Metro Manila keeps on flooding during rainy season every year.

Metro Manila is always flooded during rainy season every year.

The website of UP, Geological Studies have been predicting the floods that are to strike again this year. The website, has identified these flood prone areas.

Flood control and management has been a priority government concern since as far back as I can remember. In fact, looking at historical pictures of Manila dated in the late 19th century and early 1900’s show the streets of Manila Flooded.

However, if one looks at the older Spanish Maps of Manila, one will note that the Old City then was criss-cross with “esteros” or water ways.  That was the natural geological land formation of Manila.

There are areas that are even below sea level during high tide. And there were natural mangroves and rock formations, with creeks and rivers where water would flow naturally to the sea.

The complication came, as I was told by my grandfather, was when American urban planners, unaware maybe of the volume of rainfall that our tropical county would experience, decided to close these esteros or narrow them into canals. That way they started building roads without realizing that when one plays around with the natural formation of land, then chaos happens. Nature will eventually get back at you. This is in a simple way that I can explain way we are with chronic floods, even if the government has tried it’s best to introduce all sorts of flood control facilities.

Mr. Ramon CF Cuervo III discussing with Arch. Jun Palafox, Jun Dulalia,a dn other leaders of real estate industry on his practical inputs in addressing the need of Manila's urban renewal as a business opportunity.

Mr. Ramon CF Cuervo III discussing with Arch. Jun Palafox, other leaders of real estate industry on his practical inputs in addressing the need of Manila’s urban renewal.

Several solutions have been introduced. Architect Jun Palafox for instance says that Metro Manila must re-develop. He said that Metro Manila has been using the “wrong models” in urban planning.

The world-renowned architect and urban planner suggested that Metro Manila should have planned the urban planning similar to Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore instead of becoming a low-rise, sprawling community that is patterned after Los Angeles, USA.

He also mentioned that “disaster prevention measures must also involve a comprehensive urban planning.”

He has been giving recommendations to the past Philippine administrations, a total of 83 urban planning recommendations, for free as a sign of “patriotic architecture.”

Another architect, Paulo Alcazaren reported in his Philippine Star article, “The ghost of master plans past,” that Metro Manila had 14 master plans on urban planning starting in 1870 and none of them was ever implemented!
Among the reasons for its non-implementation were government corruption, politics, and greed of real estate speculators.

Without any master plan, Metro Manila’s problems will not be solved. It has become a region that offers majority of its residents a poor quality of life that is worsened by total blight and uncontrolled development.

“Our population growth rate is still off the charts and, in light of yearly disasters, mismanaged government and dwindling resources, is not sustainable without sacrificing even the most basic levels of quality of life,” the article reads.

Mr. Alcazaren suggested that the next plan for Metro Manila, which can be probably the 15th plan since 1870, should be carried out in its entirety in order to work.

Because of the reports of the two well-known architects in our land, the evolution of Metro Manila is due to lacking of master plan and direct urban planning and development.

For my part, I would like to know how the Dutch in Netherlands handle water control. It is known that Netherlands is below sea level! The Dutch have mastered a way to “hold back the sea” and flood control is an important issue in the country where two-thirds of its area is vulnerable to flooding.

One of the most densely populated countries in the world, Netherlands has natural sand dunes and man-made dikes, dams and floodgates provide defense against storm surges from the sea. The dikes prevents water from major rivers to rise while a system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations (windmill) keep the low lying parts dry for habitation and agriculture. The country also local government bodies that act independently on maintaining these systems.

Netherlands has many historical floods in the past such as the St. Elizabeth flood and the St. Lucia’s flood that affected the country and Germany, killing more than 50,000 people. The last major flood happened in February 1953 when a major storm struck the country, causing the dikes to collapse.

Because of the extent of damage brought by the 1953 disaster with more than 1,800 deaths, the Dutch government decided to start the construction of Delta Works, a large-scale program to protect the country against future flooding.


The Delta Works project of the Dutch government. Inset shows the map where the each sea dyke is located.

According to Wikipedia, the Delta Works is a series of construction projects in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect a large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the sea. The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees, and storm surge barriers. The aim of the dams, sluices, and storm surge barriers was to shorten the Dutch coastline, thus reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised.

After the 1953 disaster, the Delta Works were constructed, a comprehensive set of civil works throughout the Dutch coast. The project started in 1958 and was largely completed in 1997 with the completion of the Maeslantkering.

A main goal of the Delta project was to reduce the risk of flooding in South Holland and Zeeland to once per 10,000 years (compared to 1 per 4000 years for the rest of the country). This was achieved by raising 3,000 kilometers (1,864 mi) of outer sea-dykes and 10,000 kilometers (6,214 mi) of inner, canal, and river dikes, and by closing off the sea estuaries of the Zeeland province. New risk assessments occasionally show problems requiring additional Delta project dyke reinforcements.

The Delta project is considered by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

In September 2008, the Delta commission presided by Dutch politician Cees Veerman advised in a report that the Netherlands would need a massive new building program to strengthen the country’s water defenses against the anticipated effects of global warming for the next 190 years. The plans included drawing up worst-case scenarios for evacuations and included more than €100 billion, or $144 billion, in new spending through the year 2100 for measures, such as broadening coastal dunes and strengthening sea and river dikes.

The commission said the country must plan for a rise in the North Sea of 1.3 meters by 2100 and 4 meters by 2200.

Another project, the Room for the River project allows for periodic flooding of indefensible lands. In such regions residents have been removed to higher ground, some of which has been raised above anticipated flood levels.

So my  advice is, since there’s no quick solution is at hand, we go along with our day-to-day work and life, learn to adopt, make do, and come up with transport facilities and safely features in the city to address the flooding problem.

From amphibians, to fatboats, rubber dunkies, bankas, to plastic plaganas. All these are good to keep handy during flood days.  In the meantime, using skills in Risk Management, one may know contingency plans for evacuation, resettlement, and “roof top – penthouse living”.

Nevertheless, this is not the solution. The government must undertake once and for all a very serious approach to solve this problem.

With experts in engineering, water management and environment disciplines and a political will to carry it out, then our Metro Manila will once more be what it has always been…  The Pearl of the Orient.

With sources from: ABS-CBN News, Philippine Star,

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