THE OUTSIDER: Flooding solutions

Many people have thrown in their two cents worth on the flooding that occurred in the aftermath of Typhoons Egay and Falcon.

Flood-prone Bulacan and Pampanga were among the provinces flooded, both being catch basins of water from the Sierra Madre mountain range.

There are allegations that the flooding particularly in Bulacan, has been the result of the ongoing construction of the New Manila International Airport located in the province.

The New Manila International Airport is one of the big-ticket infrastructure projects of the government started during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and it is now part of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s BBM (Build, Build More)..  It is envisioned as a world-class airport that will decongest the existing international airports located in Metro Manila. Its project proponent is San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

Amid all the allegations which were dismissed by SMC, its President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang (RSA), has offered to help solve the problem of flooding in the area.

SMC is committed to assist the local government of Bulacan in solving the flooding problem in the province. It also plans to extend the desilting and clean-up of rivers located outside Bulacan to include critical tributaries throughout Central Luzon.

Like earlier river clean-up by SMC, this extensive clean-up of rivers and waterways will be undertaken at no cost to the government.

RSA asserted that there are many contributing factors to the flooding in Bulacan. “Degradation, siltation, and pollution of our rivers are of course major causes of flooding,” he said.

“Because of these, rivers become shallow and their flood carrying capacity is severely diminished, resulting in river overflow and floods. The proliferation of fish ponds in coastal areas has also contributed to severe flooding in the province,” he added.

SMC is an active partner of government in river rehabilitation. With its heavy equipment and technical know-how, it has cleaned up the Tullahan- Tinajeros River spending Php 1 billion without cost to government.  The clean-up involved extraction of over 1.12 million metric tons of silt and solid wastes.  This effort from SMC has greatly helped residents in nearby areas, giving them respite from flooding that used to occur every year when the rainy season sets in.

At present, SMC is undertaking the clean-up of Pasig River and has removed more than one million tons of silt and waste. It is also desilting and extracting waste from the Meycauayan and Maycapiz/Taliptip rivers as components of the plan to rehabilitate the Bulakan-Obando-Meycauayan-Marilao-Bocaue-Guiguinto river system. Out of the initial 13-kilometer target along the Meycauayan and Maycapiz/Taliptip rivers, SMC has cleaned up about 4.45 kilometers with 543, 266 metric tons of silt and solid waste extracted.

The flood mitigation project of SMC in Bulacan at the onset was limited to rivers surrounding the site of the New Manila International Airport. It was however expanded to include other tributaries in Bulacan.

The flood mitigation project of SMC is reinforced by its mangrove planting initiative.

Mangrove planting is part of the strategy to address flooding in Bulacan. Mangroves provide shield those living along the coastal areas from flooding. Mangroves also provide natural habitat for marine species.

It was in 2020 when SMC began its mangrove planting initiative. The initiative calls for the planting of 190,000 mangrove seedlings in 76 hectares in Bulacan and identified areas in Central Luzon. Its launch in Hagonoy, Bulacan saw the planting of 8,000 mangrove seedlings in an area of more than three hectares.  A total of 25,000 mangrove seedlings were earmarked for planting in 10 hectares for 2020.

It has also collaborated with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and planted 6,000 mangrove propagules a the 24.5-hectare Bulakan Mangrove Ecopark.

Aside from mangrove planting, SMC is also undertaking reforestation in many provinces. Its tree-planting activities are being carried out by its subsidiaries.

We are grateful for organizations like SMC. For over a century, it remains steadfast as a partner in the country’s sustainable development. Its infrastructure projects are engines for economic development; and as it pursues these projects, it does not relinquish its responsibility to protect the environment.

I often wonder if heavy precipitation can be controlled. I am not aware if there is already a solution to prevent this. But we can find ways to minimize if not totally prevent flooding that comes with heavy rains. As responsible citizens, we can do our share. We can help in the task of caring for our environment, including flood mitigation by managing our waste, properly disposing of our garbage and refraining from making our bodies of water as trash bins.

As our nation nears the celebration of National Heroes Day this month, I am reminded of our heroes who sacrificed and worked in the service and welfare of our nation and future generations.

Let us work for the betterment of our nation. Let us recall one of our heroes, Dr. Jose Rizal who said in one of his speeches “if a Filipino wills, he can”. We can do it!#

(The author is president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation Inc., a non-profit group advocating tree planting and watershed protection. He is also a book author and publisher of biographical and historical coffee-table books through his outfit, Media Touchstone Ventures, Inc.)