THOUGH flooding may seem to be a perennial problem in urban areas like Metro Manila, a Thomasian architect still remains hopeful that a well-drafted plan could be a solution.
Felino Palafox, Jr., founder of Palafox Associates, created a blueprint of the flood plan for Metro Manila to curb the rise of water levels during the rainy season. His idea caught the attention of the Aquino administration, which is now planning to include it in a broader approach to the flood problem.

Containing the flood problem

In 1977, Palafox started the Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning (MMetroplan) project, which was funded by the World Bank, to manage flooding in Metro Manila.

In his Metroplan, he specified the areas of Marikina, Cainta, and Pasig, as the most frequently flooded places in the country. According to him, the main reason for creating this proposal was to help the country minimize flooding in the areas mentioned above.

“I have worked for 33 countries to provide a better living condition, where I have been paid with a high salary. So why not do the same to my motherland?” Palafox said.
Palafox gave 23 recommendations to the previous administration for urban planning which included clearing of rivers, esteros, waterways and lakes. It aimed to establish century-old flood lines to resolve increasing water levels by diverting flood inflow from the mountains to Manggahan floodway toward Laguna Lake, thus preventing floodwater to enter in Manila.

Among these recommendations, none was followed. Instead, the government adopted the Los Angeles’ model designed for the convenience of vehicles, which widened roads for automobiles instead of wider and elevated walkways for people.

Wikang Hapon sa Unibersidad

“The government didn’t follow my advice to put up a spillway in Parañaque. It is like having a toilet without a flush,” Palafox said.

In spite of that, Palafox sent the same recommendations to President Benigno Aquino III for flood control, saying that if the government continues to ignore the situation, the Manila Bay, Lingayen Bay and Laguna Lake could meet.

“After typhoon Ondoy, the government focused on cleaning all debris and consequently forget to clear drainage systems. If this goes on, many parts of Metro Manila will be flooded,” he said.

With Laguna’s area size of about 80,000 to 90,000 hectares, the amount of water could rise up to 115,000 hectares when inundated. One of Palafox’s proposals is to control flood in Laguna Lake by making road dikes around it with promenades and boulevards, and a water reservoir under the dikes.

“It is so ridiculous that we have so much flood water but we don’t have enough drinking water. In seven year’s time, we may not have any water to drink in Metro Manila and in 30 years, the whole country could be experiencing the same,” warns Palafox. Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson echoed Palafox and admitted that the country’s drainage system should be renovated. The drainage system in central areas of Metro Manila, specifically along UST is 70 percent obsolete, which causes the usual floods in España as well as in some parts of the region.

Singson deems that Ondoy rainfall data was the highest recorded in the last 125 years. Therefore, any rainfall data recorded over 100 years could be very destructive because our country’s rivers, creeks and drainage systems are not apt for heavy rainfall.
Marikina Valley and Laguna Lake are basin-like water bodies making the two areas prone to flooding. As early as 1919, these two areas have been flooded worse than Ondoy.
“By having these rainwater collection systems, we reduce the amount of water that goes to our drainage and rivers which can no longer handle the volume of runoff water. We can also recycle these collected rainwater for our own water consumption,” Singson said.

Santo Tomas in its Quadricentennial grandeur

Basins of rainwater

On the other hand, Singson said that the DPWH is now looking at permanent solutions for flood prone-areas in Metro Manila, by containing the amount of rainwater.

“We [DPWH] are planning to contain rainwater into basins so it won’t stay on main roads or letting them flow into our regular waterways. These waterways no longer have the capacity to hold volumes of runoff water,” Singson explained.

According to him, rainwater collection system and cisterns (a receptacle to hold water) in other countries are constructed beside public facilities like markets, schools, and parks. The collected rainwater can be used to clean public facilities instead of treated potable water for cleaning.

Singson referred to the recent development in Fort Bonifacio where a huge detention tank was created to hold and regulate rainwater coming from pipes, brought to Manila Bay. Without the aid of the huge detention tank, surrounding areas will be flooded.

The government is also working on the completion of the Camanava flood control project, which reduced flooding in Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas areas, with the help of flood gates and pumping stations.

“We cannot rely solely on government to address the flooding problem. The citizens also have a role,” Singson said.

Illustration by Carla T. Gamalinda


  1. I am a Thomasian Architect base here in New Jersey

    Residents of Metro-Manila and many parts of the Rizal province has long had a severe flooding problem especially during rainy season. These floodings have brought countless damages to properties, economy, and lives, as well. We cannot prevent flood from happening but we could minimize, control and make use of it. We are very good at organizing relief operations once disaster strikes, but we are a failure at preventing disaster in the first place. This are some of the suggested solution that are very vital and a must to implement for the flooding problem starting to the root cause of the problem. Feel free to add on the list any suggestion and recommendation.

    1. Strictly enforced the Water Code of the Philippines which provide river easement of three (3) meters in urban areas, twenty (20) meters in agricultural areas and forty (40) meters in forest areas. Presidential Decree 813 0f 1966 states that all lands located at and below elevation 12.50 m. (with 10.0 m as the datum line) are public lands which form part of the bed of lake. These policies are ignored and not enforced partly due to personal political interest and lack of political will of the ruling authorities. Examples are the permits issued to land developers operating on the 12.50 m. below zone in Taguig City, Metro-Manila and shanties allowed on the banks. Bank dwellers comprises big electorate return; thus, exploited for political interests in exchange of dwelling lots. Relocate families living near the riverbeds and its main tributaries and develop parks along the river banks.

    2. Mandatory Large-scale planting of trees in our denuded forest, mountains, hillside, river banks and shorelines of Laguna de Bay this will provide buffer, watershed, aesthetic, as well as preventing pollution and landslides due to erosion. Ban, stop illegal logging and mining.

    3. Established a Solid Waste Management for the proper collection, transport, processing, recycling or disposal, and monitoring of waste materials produced by human activity and is generally undertaken to reduce the effect on health, environment and aesthetics. Disposal methods are by landfill with proper location, recycling, composting
    and energy recovery.

    4. Established a Wastewater Treatment Plant – For the proper way of removing harmful pollutants from domestic and industrial liquid waste so that it is safe to return to the environment. Water quality monitoring to analysed and determined pollution levels. Relocate the Padacan oil depot & convert to a solid waste sewage treatment & recycling plant can be used as alternative fuel like methane a clean-burning form of energy, silt & mud as green fuel for cement industry or as landfill for reclamation.

    5. Implement a long term clean-up removal of sunken wrecks, dredging and maintenance of all rivers and esteros.

    6. Inform, Educate and Communicate to the public specially the students to learn about the importance of the environment. Attemps to rehabilitate the Pasig river failed because of the lack of support from the community and private sector. Prepared communication materials are essential for dissemination. These includes media, television commercial, documentaries, poster, stickers, leaflets, broschures, pamphlets, primers and regular news letter.

    7. Established a Comprehensive Disaster Relief and Emergency Management – Emergency situations can happen any time. We all have roles and responsibilities in preparing for , responding to and managing emergencies. All cities and municipalities should identify susceptible areas to build a safety and preparedness among community at risk and put in place emergency management programs and response plans. Bigger evacuation areas should be built strategically in consideration of the accessibility, density, time and movement of the people. Series of drills initiated by the local government authorities through barangays to prepare and familiarize the people in the event of actual occurance. Community participation should be instilled in the residents by series of regular informal training.

    8. Provide New and Advance Warning System with warning post equipped with voice warning and sirens designated at strategic location for all communities. Reaching sufficient hearing coverage at normal weather designed primarily for people who may be fishing inside the floodway this include the informal settlers inside the floodway.

    9. Provide an Accurate Modern Weather Forecasting- By upgrading all weather instrument and provide a new Doppler radar at every city with back-ups and generators. The radars would give the country warnings six hours ahead of typhoons, and would be able to predict the intensity of rain expected to fall within an area as small as two square kilometers. Scientists and forecasters have learned how to use these pictures of wind motions in storms, or even in clear air.

    10. Construct a Retention Basin before reaching Marikina and Nangka river to minimize the bulk of water coming from the mountains these is the best management practice intended to mitigate storm water runoff. Essentially, water is detained in the basin while pollutants are treated by natural processes and water exits the basin slowly over time, or during the next storm. Processes such as mechanical settling of suspended sediments and biological processing of nutrients contribute to improved water quality.

    11. Construct Stratigically Located Satellite Above Ground Water Retention Storage for most flood-prone area to store flood water filtered for re-used for street cleaning, fire use, sanitary use and watering of plants. Perfect for floodgates, dams instead of dumping excess water during critical level just store it and reuse it for future use during summer when rain are scarce and water shortage.

    12. Construct 2 to 3 more additional spillway to flush out the excess water from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. Remove the choke point
    of the pasig river and straighten from Pandacan to Santa Ana Manila to help flush the floodwater easily to the bay.

    13. Built a Shore Dike dam wall and road along the river banks, floodway and shoreline of Laguna de Bay this are permanent roads with dikes intended to prevent flooding, discourage bank settlers, protect soil from erosion due to strong waves in areas of concentrated runoff and easy transport accessibility of Rizal and Laguna province to Metro-Manila.

    14. Create a Self-Reliant Community avoid using the words resettlement and relocation to avoid discrimination. This communities are intended to be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable lifestyle. Members are united by shared ecological, socio-economic and cultural-spiritual values. A self reliant community is often composed of people who have chosen an alternative to centralized livelihood, job training, organic farming for food source, electrical, water, and sewage systems or renewable energy. Many see the breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles, the destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl, factory farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels, as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster. Self relient whether urban or rural, tend to integrate community and ecological values within a principle-based approach to sustainability.

    15. Established the Dam Management Review & Protection Committee which consolidates dam management into one. They have the power to coordinate, monitor, evaluate, develop policies and procedures on matters relating to the management, direct access to weather information, safety precaution, warnings, maintenance, repair, and use of dams.

    Please do your part in helping protect our environment…..act now on the possible effects of climate change, mitigate the irreversible damage to our ecology….. before its to late.


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