Pasig River.
"Kahit na ayusin namin o ayusin namin yung nasa upstream, kung hindi namin aayusin yung nasa bukana, 'di makakalabas ang tubig," DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson said. "Kahit anong improvement sa pumping system ang gagawin, kung hindi naman makakadaloy ang tubig sa waterways eh. Walang silbi ang ginagawa ng MMDA na upgrading the pumping system, dahil hindi nila maibabato ang excess water sa waterways."
"Kaya napaka halaga na mai-restore natin ang capacity or maimprove natin ang carrying capacity ng waterways, kaya yan ang ating high priority. So this is the part of the bigger masterplan," he added.
The next phases of the relocation project will include parts of Laguna province, Singson said.
"Uunahin natin yung mga nasa labasan ng tubig. Iyung nasa Manila Bay, sa Pasig River, dahil kung hundi naman inayos ito patuloy na magiging barado ito," Roxas said.
Relocation of some families near the pumping stations have already started by the NHA and the identification of ideal relocation sites is continuing.
Roxas said they plan to finish the project before the start of the rainy season this year.
"Kung last year nasa alanganin sila, eh by (this year) ay nasa ligtas sila," he said.
Roxas, however, admitted that some families are hesistant about the program.
"Natural na magkakaroon ng resistance ang mga residente. Kung di pa sila napapaliwanagan. Kaya holistic ang program na ito. Pinag- isipan, comprehensive ang planning nito. Kasama ang human element," he said.
Roxas said the project is being appreciated by local government units despite elections drawing nearer.
"Cooperative ang mga LGUs dito. In fact, sinisita sila ng mga residents na bakit hindi ninyo kami nilalagay sa mas ligtas na kalagayan eh kabahagi ng trabaho ninyo yan. Ang mga LGUs ang mismong intresado. Hindi naman kailangan warningan pa sila, united ang mga LGUs dito," he said.
The NHA will present the final relocation plan to the MMDA on January 17, and consultations will be conducted to further inform residents on the project.