Just like many Filipinos, I’m seething mad and totally frustrated with the Philippine government’s neglect of the needs of its people, as seen again in this most recent flooding disaster. No preparation, no warning, bandaid response. As the storm was approaching late last week, I could clearly see from the Internet how big the storm was and where it was headed for.
Adding to my fury is that one of our church families is suffering in stinking blackwater in Pasig City, while City Hall is being decorated for Satanic Halloween, a celebration toh which most Filipinos can truly say, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Filipinos are well-known for being great copycats, but only of the worst of everything, instead of copying the best.
In February of 1953, a big storm hit the Netherlands which breached its famous but old system of dikes and levees, killing 1,800 people in the worst flooding in modern Dutch history. The Dutch learned their lesson, so they embarked on an $8 billion, 30-year program to strengthen its flood control system. The centerpieces of this engineering marvel are a 2.4-km system of gates along the North Sea and a massive storm surge barrier at the mouth of the Rhine River.
Even while still an engineering student (which was a few decades ago), I remember hearing proposals for flood control from the Dutch. Filipinos have to accept that floods are a natural occurrence in Metro Manila because it is mostly at or below sea level and the Pasig River that dissects the city always overflows. And the primary solution to the problem is an adequate flood control system; controlling trash and reforestation are only secondary.
Sixty percent of the Netherlands is below sea level, but this didn’t daunt this small resourceful people from thinking of ways to control annual flooding. They built dikes, dams, rain storage ponds, and windmill-powered pumps to move water from low areas to higher level areas. In fact, words like dike, dam, sluice – commonly-used today for flood-control – originated from Dutch words.
Decades ago, the Philippine government should have built infrastructure for 100-year flooding (i. e., the kind of flooding that happens once in 100 years): notably high dikes along the Pasig River and high sea walls along Manila Bay. In addition, they should buy extensive tracts of land in the higher portions of the metro area and the surrounding hills and make them storage ponds. These ponds would catch a huge amount of rainfall such as the 410 mm of “Ondoy” to prevent extensive flooding.
These projects might not completely control flooding, but it would surely prevent disastrous flooding such as the most recent one. If the Dutch could control flooding for 10,000 square miles of their country, why can’t the Philippines control flooding for a tiny 240 square miles of Metro Manila? London has its Thames River floodgates, Venice is building the same in the Adriatic, and Japan is building superlevees. Even such a poor country as Bangladesh has erected concrete shelters on stilts as emergency havens for flood victims. Did you read that, “honorable” president, cabinet members, senators and congressmen?
Why not stop squandering $20,000 for a dinner in New York and $1.3 million for a house in San Francisco? Why not use $40 million from ZTE kickbacks, $15 million from the fertilizer fund scam, and $6 million from the Jose Pidal money laundering scheme – to name a few– for flood control?
(Information for this article came from The New York Times article, “In Europe, High-Tech Flood Control, With Nature’s Help.”)