By Jessie Kho Sanchez, Jon Davila and Bill Javier Reyes in Manila and Gerry Albert Corpuz and Tanya Fantasia Mendoza in Antipolo City
Manila, Philippines-(UPDATE) Instead of sending hundreds of thousands of poor families in defective and equally flood prone relocation areas, Laguna Lake and Manila Bay based groups urged Malacanang to demolish malls, high rise condominiums and other solid commercial structures situated along major waterways in Metro Manila and nearby regions of Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon to prevent flooding.
In a joint press statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) and Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay) challenged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to dismantle malls and high rise condominiums constructed along major waterways, river systems, coastal shores and flood prone areas to effectively mitigate the impact of typhoons and monsoon rains on people's communities.
The groups argued that shopping malls and high rise buildings which are built along Manila Bay, Pasig River, Laguna Lake and in other low land areas had led frequent and destructive flooding in Metro Manila and nearby regions of Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.
"The government of President Noynoy Aquino and his lieutenants in public works want to evict nearly 200,000 families only to be replaced by shopping enclaves, gambling and entertainment centers, high end condominiums and other structures that suit to the taste of the corporate elites.
We cannot solve the long-running nightmare of flooding by inducing more flood-driven projects in Metro Manila, Laguna Lake and Manila Bay," said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France in a press statement.
Construction of malls
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.
Last week, Mr. 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 havens 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. France noted that hundreds of thousands of poor Filipinos were compelled to reside along danger zones because of desperation caused by the government's inability to provide jobs and opportunities and basic social services such as mass housing for homeless and starving people.
"The poor do not want to live in danger zones and flood prone areas. That's the real score. But Mr. Aquino, the hacienda-groomed and elitist President hated the poor so much that he and his syndicate in Malacanang wanted them to disappear on earth and be replaced by shopping malls, casinos, gambling centers and high rise condominiums. What a horrible state policy, really horrible," the Pamalakaya official added.