By Kalapinay Moreno and Gerry Albert Corpuz
Manila, Philippines- Laguna Lake and Manila Bay based fisherfolk groups on Monday pressed President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to stop construction of malls and high rise condominiums along major water waterways, river systems, coastal shores and flood prone areas to effectively mitigate the impact of typhoons and monsoon rains on people's communities.
The four groups-- Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list, Save Laguna Lake Movement and Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay) blamed the mushrooming of shopping malls and high rise buildings which are constructed along Manila Bay, Pasig River, Laguna Lake and in other low land areas to frequent and destructive flooding in Metro Manila and nearby regions of Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.
"These super infrastructures allowed to be built along major water systems, river banks, lakes and coastal areas should be largely blame for the Ondoy like situation over the last two weeks. These multi-billion projects of corporate real estate syndicates and infra monopolies have impeded or caused major obstruction to the natural flow of water that resulted to massive and devastating flood all over the main capital and nearby provinces," said Pamalakaya national chairperson and Anakpawis vice chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.
"The coastal towns of Cavite were submerged to deep waters because of the R-1 road extension project or Cavitex. Before Cavitex, flood is not an issue among the coastal people of the province. Since the road project came into existence and altered the natural flow of waters in Bacoor Bay, the frequent flooding has become a regular nightmare to tens of thousands of fisher people and residents along Manila and Bacoor Bays," Hicap noted.
The Pamalakaya leader said the construction of malls and other high end condominiums near or along Pasig and Marikina rivers and in Manila Bay and Laguna Lake have led to frequenting of flood in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.
"All it takes is common sense and experience based science to understand the flood problem in NCR and the rest of Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog. We don't need Malacanang's flood czar to know the real score. All past administrations, including the incumbent presidency of Mr. Aquino should be blamed for this regular catastrophe. It all emanates in the policy of privatization and conversion of the state and the greed of past and present officials for juicy commissions," added Hicap.
Earlier, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis questioned the P 352-billion flood control project proposed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) describing the master plan as plain and simple grand money making of the millennium.
"The ambitious master plan for effective and comprehensive flood management will be implemented by country's most corrupt government agency under the equally corrupt ruling syndicate in Malacanang. We describe the P 352-B flood control plans as a major source of corruption and further devastation to the people. It is the biggest money making proposal of the millennium," the group said.
Instead of pursuing the P 352-B anti-flood master plan, the Pamalakaya official said the government should instead review and assess all flood projects undertaken by the national government since the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos. France said the review and evaluation of anti-flood projects should include those projects undertaken during the time of former Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the current anti-flood projects of the DPWH under the Aquino administration.
According to Patric Gatan, head of the DPWH Project Management Office for Major Flood Control Projects, the National Economic and Development Authority’s (Neda) Sub-Committee on Water Resources approved the the P 352 billion anti-flood projects, which covers a total of 11 infrastructure projects, including the construction of a large dam in Marikina that will cost P198.43 billion.
Gatan disclosed the “high priority” projects are the Manila core area drainage improvements, P27.2 billion; East Manggahan Floodway and improvement in Cainta and Taytay rivers, P26 billion; Malabon-Tullahan river improvements, P21.6 billion; Meycauayan river improvements, P14.04 billion; Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan river improvements, P8.631 billion; land-raising for small cities around Laguna lake, P7.15 billion; and improvement of inflow rivers to Laguna lake, P637 million and the West Laguna Lakeshore land-raising amounting to P 25.2 B.
Also in the plan are “marginal priority” projects: South Parañaque-Las Piñas river improvements, P17.3 billion; and West Manggahan area drainage improvements, P5.52 billion.
But Pamalakaya said the 11 projects would lead to the grand massacre of people's communities situated along project sites. Citing figures coming from the DPWH, the group said about 787,106 people, many of whom are settlers, including 330,708 along Pasig-Marikina river; 299,879 in Laguna lakeshore towns; 141,557 in San Juan river; 104,223 in Upper Marikina and Wawa rivers; 84,928 in Manggahan Floodway; 39,456 in Malabon-Tullahan river; 35,320 in Meycauayan river; and 30,278 in South Parañaque-Las Piñas river will be displaced to pave way for flood projects.
"If these projects are intended to prevent flooding in National Capital Region and nearby provinces both in the North and South of Luzon, how come in these areas, shopping malls and high rise condominiums are constructed? People living along these communities will be displaced to pave way for big condominiums of real estate builders and shopping complexes of retail giants," said Pamalakaya.
Pamalakaya said the Laguna Lake master plan itself will displace not less than 3.9 million people mostly lake fisherfolk, poor farmers and urban poor.