Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Congressional Inquiry into June 21 Flood Sought

Iloilo City Congressman Raul Gonzalez, Jr. has filed a resolution calling for an investigation into the Iloilo Flood Control Project and its possible role in aggravating the flood that hit Iloilo last June 21 (read more here and here).

There have been many theories bandied about by so-called experts blaming so and so for causing the flashflood. Almost everyone in Iloilo has a theory or an opinion on what really caused the flood and this "guessing game" has been for some time a favorite topic of coffeeshop habitues in Ilolo. A professor from the Western Institute of Technology has given his two cents worth and PAG-ASA officials have come out with an analysis of Iloilo's terrain claiming that it sits on a flood plain which makes it flood prone (hellooo don't we all know that already!). Environmentalists claim that years of deforestation in outlying areas has stripped Iloilo City of its natural protection and massive urbanization - the conversion of farmlands into subdivisions, malls, etc. and garbage - has also contributed to the flooding (As they say, cement is the flood's best friend). The Catholic Church is blaming the mining firms, although I don't think there is any large-scale mining going on in Iloilo right now.

The above theories are all plausible. Still, it doesn't fully explain the destructiveness of the June 21 flood. While certain parts of Iloilo City are flooded everytime there's a storm, the June 21 flood was highly irregular because of its magnitude and suddenness. People are used to floods but they are not used to floods with a swift, strong current. That is why many people were surprised and unprepared for the June 21 flashflood. It may be true that deforestation, urbanization and overpopulation have all contributed to the flooding of Iloilo City. But something must have triggered or caused the waters to come rushing into the streets and into the homes in just minutes.

I've always maintained that the Iloilo Flood Control Project is an extravagant and uneconomical way to solve the flooding problem. Instead of spending P8 billion on constructing a giant canal (which is what the project basically is), we would be better off spending the sum to replanting our forests, declogging/widening our sewerage system, relocating squatters living along waterways, formulating and implementing a land use plan, and educating our people to care for their environment. Doing all of these will not entail P8 billion. Sadly, foreign donor entities prefer big infrastructure projects than labor-intensive, people-centered ones (I wonder why). The biggest irony is that the Iloilo Flood Control Project when completed will not really stop but only MITIGATE flooding in Iloilo, as the project engineers themselves admitted. We are spending P8 billion on something that will not really solve the problem.

Phase I of the project is nearing completion and proponents of the Iloilo Flood Control Project are already asking for the second half of their P8 billion-plus funding in anticipation of their Phase II construction. Instead of releasing the money, I think it would be better for our decision-makers to hold it off until the congressional inquiry finishes its investigation and comes out with a recommendation whether to complete the said project or not. The congressional inquiry should be able to shed light on the real causes of the flooding problem. By knowing the real causes, government will be able to implement real solutions to the problem.


chYmera said...

Tough expensive, I think the IFCP is a good investment for the city in the long run. Every year, floods caused by typhoons that aren't really strong (or as strong as Typhoon Frank) wash away millions of pesos in damages. Even typhoons that are Signal No. 1 cause the overflowing of the Jaro River sometimes.

The IFCP will significantly decrease floods in those circumstances and open-up new investment opportunities in flood prone areas.

Typhoon Frank is a special case and I agree that the IFCP will only mitigate future flooding caused by typhoons of the same magnitude. But those strong typhoons do not come yearly/regularly in Iloilo and the IFCP will suffice most of the time.

I also want to know the real cause of the widespread flooding but I will be very disappointed if the IFCP will be canceled because they've already done so much work for it to be abandoned.

Oliver M. Mendoza said...

hi chymera. Like you i wanted to give the IFCP the benefit of the doubt. But things have become different now. Billions worth of infrastructure - roads, bridges, etc. - and crops were destroyed in the flood. Aren't we better off spending the money on reconstructing what was destroyed by the flood than on IFCP? If for example your house was destroyed by the flood, would you rather spend your money rebuilding, repainting your house rather than building a canal around that house? said...

Unfortunately this project is a joke, it has been done without the necessary research, like a hydrographic survey with transects, it does not include sewage backflow control and treatement, nor a general drainage control, soil study, etc.
It is a monument of incompetence and disregard!