FOR YEARS now, there have been a lot of armchair speculations and hasty conclusions on the University’s flooding problem. Geographically disadvantaged site, poor and ineffective drainage system, and unpredictable tidal problems are only some of the explanations given by school authorities and city engineers’ for the problem.

The problem is acute. In a few minutes of heavy rains, the fetid and murky waters rise, filled with garbage, filth, and flotsam – turning the University into a virtual Noah’s Ark trying to stay afloat.

But the University administration can only look on helplessly.

“The problem is already outside UST,” Antonio Espejo, Buildings and Grounds (B & G) superintendent for mechanical engineering, said. “It (the problem) is in the city’s waterways.”

The flood problem is not exclusive to UST. It can be traced to the flood problems of Metro Manila.

Causes of the metropolitan’s widespread flooding were summarized in the report, “Study on the Existing Drainage Laterals in Metro Manila in the Republic of the Philippines,” by Japan International Cooperation Agency, Department of Public Works and Highways, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and private firms Woodfields Consultants Inc., Basic Technology and Management Corporation, and CTI Engineering International Co.

According to the study, Metro Manila’s drainage system is composed of closed principal drainage channels called outfalls, open channels or esteros (creeks), drainage laterals, and pumping stations.

However, almost all drainage laterals and a number of drainage mains and esteros in Metro Manila have limited flow capacity. This causes the excess floodwater from the Makati and Quezon City areas to stream down to Manila, particularly in the low-lying areas of España St. and the Sampaloc area.

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Aside from this, sediment deposition contributes largely to the clogging of manholes. Accumulated sediment deposits due to years of deferred maintenance impairs the drainage laterals and mains. The use of varying sizes of laterals and the presence of adverse slopes also causes the sediment to settle. This has made the floodwaters to overflow from the drainage into shallow streets.

Improper garbage disposal also causes the drainage to clog. Since garbage is unscrupulously disposed directly into the waterways, maintenance of drainage channels becomes troublesome.

Engr. Elorey Viernes of Manila City Hall’s Department of Public Works said that they deploy two teams to conduct a daily de-clogging of esteros for each district. However, these de-clogging teams are hampered by lack of personnel and inadequate equipment.

Illegal connections of sewerage pipelines into the main drainage by some food establishments also contributed to the flood problem.

“Kaya makikita na lang natin na mayroong mga kanin-baboy na lumulutang-lutang sa mga estero’t kanal,” Viernes said.

Such illegal connections are only discovered when the wastes coming from creeks resurface during floods.

Viernes said that the city government issues a memorandum to the concerned food establishments telling them that they are given three days to undo the connections or face closure.

Unfortunately, this problem remains unsolved, according to Viernes.

Flood prevention

According to the study, Manila’s flood problem could be solved by a comprehensive drainage plan that would cover the entire National Capital Region.

“Dapat gumawa ang Makati at Quezon City ng sariling drainage system outlet para maiwasan ang overspilling (of floodwaters) sa Manila,” Viernes said.

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However, the plan would be costly and time-consuming for it would require an extensive reconstruction and repair of the whole drainage system.

The study also presents a list of recommendations for the surrounding areas of the University. The measures include: construction of additional drainage channels, improvement of creeks, rehabilitation of drainage mains, rerouting of flows to less stressed lines, and compartmentalization of drainage blocks to reduce problem areas into manageable levels.

Espejo said he has already proposed a flood control program to Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P., UST’s Vice-Rector for Finance but the project did not materialize due to practical and aesthetic reasons. Elevating the campus grounds would entail extensive digging and would distort the panoramic view and architectural heritage of the University.

Manuel del Castillo-Noche, Architectural Design Cluster chair of the College of Architecture, said they have not yet seen the flood control program proposed by the B & G.

He suggested the construction of a dike system along UST’s gates to control floodwaters from entering the campus.

“We (still) haven’t addressed (these suggestions) to Fr. Pinto because he does not necessarily come to us (architects). Sometimes he has his own pool of advisers from the B & G,” he said.

To prevent flooding, he said that other faculties and colleges provided a steep gradient or a ramp to their buildings that would serve as a dike.

“(But) that again is unpleasant to look at. (Also), providing a hump in front of España St. would cause too much traffic, (for vehicles) trying to get inside the campus,” Noche said.

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Until these preventive measures are implemented, Thomasians would have to keep prepared for the rising waters, and endure, the floods.

“(After all) Manila always floods. We cannot do anything about the problem here. The only thing we could hope for is that the water will subside fast,” Noche said.

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