Sunday, January 25, 2015

Editorial

Flood Reduction, Not
Mitigation For Aklan River
by Ernesto T. Solidum

A public hearing on the proposed Flood Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project in Aklan river by STL Panay Resources Co, Ltd. was held recently at 3rd floor, Municipal Building, Kalibo. Some 100 members of NGO’s, government officials, businessmen, professionals and members of media attended the meeting.

Atty. Allen S. Quimpo, Exec. Director, Aklan Rivers Development Council gave brief background on the events that led to the passing of SP Resolution No. 2012-390 and approval of MOA between LGU Aklan and STL Panay Resources on January 1, 2013.

Undoubtedly, the biggest threat to human lives and properties is the recurring flooding especially during typhoons. Super typhoon Frank on June 21, 2008 dumped 354 mm of precipitation in just 24 hours that resulted to massive flooding of 7 adjoining towns in Aklan. This was followed by typhoon Quinta on December 27, 2012. Fortunately, super typhoon Yolanda that hit the province on November 8, 2013 did not create significant flood damage.

It was on December 27, 2012 that STL came up with a proposal to help Aklan mitigate recurring floods through dredging of accumulated silt, sand and gravel. Prior to this, we have had some experience on dredging the Aklan river in 2010. In 2012 there was full scale dredging at 350 meters wide and 1.5 meters deep involving 3 kms. upstream from its cellar at Bakhao Norte. About 140,000 cubic meters were extracted but its accumulated sand and gravel were not relocated but dumped on the riverbank. The result is that the P100 million was spent but flooding was never solved.

This time around we welcome the expertise of STL to prepare the environmental and engineering design. About 15 million cubic meters will be extracted and transported at no cost to the government concluded Atty. Quimpo.

Project Engineer Roger Vergara of STL in a power point presentation said that their specific task is dredging of Aklan river, 3.5 meters depth box design, width of 200 meters and 8 kms. long. From its mouth (North) going South. The Project spans 3 years and cost P4.5 billion. Modern state of the art dredging equipment shall be used in order not to disturb existing soil structure of riverbanks that can cause erosion or cave in.

Mr. Patrick Lim, STL Executive Director said that their company is 60 percent Filipino-owned and have previous dredging experiences in Cambodia, Vietnam and China. We have fully complied with the necessary documents such as ECC from DENR (approved July 25, 2014), dredging permit from DPWH, and export permit (BOC). Unforseen events like accidents and distruction of properties are taken cared of by a trust fund of P2 million and replenished from time to time. STL shall pay the province of Aklan at P5 per cubic meters or the amount of P75 million for 15 million cubic meters dredged..

The leading project proponents are the Provincial government of Aklan and STL. Its objectives are: disaster risk reduction, minimize flooding, minimize loss of lives and properties and improve economy.

At this point, approval of a resolution endorsed by six Barangay Captains of Kalibo as to its social acceptability are needed. Their barangays lie on the path of floodwaters that swallow whole sitios, houses and farm animals in its wake.

A formidable problem is raised by New Washington Mayor Edgar Peralta where Metro Kalibo Waterworks Project has two pumping stations located in Brgy. Tinigao. Dredging Aklan river will eventually jeopardize the potable water delivery capacity since salt water may intrude into its system.

The P5.00 per cubic meter to be paid by STL is very minimal compared to local gravel and sand contractors who pay the government P24.00. When this mineral is transported to Singapore the shipping cost is 12 Singaporean dollars per cubic meter. However, the selling price is 15 Singaporean dollars or P450.00. Based on this info, reasonable and just acquisition cost must be raised to P50.00 instead of P5.00 per cubic meters.

Flood mitigation by STL involves alleviated of pain as in health disorders. For instance breast cancer can be alleviated by mastectomy but the cancer cells remain active in the patient. Later on, cancer cells metastasize and result in death. This is the same case of flood mitigation. There is no assurance or guarantee that rampaging floodwaters will not occur three years after completion of the project. This is crucial, since by that time, siltation and erosion shall have regained a foothold on excavated or dredged areas.

Analysis of swath of destruction by typhoon Frank in 2008 shows that width of floodwaters was 800 meters in Daguitan, Banga. However, water flow was drastically constricted as it approached Poblacion, Banga. In Kalibo, this was cut into half precisely at Kalibo bridge causing floodwaters to spill in every direction causing severe damage.

On the other hand, flood reduction is actually the removal of risks as disastrous floods. This can be achieved by building high concrete revetment walls on both sides of the Aklan River spanning eight kms. from the delta, increasing effective water flow to 500 meters width and 3.5 meters deep. This strategy was implemented in Surabaya, Indonesia where flood control program is very successful. Which Cebu City’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council plans to duplicate the same fete.

It appears that the Province of Aklan and its stakeholders are on the wrong side of the bargaining table. STL is putting up a project that mitigates or alleviates the problem of recurrent floods. But the benefit is temporary. It does not attempt to solve it permanently. Worse, for our patrimony of black gold reportedly the best quality sand and gravel in the country is sold to foreigners at a very nominal cost.

Meanwhile, P8.6 billion has been released by the Office of Presidential Assistant on Relief and Recovery (OPARR) for Yolanda victims in Aklan. It takes simple observation that floodwaters have devastated farms, homes and public properties. Perhaps, one-half of the fund done through resolution and concreted mass action could be channeled to construct parallel concrete dikes and dredging operation of the Aklan river. These are practical steps for our government bureaucrats to consider. However, will they heed the public’s call or their vested interests? So much is at stake. /MP

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