GMA OKs Manila Bay-Laguna Lake spillway
GMA OKs Manila Bay-Laguna Lake spillway
- Paolo Romero () - October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo gave the go-signal yesterday for the construction of a new water spillway in Metro Manila connecting Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay to prevent massive flooding in the nation’s capital.

During the joint Cabinet-National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) meeting in Pampanga province, Mrs. Arroyo also ordered the placement of sandbags and pontoons or floating bridges in flooded or flood-prone areas in Metro Manila as one of the immediate measures recommended by noted architect and urban planner Felino Palafox during the discussions.

Palafox said the Arroyo administration should not take the blame for the disaster that hit Metro Manila as previous governments and local officials have not fully implemented World Bank-funded plan for the region in the 1970s that could have prevented not only massive flooding but congestion.

He said the flooding patterns in Metro Manila when tropical storm “Ondoy” hit was the same in the 1970s.

Palafox was commissioned by the World Bank in the 1970s to draw up a plan for Metro Manila that includes preventing it from being congested and flooded. Only the Manggahan Floodway in Marikina City was implemented in the plan to control flooding, he said.

“It’s like having a toilet without a flush,” Palafox told the Cabinet.

For the immediate term, Palafox suggested sandbagging in still-flooded parts of the capital and let pumps drain out the water. He also pushed for the placement of pontoons or floating bridges as alternative walkways now that sidewalks are underwater.

For the medium term, he pushed for the construction of the Parañaque spillway, the plans for which were drawn up in the early 1970s, putting up flood alarm systems, and reviewing and amending some provisions of the Building Code.

“There’s a big disconnect between the regulatory regime and the real estate developers,” Palafox said.

“In the meantime, we have what we can do between now and the end of the year, in the immediate, the sandbagging is a very, very good and practical,” the President said. “And we should already ask the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to work on the spillway.”

Long, winding spillway?

Mrs. Arroyo cited a proposal that in order to minimize the cost of right-of-way and minimize displacement of residents and commercial establishments, the flood spillway should be built in government lands such as that along the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Mrs. Arroyo said the proposal calls for the use of the entire length of the runway along the fence towards the Parañaque River, on the end of the runway along C-5 Road or Taguig City.

“The spillway can pass to the Food Terminal (in Taguig City) then on towards the Laguna de Bay. That will use government lots and less relocation of homes,” she said.

Palafox, however, said the proposal would make the floodway too long compared to the original Parañaque spillway of only eight kilometers.

“We will have to look at the cost effectiveness (of the project), but it’s an option, in other words it has to be the cheapest way to do it,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Palafox said not only cost but speed should be the consideration in undertaking the project as Metro Manila is hit by floods several times a year.

Among the flood-prone areas in National Capital Region and nearby provinces, he said, are west of the North Luzon Expressway, Marikina, Pasig and other parts in eastern Metro Manila, and western shores of the Laguna lake.

With the Parañaque spillway, in the worst-case scenario of flooding, the floods would only remain in Metro Manila for 20 days. Without it, the floods could stay over 65 days, he said, citing data from the DPWH.

He said compounding the situation was the heavy siltation of the Pasig River caused “not only by the urban poor but also the urban rich.”

Mrs. Arroyo said the Palace has already begun removing structures in the Malacañang complex that encroach on the Pasig River.

Palafox said the spillway could be considered expensive but the destruction and loss of lives caused by flooding in the past decades are much more costly.

The President also directed Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando to publish the earthquake maps and fault lines in the region.

Palafox told the Cabinet that officials of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology told him that they were prevented from publishing such maps as it would reduce real estate values in the capital.

Among the other proposals of Palafox that got the nod of the Cabinet were the permanent relocation of residents in high-risk areas, establishing a 100-year flood history, construction of elevated walkways above floodlines, having residential and commercial communities gather rainwater that could be used for other purposes, and clearing the Pasig River.

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