Probe on Marikina flooding sought
Quezon City fifth district Rep. Alfred Vargas sought the probe in aid of legislation to determine what caused the flooding.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Probe on Marikina flooding sought
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - November 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker has called for a congressional inquiry into the widespread flooding that devastated Marikina City during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

Quezon City fifth district Rep. Alfred Vargas sought the probe in aid of legislation to determine what caused the flooding.

Vargas specifically sought an explanation on why quarrying operations were allowed to continue at the Marikina watershed.

“Local officials in typhoon-hit areas have blamed the widespread flooding to supposed illegal logging in the Sierra Madre and the prevalence of quarrying in areas of the Marikina Watershed,” Vargas said. “These are serious concerns that need to be addressed to prevent a repeat of the disaster that has affected millions of our countrymen.”

Vargas, a member of the House committee on disaster resilience, has also filed a resolution seeking a separate congressional investigation on the status of the government’s reforestation programs and initiatives to protect watersheds.

“The extensive damage caused by Ulysses and the previous typhoons should serve as a wake up call for us to work for a viable reforestation program and to protect our forest areas and watersheds from illegal logging and quarrying,” he said.

Mayor Marcelino Teodoro welcomed the proposal to investigate the reported unregulated quarrying at the Marikina watershed.

“We welcome it. This should be a concerted effort,” he said in a phone interview.

Vargas also called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to task on the National Greening Program (NGP), which set a target of 1.5 billion trees to be planted on 1.5 million hectares of land from 2011 to 2016.

While the DENR said the agency planted 1.7 billion trees during the five-year span, data showed that the Philippines has the lowest forest cover in Asia at only 23 percent.

Vargas said DENR officials should disclose during the hearing details about other components of the NGP, such as the moratorium on the cutting of timber in natural and residual forests to be implemented by an anti-illegal logging task force and the rehabilitation of denuded forest lands estimated at 7.1 million hectares from 2016 to 2028.

These two component programs are covered by executive orders, he said.

Teodoro has appealed to the DENR to suspend quarrying operations in Rizal to prevent disasters from taking place again.

He lamented that the residents are the ones suffering from the negative effects of quarrying.

“Kami sa ibaba ang mga sumasalo ng mga problema,” Teodoro said.

Reclamation project

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered an investigation on a reclamation project along Marikina River, said to be among the causes of the flooding in the city.

“Definitely, there should be no reclamation (along Marikina River). I will implement the Easement Law,” he said.

Cimatu said he has directed the DENR National Capital Region office to look into the city government’s allegation that BF Corp., a company owned by former mayor and incumbent Marikina Rep. Bayani Fernando, did not secure an environmental compliance certificate for the project.

Cimatu said the construction of a retaining wall along the riverbanks should also be investigated.

“If you build a retaining wall there, the water current will be slowed down and the flow of water in the river will be narrower,” he pointed out.

Cimatu also recommended the widening of Marikina River to increase its flood carrying capacity.

“Marikina River has to be widened to reduce flooding in the area. We could increase the volume capacity of the river by implementing the Easement Law,” he said. –  Rhodina Villanueva, Emmanuel Tupas, Elizabeth Marcelo

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