MANILA - Floods are no longer mere inconvenience for Metro Manila dwellers; they are proven to be costly to the economy as well.
According to a new scientific study commissioned by the government, flooding and resulting traffic jams in the metropolis mean economic losses amounting to more than P2 billion a day.
In his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, President Benigno Aquino aired frustration over a flood-control project that did not materialize due to oppositions coming from a "big university" in Manila.
"Para matugunan ang madalas na pagbaha sa Maynila, isinulong natin ang pagpapagawa ng catchment area, pero tumutol po dito ang isang malaking unibersidad. May lumang mga gusali daw kasi silang baka maapektuhan ng gagawing proyekto."
While the President did not mention any particular university, many identified this to be the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
According to The Varsitarian, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas, the administration of the university earlier "rejected the proposal [from the government to build a catch basin under the UST open grounds], citing security concerns and the expected disruption of the university's regular activities."
The same article also discussed the status of UST's open grounds and certain structures as national cultural treasure, which, according to law, "shall not be relocated, rebuilt, defaced or otherwise changed in a manner, which would destroy the property's dignity and authenticity, except to save such property from destruction due to natural causes."
In 2013, the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) proposed to dig out a retarding tank under UST's open grounds "to serve as storage for water during heavy rains, to be pumped out to waterways after a downpour," according to The Varsitarian.
DPWH regional director Reynaldo Tagudando, however, assured UST that the construction of a retarding tank under UST's open grounds will not alter the structures surrounding the area.
"Whatever they see now, it will still be the same. The only difference is there will be a structure underneath," Tagudando told The Varsitarian in 2013.
'SAFETY OVER PRIZED SOCCER FIELD'
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, on Tuesday also defended the government's plan to use UST's open grounds as a catch basin for a flood control project.
Speaking to ANC's "Beyond Politics" with Lynda Jumilla, Lacierda said that the interest of many should be given utmost consideration.
"Doesn't it make sense that we need to attend to the welfare of so many, not just adults, but school children, kids, who traverse those roads in times of storm where the inundation is still knee-deep or waist-deep," said Lacierda.
"Would you forgo safety over a prized soccer field?" Lacierda asked.
Lacierda also took time to explain that the catch basin will be placed underneath the university's open grounds.
"The catchment area is [placed in] an area where you see inundation... Catchment, by the way, is [built] underneath," the presidential spokesperson explained.
"Is that being unreasonable if we dig it (open grounds) up and make sure that the millions within that area would be safe from inundation, would be safe from danger, would put them out of harm's way, and would put them out of a danger zone in times of storms and floods?" Lacierda added.
According to a scientific study published Tuesday by a team of scientists led by Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay of Project NOAH and the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, street floods in Metro Manila do not just occur anywhere, but are found at intersections of streets and creeks.
Further analysis showed that street floods occur at the lowest portion of streets.
Among the flood-prone roads is the Espana-Antipolo-Maceda area, which is near UST.
According to the study, the most ideal way to mitigate flooding in low-lying areas such as the Espana area near UST is to either elevate the road itself or to construct a retention basin big enough to accommodate the volume of flood water in the area.
The retention basin must also be designed to directly drain into the nearest stream channel.
According to the study, the proposed solutions to street floods are expected to avert lost potential income during floods, which may balloon to P6 billion a day by the year 2030.