20,000-hectare catchment basin eyed to solve flooding in Pampanga

rogelio singson
FLOODING PROBLEM. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson discusses the master plan to permanently solve the yearly flooding problem in Pampanga and parts of other Central Luzon provinces. Photo by Jun Malig/Rappler
The proposed Pampanga River Basin Flood Control Master Plan will include the construction of a dike, a controlled retarding basin, and the widening of the Pampanga River and its tributaries

PAMPANGA, Philippines (Mar. 18, 2016) — To permanently solve the perennial flooding problem in the 7 low-lying towns of this province, some 20,000 hectares of farmland at the Candaba Swamp in Candaba town need to be converted into a controlled water retarding basin.

This was disclosed by public works secretary Rogelio Singson in a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III, interior secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, and Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda at the executive house of the provincial capitol here on Thursday, March 17.

Singson called the proposed anti-flood project as the Pampanga River Basin Flood Control Master Plan, which includes the construction of about 60 kilometers of a 5- to 6-meter tall dike; a controlled retarding basin in Candaba, Pampanga; widening of the Pampanga River and its tributaries; and the conversion of portions of San Antonio Swamp in Nueva Ecija into another retarding basin.

As for the costs, Singson said the dike alone will cost an estimated P1 billion. This does not include expenses for right-of-way acquisition, dredging of waterways, strengthening of embankment and walls, and other related works.

“We are still estimating the total cost, but we believe that it would be cheaper than what we already spent for repairs and other works every year,” he said.

From 2011 to 2016, some P6 billion were spent by the national government for flood mitigation projects in Pampanga.

Aquino told Pineda that allotting the necessary fund for the project would not be hard. What would be difficult, he said, is convincing farmers and residents to agree to give up their farmlands for the flood control project.

Ang importante dito, political will. Pwedeng sabihin nila, kailangan natin ‘yan pero hindi dito sa lupa ko gagawin, dalhin mo sa kabilang lupa, sa kapitbahay ko,” the President said.

(The important thing here is political will. They might say, we need that, but not on my lands. Use my neighbor’s lands for that project.)

Aquino added that he was willing to participate in the public consultation to convince the affected farmers and residents to do their part for the sake of the many.

For her part, Pineda said the provincial government will help in the right-of-way acquisition and in convincing affected farmers to agree to the project.

Ipapakita po namin ang aming political will dito para masolusyunan na ang taon-taon na lang na problema sa baha na sumisira sa pananim at palaisdaan sa pitong bayan ng Pampanga,” she said.

(We will exercise political will to solve the yearly problem of flooding that destroys crops and fisheries in the 7 towns of Pampanga.)

Master plan

Singson said the whole master plan covers 83 municipalities in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and parts of Bulacan and Tarlac provinces, home to about 3.5 million people.

“The master plan is already done. What we need now is to conduct public consultations, especially in communities to be directly affected by the project,” he said.

Ang tubig galing sa Sierra Madre at Chico River at maraming arteries, pumapasok lahat sa Pampanga River na hindi kakayanin na saluhin lahat ng tubig. Kapag umapaw ‘yan, ilulubog buong Candaba at peperwisyuhin pati mga coastal town ng Pampanga hanggang Bulacan,” he said.

(The water coming from Sierra Madre and Chico River, they all flow towards the Pampanga River which won’t be able to hold it all. When it overflows, the entire Candaba area will be submerged, and the coastal towns of Pampanga up until Bulacan will also be affected.)

“That’s why we also need to improve the carrying capacities of existing rivers from Manila Bay,” he added.

Singson said the excess water from Sierra Madre and Chico River will be contained at the retarding basins in San Antonio and Candaba, and would be released when the volume of water along Pampanga River becomes stable.

“The retarding basins are swamps. They are already natural floodplains. We just want to contain the water within the dike. When the rain stops, we release the water. We will regulate the flow of water towards Manila Bay, so that water would not go anywhere,” he said.

The public works chief also said that the areas within the dike can still be used as farmlands during the dry months.

He added that the Philippines must also follow the Dutch principle, which is to “make room for the river.”

“If you don’t make room for the river, mamemerwisyo ‘yan, ‘di alam kung saan tatakbo. Kailangan bigyan mo siya ng madadaanan talaga, otherwise, perwisyo ang dadalhin nyan,” he explained.

(If you don’t make room for the river, it will be an inconvenience, it will not know where to run. You need to provide waterways for it.)

The public works secretary said it will take 8 to 10 years to complete the project. But he added that dredging along the rivers will be conducted while waiting for the public consultation and the detailed engineering plan of the dike.

  by Jun A. Malig | Rappler.com