By Jessie Kho Sanchez and Gerry Albert Corpuz
MANILA, Philippines- It is plain and simple money making.
Critics of the Aquino administration led by Laguna Lake based groups Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list-Laguna Lake chapter and Savel Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) on Sunday 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," said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France in a press statement.
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 , Fidel Ramos, 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's France 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. Meanwhile Pamalakaya and other allied groups asked Congress to deputize an all expert investigation in aid of legislation as to why the water level in the 90,000 hectare lake rose to 13.8 meters above sea level which is near the 13.95 meter level recorded during Ondoy in September 2009.
“We want the real score based on expert’s opinion. In aid of legislation, we ask the Philippine Congress to deputize an all expert investigation on the still unexplained increase in the water level of Laguna Lake which is comparable to the situation during tropical storm Ondoy in 2009,” the group said.
‘It is happening again. The entire Laguna Lake is swallowed by waters for the second time around since Ondoy in 2009. The people of Laguna de Bay want a science-based explanation to this catastrophic devastation in 9 towns of Rizal and 18 towns of Laguna and South Metro Manila. We call Congress to mobilize experts to determine the truth and nothing but the truth,” the Pamalakaya group added.
For his part, Anakpawis vice chairperson Fernando Hicap echoed the Pamalakaya official’s call for legislative inquiry on Laguna de Bay. He theorized that the overflowing of Laguna Lake was principally attributed to the Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NHCS) which is closed at the height of monsoon rains that pounded the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog provinces over the last 12 days.
Hicap said the closed Napindan prevented excess waters from Laguna Lake from flushing out of the bay to Manila Bay via the Pasig River. He said that waters deflected from Marikina River to Laguna Lake and released waters from Caliraya Dam were concentrated in Laguna de Bay- thus transforming the lake into a huge catch basin connecting Rizal, Laguna and a number of cities in the NCR.
Pamalakaya said the flooding in Binangonan had affected 2,009 families in 13 lakeshore barangays in mainland and 9 lakeshore barangays in Talim Island. The group said an initial 364 families were housed in designated evacuation centers as of August 9.
In Laguna side, the provincial government reported that 14 lakeshore municipalities and 4 cities of the province are affected by flooding. Around 217,420 people were affected, while a total of 11,972 families are currently sheltered in assigned evacuation centers.
"The flood in Laguna Lake will last until Christmas or beyond New Year. We expect a “flooded Christmas season this year like in 2009, unless the government opens Napindan flood control structure and allow excess waters to come out and spill in Manila Bay via Pasig River,” the group said. LLDA general manager Neric Acosta said the normal water level of Laguna Lake is 12.5 meters above sea level during rainy season and 10.5 meters above sea level during summer.
The LLDA chief said his office has released P 300,000 in total calamity funds to assist the flood victims. Meanwhile, Pamalakaya said the price of fish in Binangonan went up between 10 percent to 20 percent. The price of milkfish per kilo increased by P 15 per kilo or from P 60 per kilo during the pre-Habagat monsoon rains to P 75 per kilo since last week.