News & Insights

Palafox on Marikina flooding

Published by: Jonathan Dela Cruz on November 20, 2020, Manila Standard

Last Wednesday, we gave space to the narrative on the "once-in-100-years-flooding-in-Cagayan Valley" which partook of the study undertaken by UP geologists, Dr. Fernando Siringan and Dr. Keanu Jerahon Sarmiento, detailing their findings as they examined the meandering flow of the 520 kilometer long mighty Cagayan River. It is the country's largest and longest river system, providing much-needed intervention measures to prevent the occurrence of the massive floods which engulfed vast areas of the two biggest provinces in Region 2, Cagayan and Isabela. Today, I am giving space to some notes of renowned architect and urban planner, Felino "Jun"Palafox, Jr., whose book " Philippines Towards Resilient Cities and Communities " provided historical perspective and detailed recommendations on the seemingly unabated yearly flooding in Metro Manila and its environs specially the vast stretches of the heavily populated Marikina Valley. These two pieces should give those assigned to undertake the massive government plan to "Build Back Better" needed information on how best to handle their assigned Herculean task.

Here's Palafox' take:

"After Ondoy, I gave 145 recommendations with a 10-year program to PGMA. She approved, among others, the dredging of Laguna Lake and the Paranaque Spillway S.M.A.R.T. Tunnel (Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel). The Flooding in Marikina and its environs would not have been as worse had the succeeding administration not cancelled the Laguna Lake Dredging contract with the Belgian contractor and did nothing on my recommendations. (NOTE: The Belgian contractor with the assistance of the Belgian government sued us for breach of contract, they won and as of this writing we have paid at least P800 million pesos for the damage done.)

"The Paranaque Spillway was first proposed in 1975, then affirmed in 1976 by the World Bank funded MMETROPLAN (I was senior planner and team leader). Our team said that time that with a ‘DO NOTHING’ scenario, we will have catastrophic flooding, traffic, garbage pile ups, water supply problems, energy cut offs, lack of decent housing and related habitat problems. We would be unprepared for disasters. The PRRD administration inherited all these problems.

"The areas east of the Marikina Valley faultline and the Laguna de Bae lake shores were supposed to be controlled/regulated development until the necessary interventions particularly infrastructures are put in place. Laguna Lake used to be 14 meters deep but with the siltation and unregulated use of the lake including rapid development in the lakeshores, a good part is now only two meters deep.

"In the late '70s to the early '80s some of the interventions were put in place. which included the construction of the Napindan Channel to divert water upstream to Laguna Lake and then pumped out into the Pasig River and then to Manila Bay; the clearing of structures along the lakeshores and the Pasig River and its tributaries; cleaning of esteros and resettling of informal settlers along the waterways. (NOTE: The Paranaque SMART Project was also on the way to implementation but was abandoned together with the other MMETROPLAN recommendations meant to minimize flooding, improve traffic flow and proper land use in Metro Manila and its environs).”

We certainly hope that this newest government effort to "Build Back Better" will be undertaken using all the available materials at its disposal. Those in charge will be better served with the insights and experiences of these professionals. I am sure they will be more than willing to share and serve.

Original Article: