THE GOVERNMENT wants the University to serve as a catch basin to mitigate the perennial flooding problem in this part of the city.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is proposing to dig out a “retarding tank” under the University’s open grounds to serve as storage for water during heavy rains, to be pumped out to waterways after a downpour.

“It will serve as a catchment basin,” said Reynaldo Tagudando, DPWH National Capital Region director. “The flood water will be retained in the tank instead of being in the surface.”

The proposed retarding tank will be similar to the one built at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, he added.

Underground carpark

DPWH-Urban Road Projects Office Director Danilo Idos said the project has a double purpose—a catchment basin during rainy season and an underground parking facility during summer.

But the UST administration has rejected the proposal, citing security concerns and the expected disturbance of the University’s regular activities. The tank will be as big as the Grandstand.

The open field is a National Cultural treasure that witnessed historic events such as 1995 World Youth Day and three papal visits.

Tagudando said nothing would change even after the construction of the retarding tank under the field.

“Whatever they see now, it will still be the same. The only difference is there will be a structure underneath,” he said.

Tagudando said DPWH officials would meet again with the Rector and other University officials to try to convince them.

But construction will take years to finish even if UST officials agree to it now.

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Aside from the catchment basin, the DPWH also plans to construct an underpass to ease traffic at the Lacson-España intersection. It is estimated to cost around P600 million.

Cleaning and Rehabilitation

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and DPWH have also started other projects to alleviate flooding in Manila.

MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino said in a statement that they were already upgrading drainage systems and pumping stations all over the city.

Maxima Quiambao, an MMDA engineer, said the pumping stations that would be upgraded included those in Aviles, Quiapo, Valencia, Binondo, Libertad, Paco, Pandacan, Arroceros and Balete.

She said, however, that they were still determining which pumping stations really needed to be upgraded.

“If we are going to do something, we have to make sure it has a good outcome,” Quiambao told the Varsitarian.

The MMDA is also cleaning waterways and drainage pipes at the same time, officials said.

The MMDA chairman, along with several of his staff, recently moved to a new office on España Boulevard in front of the UST campus “for shorter response time” during flooding in the area.

“Our field office in Makati is very far. We moved here to know what is really happening on the site,” Quiambao said, clarifying however that their presence would not be the immediate solution to the flooding problem.

Water tunnel

The DPWH has already started over 70 projects out of 90 proposed, including the Blumentritt interceptor, a water tunnel that will run from Piy Margal Street to Estero de Sunog Apog in Manila, according to Secretary Rogelio Singson.

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DPWH National Capital Region Director Reynaldo Tagudando said the three-kilometer water tunnel would prevent heavy flooding in España Boulevard and help the water subside faster.

“The purpose [of the water tunnel] is to bring water from Quezon City straight to the waterway,” he said.

Tagudando said the project would cost around P700 million and was expected to be finished by the end of the year.

In addition, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said in a press conference that he had been coordinating with President Benigno Aquino III on flood mitigation projects. Aquino has agreed to release P52 million for flood mitigation.

Likewise, Vice President Jejomar Binay has also been aiding the local government in transferring squatters to help solve the flooding problem, Estrada said.

Poor waste management

But all these efforts to lessen flood during rainy season are useless if citizens do not cooperate, according to Quiambao. Years after the passage of the Solid Waste Management Act, many people still don’t know proper waste disposal.

“We clean the drainages but the next day, loads of trash are already back,” she said.

The clogged waterways are to blame, said Pedro Bulusan, special projects head of the DPWH-North Manila Engineering District.

“It is not true that the drainages are silted. But as of now, siltation in the waterways is 70 percent. Once the waterways are clogged, water will automatically rise in the main drainage. But [the pipes in] España are clean,” Bulusan said in an interview.

Buildings and informal settlers near open waterways contribute to flooding.

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“Waterways are supposed to have islets on both sides, but permanent structures and informal settlers are occupying the allotted space,” he said, “How can we possibly clean that?”

Malacañang announced last June 24 that informal settlers in Metro Manila’s danger zones would be relocated to on-site, in, or off-city resettlement areas. Families who agree to be relocated will be given a subsidy of P18, 000.

The DPWH plans to deepen the waterways after the relocation of illegal settlers.

“Once the illegal settlers are relocated, we have to deepen the waterways. We will dig the waterways and remove the accumulated mud and garbage. Once they are deepened, the waterways will be able to hold more water,” said Bulusan.

Informal settlers tend to throw their trash in the river and waterways, knowing that someone will clean up after them, Quiambao also said.

From May 14 to 28, MMDA gathered over 330 truckloads of trash and silt or 2,726 cubic meters of garbage.

Climate change can also be blamed for the perennial flooding in Metro Manila, according to Idos.

“The intensity of rain and the volume is very different from the previous years,” he said.

Flooding in Manila is inevitable since the city is geographically low compared to surrounding cities, Tagudando stressed.

“There is no such thing as flood-free. The best we can do is to mitigate the [flood],” he said. Michael Carlo C. Rodolfo and Gena Myrtle P. Terre

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