Singson: Integrated approach vs flood problems needed

By Caroline Howard, ANC

Posted at Oct 12 2011 05:47 PM | Updated as of Oct 19 2011 06:46 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson, tasked recently as the country’s water czar, is eyeing an integrated approach to managing water resources in a bid to improve the flood situation in Metro Manila.

"We're completing a master plan of the whole of Metro Manila, including Laguna Lake, and we’re integrating the plans for Pampanga and Bulacan," said Singson on ANC's Headstart.

“We're looking at an integrated water resource management approach. We look at it in terms of our river basin, from rainfall to outfall. Tingnan mo saan tumatakbo yan, ano ang volume, anong dapat imbakin, so that you only release the capacity of the rivers,” he added.

Singson added President Aquino has given him and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) until the end of the month to present a proposal on restructuring the water sector.

"The President gave us and NEDA until end of October to present a proposal on how we can restructure the water sector. We're just tying up loose ends. The Department of Interior and Local Goverment (DILG) has to get involved and ask LGUs to support what we've been advocating otherwise babahain yang mga iyan," he added.

Retarding basins

Singson said they plan to build flood retarding basins across Metro Manila designed to provide temporary storage for excessive rainfall, only 28% of which is being put to good use.

He noted initial efforts at the Burgos Circle in Fort Bonifacio, worth P60 million, have proven to be successful in easing floods in EDSA.

“That has a diameter of 72 meters and six stories deep. Lahat ng tubig kokolektahin muna doon sa basin under the garden then after the excessive rainfall, you release the water slowly based on the capacity of the creek. That's the plan for Metro Manila,” he said.

Singson said similar efforts are being undertaken in schools across the country.

In Yokohama, Japan, Singson pointed out two major river overflow every year. Japan's sub-stadium is designed to be a containment catchment basin, allowing river water to flow into the stadium and its tennis court during heavy rains, before it is gradually pumped out.

Integrity of dams

Efforts are also currently being taken to ensure the structural integrity of the country's dams, including Angat.

"They're checking the structural integrity of Angat to make sure it can hold enough water and is not dangerous because it’s near an earthquake fault,” he said.

Singson said there is still a need to identify floodplains and put up the necessary structures.

He added that waterways, including the Pampanga river that has a natural drainage system, should also be cleared to help prevent flooding.

"We have to clear the waterways, they are there to protect the bigger population. We already have a Supreme Court ruling that has identified waterways as danger zones, we just have to talk to local officials to help us out,” he said.

"[Around] 750 meters binayaran na ng gobyerno iyan and the waterway has been reduced to less than 200 meters. Fishponds yan, may barangay pa, tapos magtataka ka nalulubog yan e nasa loob sila ng waterway e, kaya di makalabas agad yung tubig galing Pampanga at Calumpit, Bulacan,” he added.

Singson said there is a proposal to create a dike on both sides of the Pampanga river. He noted there was supposed to be a Phase 2 of the Bulacan portion but they objected to the 750 meter water channel. He said he proposed making the dike narrow.

Excessive ground water extraction for industries and fishponds has also been blamed for the sinking of land there, contributing to the floods.

Singson noted all these efforts will be futile without the cooperation of local governments.

He said he met with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino on Tuesday regarding plans to improve the breakwater in Roxas Boulevard. A storm surge caused a portion of the seawall to collapse at the height of typhoons Pedring and Quiel.

Instead of pursuing the MMDA's proposal for a promenade, he said they are now looking at tapping new technology including wave breakers or floating pontoons which dissipates the energy of storm surges.