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Legarda: Efficient flood control and ecological solid waste management to prevent severe flooding

November 19, 2020

MANILA, 19 November 2020 — Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda urged national and local government leaders to adopt and implement efficient flood control management, ecological solid waste management, and localized early warning systems, to prevent severe flooding in Metro Manila and other low-lying areas in the country.

During the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses, the Marikina River rose up to 22 meters – higher than the 21.5–meter level reached during Tropical Storm Ondoy in 2009 – submerging many areas of Metro Manila. Massive flooding also occurred in the Cagayan Valley Region and other parts of Luzon.

Flooding brought back tragic memories of a similar devastation in 2009 to residents of Metro Manila. In September 2009, Typhoon Ondoy hit the country, bringing torrential rains and flooding of historic proportions in Manila. One month’s worth of rain poured over the city in less than a day, submerging 80% of its area in water, and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents.

The severe damage and loss of lives caused by Typhoon Ondoy became a turning point for the government to put attention on flood management.

“Most of the impacts of climate change and disasters are preventable – like flooding – since it has affordable mechanisms of primary prevention, such as dams, dikes and drainage systems. Poor drainage systems and garbage disposal problems aggravated the impacts of the typhoons,” Legarda stressed.

Legarda acknowledged that flood management presents both technical and social challenges. Over the past decades, areas around waterways have become densely populated, affecting water flow and preventing maintenance and desilting. In addition, trash consisting mostly of plastic and other solid waste continually clog waterways and entrances to pumping stations.

“The social challenges that aggravate climate and disaster risks include over-population and urban congestion, where many of our people live in informal settlements that are particularly vulnerable to flooding. Many urban communities live in inadequate housing near waterways,” Legarda said.

Legarda reiterated her call for local government units to enforce the laws on ecological solid waste management so that garbage is segregated at source and plastics are recycled. Legarda has filed House Bill No. 635 or the ‘Single-Use Plastics Regulation and Management Act of 2019’, which regulates the manufacturing, importation and use of single-use plastic products, and provides penalties, levies and incentives system for industries, business enterprises and consumers – a major step in banning single-use plastics. She also urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to regularly declog canals, roadside ditches, and drains. She also urged that traditional flood mitigation projects such as river dredging, dike construction, and tree planting upstream be supplemented by natural flood intervention programs such as river and floodplain restoration.

“While heavy and excessive rainfall is part of the new normal due to climate change, we need not live with the vulnerabilities that disrupt our social and economic activities. We need not have flooded streets, heavy traffic, and stranded commuters in the metropolis or washed away houses, collapsed bridges, displaced families and devastated farmlands for every intense rain or typhoon,” said Legarda.

Legarda also recalled that two vital post-Ondoy laws were enacted to foster climate adaptation and disaster resilience. Republic Act No. 9729, or the Climate Change Act, directs local government units to regularly update their Local Climate Change Action Plans (LCCAPs) to reflect the changing social, economic, and environmental conditions. RA 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, which created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, requires Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plans (LDRRMPs) to be drawn up and reviewed.

“During heavy rainfall, water levels in small and medium-sized river basins may rise rapidly, and often do not leave enough time for local officials to issue warning alerts. Insufficient preparation for such recurring events, in addition to limited coping strategies, pose major challenges to local government units and their communities,” Legarda added.

In these challenging times, Legarda encouraged all leaders to undertake a more people-centered approach to decision making by elaborate policies that highlight sustainable development, approving an inclusive budget that benefits more vulnerable people, and promote nature-based solutions to ensure that all communities are safe from flooding.

“We must practice enhanced disaster risk reduction, ecological solid waste management, and local preparedness more than focusing on response when the disaster has already occurred. We must prove ourselves more proactive and more effective in reducing risks,” she concluded. ###