Senator Imelda “Imee” Marcos on Sunday, Nov. 15, urged the government to fix the country’s dams and other water infrastructure, which she noted have not been upgraded for decades.
Marcos noted that years of neglect of the country’s dams and other water facilities led to the severe flash floods that hit Cagayan and Isabela.
“Typhoon ‘Ulysses’ brought back the horror of Ondoy. The government may have learned to prepare in advance but fell short of the magnitude of disaster,” Marcos said in a statement.
“The 38-year-old Magat Dam and other old dams have not been upgraded in decades, their surrounding watershed forests have been denuded, and hence, Magat would have collapsed under the deluge of Typhoon ‘Ulysses’ if water was not released,” said the senator, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs.
“The cycle of calamity, panic and suffering will continue unless we improve our water infrastructure,” Marcos said.
The senator said she would be filing a bill that aims to upgrade the country’s water facilities and resources, and reorganize their management amid the challenges of population growth and climate change.
“The water crisis will be the crisis of [the] coming decades: flooding, shortages, the need for rainharvest infra, management. It’s urgent we grapple with the challenges ASAP,” she said.
With a population of about 12 million and still growing, she said Metro Manila will be needing a water supply larger than what the 52-year-old Angat Dam can provide.
“In recent years, we have experienced water rationing, which can be aggravated by greater sanitation needs during pandemics like COVID-19,” she pointed out.
Aside from upgrading dams, the lawmaker said she wants to revive flood control projects like the unfinished Parañaque Spillway conceived in the ‘70s and the dredging of Laguna Lake, which was aborted in 2011.
Both of these projects, she said, could help mitigate flooding in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.
“We also need to build more infrastructure, like the Candaba Viaduct built way back in 1976, that are elevated above swamps and flood-prone areas to prevent the interruption of supply chains during heavy downpours,” Marcos said.
She also said the country can take advantage of typhoons by creating more rain harvesting facilities that would not only reduce flooding but also increase the supply of non-potable water for agricultural irrigation, fish farming, and urban sanitation.
Citing the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Marcos said less than 10 percent of rainfall in the country is harvested, with most of it draining toward the sea.
“It’s high time a Department of Water Management, or some such overarching body with serious clout, be put in place and finally consolidate the 30-plus odd plethora of national bodies in the DENR, DAR, DPWH, MWSS, NWB, et cetera, not to speak of the innumerable local water boards,” she stressed.