Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Metro Manila spillway project endorsed

Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo

SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGA — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday ordered the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to start working on the construction of a spillway in Metro Manila to prevent massive floods.

The President agreed to a proposal by Architect Felino "Jun" Palafox to immediately build the spillway from Manila Bay to Laguna Lake in yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

"We will ask the DPWH to start with the spillway. We can build it alongside the airport so there would be less cost," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The Parañaque spillway can be a "canal, tunnel or Roman empire aqueduct," said Mr. Palafox who was at the Cabinet meeting, adding flooding can last for at least 65 days if the spillway is not built as opposed to only 20 days with the facility in place.

He also informed the President that building the spillway alongside the airport could take longer because the spillway is just eight kilometers.

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

Parañaque has been identified as route of the spillway, starting with a mid-1970s development plan for Metro Manila, as it is the narrowest land between Manila de Bay in the west and Laguna de Bay in the east.

Shortly after tropical storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) hit and inundated wide parts of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, Mr. Palafox cited the 1976 Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project which identified the western shores of Laguna de Bay and coastal shores of Manila de Bay as development areas that should prepare for flooding, earthquakes and possible changes in topography.

But some of the recommendations stated in the study were never carried out, he said.

In his presentation yesterday before the Cabinet, Mr. Palafox said the country’s long-term development plans should include building spillways, banning incursions to waterways, relocating people to higher ground, controlling development in some areas, and harvesting rain water and using it for irrigation or fire protection.

He also recommended revising the building code, placing early flood warning systems, controlled development, and imposing stricter rules on building construction.

Senators and congressmen earlier broached a P10-billion plan to jump-start the spillway project, with the fund mainly to be used for expropriating properties that would be affected by the waterway.

At the same meeting, Mrs. Arroyo ordered the reconstruction commission, chaired by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, to fast-track its proposals and take advantage of the so-called Hatoyama Initiative.

Mrs. Arroyo was referring to Tokyo’s commitment to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries to help address the problem of climate change through the initiative named after Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who unveiled the scheme last month.

Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves, who co-chairs the commission, said he sees a dialogue with the private sector in December to outline possible assistance it can give to the government.

Acting National Economic and Development Authority Director-General August B. Santos, for his part, warned against a possible surge in food inflation because of the damage to agriculture caused by Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng (international name: Parma).

As of yesterday, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said Ondoy and Pepeng had caused P36.635 billion in damage to farm (P27.11 billion) and infrastructure (P9.525 billion) and claimed 929 lives.

"NFA (National Food Authority) says rice production decreased. We are supposed to have 90 days inventory, now it’s down to 60 days," Mr. Santos said.

"Food prices surged in 2008 but has receded in 2009. The latest reading is 2% in September. We expect an increase in food inflation because of the typhoons."

Among his recommendations to Mrs. Arroyo were to convince rich nations to make good their food pledges to poor countries; conduct a full study on hunger causes; and converge anti-hunger projects to targeted beneficiaries. —

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