Headless chicken

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

"Thank God, it’s Friday” is an expression to evoke gratification that the week is nearly over and workers like me are looking forward to two days of rest at the weekend. It is such a popular expression that an American restaurant chain even adopted it as its brand name. With this in mind going home after office hours last Friday night, we were instead caught laboring for five extra hours trying to get our vehicle inch out of clogged, flooded roads.

Due to the continuous rains that poured down all over Metro Manila all day long, low lying places like those around places near the Manila Bay suffered heavy flooding. The company-issued sports utility vehicle of The Star could still get through even in knee-deep flooded roads. But of course, there is always the danger of being stalled. Especially if drivers of these bigger vehicles run them fast, albeit without regard to the floodwaters rushing off to those behind them.

We checked out of The Star office located in Port Area, Manila around 6:30 p.m. that day. I was supposed to go to Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig Ciy to join other former members of the Malacanang Press Corps and the Defense beat reporters who used to cover former president Fidel Ramos. He died last July 31 and the Ramos family organized special tribute by the media at his wake Friday night.

Unfortunately, we were among the thousands of motorists and commuters who were stranded and stalled in no-moving traffic in knee-deep flooded roads. We were stuck for nearly three hours in the inner streets of Intramuros. By the time we got out of it, we found to our dismay that vehicles were not moving because motorists were all waiting for the floodwaters to ebb.

Listening to radio flash reports on flood and traffic situation and guided by Waze, motorists were advised to avoid areas around Taft Avenue, Kalaw St., Leveriza, the stretch along Roxas Boulevard etc. where they were much deeper floodwaters. Thankfully, my brother did all the driving while I kept myself occupied watching Netflix on my I-pad. I finished five episodes of “Knightfall” until my I-pad went into red alert signal of low battery. My cellular phones also already went to sleep mode so my personal hotspot signal was cut off.

We were only able to get out of our dire predicament past 10 o’clock already. It was a good thing there was snack and a bottle of water with us in my service vehicle. We reached the elevated grounds in Skyway by eleven evening and got home almost midnight already.

But where are traffic enforcers when you need them most to help guide motorists out of murky situation?

The next day, government agencies went into yet another finger pointing over the flood-induced traffic mess. Forecasters from the weather agency insisted their agency issued their usual rainfall advisories through their websites that the public can easily access. Such public advisories were done in the past under the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards. The Project, called NOAH for short, was intended as primary disaster risk reduction and management program.

With biblical name, this Project NOAH reminds us about the Old Testament when the entire humanity, except the family of prophet Noah, have been wiped out by the great floods. Project NOAH was initially administered by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) from 2012 until it was shut down in January, 2017 due to alleged lack of funds. It is currently managed in downgraded capacity at the University of the Philippines.

But the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), an agency attached to the DOST, took over in the issuance of such public advisories. In the past, it included color-coded warning on severity of flashfloods in specific areas. As explained by PAGASA, the projected volume of rainfall last Friday was not that much to meet criteria of the color-coded warning on severity of flashfloods in specific areas.

On the other hand, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) blamed other government agencies in the flashfloods. Specifically, MMDA pointed to the directions of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The MMDA claimed the Dolomite project caused the prolonged flooding due to the closure of the three flood pumping stations in the city of Manila. These pumping stations are located in Padre Faura, Remedios and Estero de San Antonio.

But the MMDA along with the DPWH and the DENR are principally involved in the Manila Bay rehabilitation project. The project involved, among other things, the putting up of new pipeline drainage system connected to the sewerage treatment plants (STP) that will clean the waters before being released to Manila Bay.

To his credit, DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan admitted the unfinished repair of the underground drainage system partly caused the heavy flooding in Manila that night. According to Bonoan, longer underground pipes for the pumping stations were being installed to protect from dirt the Dolomite beach in Manila Bay.

Bonoan stressed the national government agencies like DPWH and DENR were mandated to comply with the Supreme Court mandamus order to clean up the polluted waters at the Manila Bay. This project gave birth to the controversial Dolomite Beach at Manila Bay. Although he merely inherited the completion of this project, Bonoan assuaged the public the DPWH targets “to complete it by middle of September or the latest is by end of September.”

Unlike his other fellow new appointees in the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the DPWH Secretary manned up to acknowledge the shortcoming of his agency. Incidentally, a benchwarmer was appointed last week as new MMDA chairman.

The blame tossing is nothing unusual among government agencies. The blame game happens when a government project such as this scale gets implemented like a headless chicken. Without proper inter-agency consultation, the public suffers in silence and helplessness.


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