Photo by Isabela A. Martinez

WILL THERE be another “Great Flood”?

Almost a year after tropical storm ‘Ondoy’ turned the University into a swamp, some Thomasians are worried that the recent elevation of España Boulevard would worsen flooding inside the campus.

Government and University officials, however were quick to assure that the road projects last summer would actually ease flooding.

To ease España Boulevard’s recurring flood, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has increased the height of España and streets from P. Campa up to Extremadura by six inches last March.

Maximo Carpio, an engineer from the DPWH, said the purpose of the elevation is to allow vehicles to pass, even during flooding.

Lino Landicho, North Manila Engineering Office planning and design chief engineer, pointed out that Metro Manila is below sea level, making flooding inevitable especially during heavy rains.

Landicho said the construction was just the first phase of the project. The next phase will renovate the streets from Morayta up to Lacson.

“Phase two will only take place on September because of lack of funds,” Landicho said.

Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P., Facilities and Management Office (FMO) director said the theory that UST would endure heavy flooding because of the elevation is incorrect, adding that the elevation would more likely result in water flowing to Quiapo.

“It is actually an advantage because we are still above España’s level,” Pinto said, referrring to UST’s sidewalks.

But flooding in Dapitan Street remains a problem, Pinto saw.

“Once it floods in Dapitan, expect flood in the area of AB (St. Raymund’s) and Medicine buildings,” he added. “It is better if they also reconstruct Dapitan, not just the front (España) part,” he said.

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But if there’s a plan to raise the level of Dapitan, it will become a bigger problem because AB and medicine are at a lower level.

Engineer Lawrence Pangan, FMO resident engineer, echoed Pinto and assured that the España renovation won’t leave UST sinking.

“I was informed by DPWH that the rehabilitation was mainly because of people complaining about the rapid rise of water whenever it rains. But as I see it, the campus will not really be affected by it,” Pangan said.

Pangan said the University is six inches higher than the gutters of España, and it would take at least knee-deep water to flood the campus.

The project was initially suspended by the Metro Manila Development Authority to avoid obstruction to the daily flow of traffic in the busy Manila thoroughfare.

Geared for another ‘Ondoy’

In an interview with the Varsitarian, the Rector himself admitted that UST was not informed of the renovation.

“When we learned about it, we immediately contacted the City of Manila if they can intervene because I was afraid that water might flow inside the University during flooding,” Fr. Rolando De la Rosa, O.P., said.

The Rector has instructed the Crisis Management Committee to gear up for another calamity.

“We bought rubber boats which can accommodate eight to 10 people. We have also stored enough food, blankets and flashlights in case a calamity occurs,” De la Rosa said.

Last September, ‘Ondoy’ dumped a month’s worth of rainfall and left some 3,000 people stranded inside the campus. This led the committee, then headed by Fr. Manuel Roux and Cristina Cabral, to revise the University’s crisis management manual.

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Pinto and De la Rosa said the University’s drainage system is clean and in perfect working condition.

“Right now, we have no problems with our drainage [system], since we have a clean one. Water from outside the campus makes it dirty,” Pinto said.

Central Student Council public relations officer (PRO) John Ryan Sze, however, believes España’s rehabilitation will only trigger flood in the campus.

“Even if they elevated España, flooding still occurs. With just minutes of rain, water level inside the campus becomes ankle-deep,” he said.

The Rector said it was important for UST to put in place preventive and safety measures.

“We cannot be prepared for a calamity, like earthquakes and floods, because they are acts of God. But we can always observe safety and preventive measures,” De la Rosa said. Marnee A. Gamboa and Monica N. Ladisla

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