MANILA, Philippines – “It really boils down to the simple fact that since Pepeng and Ondoy, we have done absolutely nothing to fix the flooding.”
Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr took the government to task for the perennial problem of flooding in the country.
Marcos urged both the national and local governments to be more aggressive in responding to flooding instead of taking what he called a reactionary approach.
The senator is the chairman of the Senate Committees on Local Government, and Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement.
“We made all the right noises in government. We all said this is not right but the truth of the matter is we have done absolutely nothing and this is where the problems lie,” Marcos said at the Kapihan sa Senado press briefing on Thursday, June 20.
He added, “There is no new spillway, no pumping station. There is no reforestation in the highlands surrounding the city. We did nothing.”
The senator was referring to Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng, which battered Metro Manila and Luzon provinces in 2009 and killed hundreds.
Marcos though said finger-pointing will not solve the problem.
“We are all in government. We’re all to blame. We should be doing something about it. It will take the effort of many entities to get this right. Let’s fix the problem, not the blame.”
The plan involves the construction of water tunnels, and the improvement of the drainage system and pumping stations.
No support for LGUs?
Part of the plan is the relocation of 20,000 families of informal settlers living near major waterways this year. Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said this was delayed though because some local officials requested that the relocation be done after the elections.
Marcos said the Aquino government must use its political capital for the relocation.
“The relocation problem has arisen because of the rise of organized syndicates. People pay rent not to the landowner but to the syndicates …. The problem is when you go after the syndicates, they campaign for your rival so it’s not simple,” Marcos said.
Marcos added that the solution goes beyond relocating informal settlers.
“It’s not just squatters that block the waterways. You have actual housing developments [built there] that were given permits that’s why it floods.”
He added that the national government must do its part in the relocation.
“You need to put infrastructure, ensure power and water [supply in the relocation sites]. It is one of those things that the national government in the name of devolution just passed on to the local government without giving any support.”
Yet the Palace has said it is the national government spending for relocation. The National Housing Authority and Interior Department are leading the effort.
Why 22 years to fix flooding?
In addressing flooding, Marcos said that “there are no secret problems because we all know what needs to be done.”
“We don’t have a proper land use plan. What land use plan we have is not being implemented. We have to understand what every piece of land we have to use.”
The Senate failed to pass the National Land Use bill in the 15th Congress even if President Benigno Aquino III certified it urgent.
Marcos said though that Congress need not pass new laws.
“I think the executive has every means available to solve this problem: not only at the national level but also the local level. We have many laws. The implementation belongs squarely with the executive.”
Marcos also asked why it will take 22 years before the administration’s flood plan can be completed. The Palace said the plan will be finished in 2035.
“That’s too long. That’s the next generation already. I don’t see why it should take that long.”
He added, “The only flood control program I’m familiar with was the time my mom [Imelda Marcos] was governor of Metro Manila. That took 5 years and that was a significant improvement. If we understand what we’re doing and the government is decisive, I don’t think it’s gonna take 22 years. If it takes 22 years, our government is so weak.”
Asked about the billions government allotted for the flood plan, Marcos said, “Good, at least they decided to take action.”
“Let’s just make sure, as they say God is in the details. Throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve it.” – Rappler.com