Rey Acebar has been selling taho beside DLSU for 13 years now. Everyday, he wakes up early to collect the day’s commodities in Pasay before he flags a jeep to DLSU. As a long-time vendor in the community, Acebar notes one thing about Taft Ave., when it floods, no one profits. “Kapag umuulan, talo,” he laments.
Along Taft Ave., many small businesses and enterprises cater to the needs of students and workers. Acebar is only one of many merchants and micro-entrepreneurs whose businesses periodically lose sales due to seasonal flooding that turns Taft Avenue, quite literally, into a river.
Short-Term solutions, long-term problem
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) district engineer of South Manila, Alexander Mohammad, explains that poor infrastructure and inadequate drainage systems cause the floods along Taft Ave. He cites, in particular, the construction work of commercial buildings and new excavations as significant contibutors to the clogging of existing drainage systems.
“During the excavation stage, the water works systems of these high rise buildings are directly connected to the existing drainage system. The excavation of land and its mixing with the flow of water makes the drainage system harden, obstructing flow,” he shares in Filipino. Besides hardened land, Mohammed adds that cement from concrete mixers that dump cement over the structural water works mixes with the water flow, which concretely impedes drainage flow.
Mohammed also cites the tapping of sewer lines with drainage systems as another contributing factor to the drainage problem. Direct connections between sewage and drainage systems, which do exist beneath Taft’s pipeline structure, are illegal based on Presidential Decree 856; these contribute to the failure of the water to reach destined sanitation pools and facilities. The waste mixes with the drainage, destroys the centralization of flow, and renders sanitation procedures useless.
Mohammed admits that contracted workers are reluctant to conduct repairs because the lines reach as far as four meters deep underground, and that the reek of waste makes it tedious to conduct de-clogging operations. “One of the reasons of flooding is the continued [indiscriminate] throwing of trash. We need to [practice proper] waste segregation in our respective homes,” suggests Mohammed.
There is also a lack of actual water treatment centers and facilities, particularly in District V of Manila, which includes Ermita and Malate. “Our underground water treatment center in Luneta is not enough, it is only put beneath a recreation area,” he says.
In addition, poor infrastructure with regard to water work system construction is another glaring concern. Mohammed reveals in Filipino, “Contractors do not follow engineering specifications. When they construct, they should construct water works that cross-over or cross-under existing pipes. What they do is that they build directly on the pipe. They know this, but most of the contractors [of certain water works development companies] are sub-contractors who hurriedly build the systems and violate engineering specifications.”
When asked whether there is already an allocated budget for a long-term solution to resolve the problem of flooding, he replies, “We are still in the planning stage. Hindi sapat ang pondo ng MMDA para mabigyan ng long-term solution ang pagbaha (MMDA funds will not suffice to provide long term solutions to flooding).”
“Here in District V of Manila, the allocated funding amount to only P2,000,000. So what is two million compared to the huge area of Manila?” He says that there is a lack in central planning and a problem in coming up with a definitive budget to respond to the problem, which would, as he states, take billions to effectively resolve.
Local government concern
Given the problems in addressing the flooding issue along Taft, the DLSU community has learned to expect the worst during the months of July to September, when the rains usually arrive.
Cabe Aquino, University Student Government (USG) President, says that the USG sought the assistance of the Physical Facilities Office (PFO) to see what can be done to ensure that students would not have to deal with deep floodwaters during the peak of the storm season.
The PFO informed her that while it may be in a position to propose recommendations, the problem would really lie with local government and not with the campus. as significant contibutors to the clogging of existing drainage systems.