THE Mandaue City Government and three other local government units (LGUs) have pledged to combat flooding hand in hand.
Last May 12, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Talisay City Mayor Johnny Delos Reyes and Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III signed a “declaration of commitment and understanding.”
They vowed to implement eight initiatives to prevent flooding.
The signing was an offshoot of the inter-city drainage summit Rama organized last November, a month after a massive flooding hit Metro Cebu, particularly the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay.
Metro Cebu leaders have agreed that flooding is a shared problem that needs their concerted effort.
Having a unified action against flooding is one of the thrusts of the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB).
It proposed a drainage master plan for Metro Cebu.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) took up the proposal, approving a P68-million contract to study and draft the Metro Cebu integrated drainage master plan.
Florentino Nimor, head of the Mandaue City Planning and Development Office, said the City will not build major flood-control infrastructure while the master plan has yet to be made.
“The master plan may take two years to create. In the meantime, we are not constructing major drainage infrastructure because these might not fit with the master plan later on. What we can do now is dredge waterways and maintain our drainage system,” he said.
He added that the City’s own drainage master plan is obsolete.
Mayor Cortes agreed that the Metro Cebu integrated drainage master plan made by experts of the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 1995 must be revisited.
Reviving the plan and formulating a more comprehensive version is one of the eight initiatives that Cortes, Rama, Delos Reyes and Davide agreed to do.
Going beyond territories
They also vowed to create a multi-sectoral task force that will deal with flooding and drainage issues.
Among its functions is to study the condition of the rivers, drainage and other waterways in their territories, as well the situation of people residing near these waterways.
The task force will serve as an enforcer of environmental laws.
It will also organize lectures on proper garbage disposal and recycling.
Its functions also include recommending to the officials of the LGUs an action plan to mitigate flooding.
Aside from forming a task force, the LGUs also committed to prioritize programs protecting and rehabilitating rivers and other waterways.
They also committed to provide resettlement for the informal settlers who live within three meters from the edges of waterways.
The four chief executives vowed also to undertake a feasibility study for the construction of a dam before the end of the 2016 to improve water supply, flood control and irrigation.
They agreed to seek the support of various LGUs, particularly in raising funds to protect, rehabilitate and preserve rivers and other waterways.
They will also request congressional representatives from Cebu to lobby for funding from the National Government.
The leaders’ commitment to work together to solve flooding exemplifies the Mega Cebu movement. Mega Cebu envisions a “wholesome, advanced, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable Cebu” in 2050.
The movement, which promotes long-term and collaborative planning for the future of Metro Cebu, is spearheaded by the MCDCB.
Collective vision and action
Formed in 2011, the MCDCB is a consortium of the Cebu Provincial Government, regional line agencies, private and civil society organizations, and 13 Metro Cebu cities and municipalities.
These cities are Cebu, Mandaue, Carcar, Danao, Lapu-Lapu, Naga and Talisay.
The municipalities are Compostela, Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan, Minglanilla and San Fernando.
With Metro Cebu’s current population of 2.5 million expected to double by 2050, the MCDCB stressed the need for a collective sustainable urban development vision.
Calls to create the Metro Cebu Development Authority (MCDA) have also re-emerged.
Last February, the Cebu Provincial Board passed a resolution calling for the revival of the bill creating the MCDA, which Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar filed at least three times.
The lawmaker filed the first bill two decades ago.
Flooding and other inter-boundary urban problems can be addressed effectively if there’s a higher authority overseeing the LGUs, Mandaue City Administrator James Abadia said.
“It is high time for Metro Cebu to have an authority that has jurisdiction over issues that transcend political boundaries,” he said.
“The MCDCB is a very good start to address issues and provide direction for Cebu. However, the creation of the MCDCB is based on a common agreement. The creation of an authority would be based on a Republic Act and would have more legal compunction,” he added.
Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing of Cebu Province’s sixth district (Mandaue City, Consolacion and Cordova) also saw the need for a higher body governing Metro Cebu, although he was concerned more about the worsening traffic.
Last March, he filed a bill creating the Metro Cebu Traffic Management Authority.
Before they signed a declaration of commitment to work together in combating flood, the cities of Mandaue and Cebu already formed a joint team to address one problem contributing to flooding: the presence of illegal structures, particularly footbridges, over the Mahiga Creek.
The team was created after a short-lived discord between Mayor Cortes and Mayor Rama.
Cortes took offense at Rama’s statements to the press asking the neighboring city to clear its side of the Mahiga Creek, which serves as a territorial boundary of the two cities.
(Coincidentally or otherwise, the Mandaue City Government has since been adamant in asking Cebu City to pay taxes for operating a slaughterhouse by the creek in the former’s territory.)
How households cope
While waterways remain clogged and an updated Metro Cebu integrated drainage scheme has yet to materialize, flooded communities will have to make do with stopgap solutions.
In Barangay Guizo, officials had a concrete platform built to help children cross flooded grounds to the elementary school.
“Di na maglangoy-langoy ang mga bata (Children no longer have to swim through floodwaters),” said Guizo Barangay Captain Jesus Neri Jr.
He said they have also started elevating alleys in flood-prone areas like Sitio Santa Cruz and Sitio La Purisima, where residents also try to keep floodwaters away by raising their floor.
Alejandra Flores, the Santa Cruz resident, pins her hope on an ongoing drainage project of the City and the DPWH 7.
The agency is placing culverts under an elevated road less than a kilometer from her house.
Once completed, the drainage line will direct rainwater runoff that would otherwise inundate residential areas into a creek.
“Kana gyung saktong drainage ang solusyon sa among sitwasyon ari (A working drainage system is the main solution to our problem),” said Flores, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years.
Meanwhile, she and her husband will try to keep their house flood-free by elevating their floor for the second time.
A dozen sacks of broken concrete slabs, sold to them by merchants who get their supply from demolished buildings, sat outside their house.
Over these materials, on a rough wall, a sticker posted by a water utility firm cautioned, “You never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry.”