SUDDEN great loss of life or damage to properties can be the most disheartening moment, moreso when brought about by widespread calamity.
What makes calamities worse is that the poor people are the most vulnerable, making their survival even more iffy.
Most houses of the poor in the city are built on rivers and low-elevation sites on coasts. Hence, they are vulnerable to inundation.
Last June 2011, five villages in the city were in a state of calamity after flooding brought by torrential rain hit the city on June 28, killing 30 persons and displacing over 14,000 families.
The barangays which were placed under state of calamity were Matina Pangi, Matina Aplaya, Matina Crossing, Talomo Proper, and Ma-a.
In January of this year, floods spawned in Don Julian and Sangilangan in Ma-a, Matina Gravahan, Lower Madapo in Bankerohan, El Rio in Bacaca, Tigatto, NCCC Relocation, Jade Valley and Deca Homes after the Davao River overflowed and caused the displacement of 5,165 families or 28,525 individuals. No casualty was reported.
The barangays mentioned above are situated near the Davao, Lasang, Lipadas, and Talomo rivers, which overflowed and caused inundation in inhabited areas in the city.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB)-Davao Region director Edilberto Arreza constantly warned occupants along flood-prone areas in the city to heed early warnings to vacate to avoid suffering the fury of floods.
The MGB-Davao Region even recommended to the City Government of Davao the removal of settlers occupying flood-prone areas including riverbanks.
“Our role here is just to give information to the LGU. We just give findings that this or that area is highly susceptible to flooding. We have to certify also that the area is susceptible to floods until corrected. Sometimes the recommendation for corrections is not being complied,” Arreza said.
Davao City has 404 flood-prone areas identified by the local disaster response agency. 139 are in District 1, 138 in District 2, and 127 in District 3.
Under District 1, City Poblacion District has 40 flood-prone areas while Talomo District has 99. For District 2, Buhangin District has 61, Bunawan District has 40, Paquibato District has 25, while Agdao District has 12.
For District 3, Toril District has 38, Tugbok District has 42, Calinan District has 37, and Marilog District has 10.
Barangay Talomo Proper has the most number of flood-prone areas at 38.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte acknowledges the city’s dilemma on flooding, putting the blame on climate change which, he explained, is caused by carbon and other air pollutants from developed countries like the United States and China.
"We never contributed significantly as to alter or change the climate of the planet," he previously said during his Sunday’s television show “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa.”
He also took a dig at some quarters for suggesting that City Hall impose a no habitation policy near the river banks after the series of flooding incidents.
"The habitation is not in the rural area. It is in the urban areas," Duterte said. "Now they say clear the river bank because you have to establish a buffer zone. Okay, we start tomorrow. We will demolish the houses in the river bank. Where will you relocate the people?”
To clear the riverside communities is one of the recommendations of the environmental group Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (Idis).
“The government must strictly enforce the riparian buffer zones. Houses should never be allowed in these zones and these areas must also be planted with trees and be considered as forests,” Mary Ann Fuertes, executive director of Idis, said.
Duterte, however, said the city has no budget for any relocation area if the no habitation policy will be implemented.
"If you we try to enforce the buffer zone, do you have the money? How much is the city earning? Is the economy that great that we are earning trillions of pesos? There is no money to do that," Duterte said.
The mayor said even if buffer zones will be established, those who will mostly be affected are the poor.
"If I have the money, I could have expropriated those landowners and relocated the people near the riverbanks," he added.
Duterte said he needs around P50 billion to do the job.
“We would need to buy the houses along the banks of the river to allow greater space for the river to flow through. Right now, the primary aim is to save lives,” he said.
In the meantime, Duterte wanted to zero in and address the incidence of flooding on surface streets of the city.
He has sought Rep. Isidro Ungab’s (3rd District, Davao City) assistance in setting aside funding for a massive project on the city’s drainage to solve flooding.
Ungab is presently the chair for the committee on appropriations of the 16th Congress. Duterte said he is confident that ungab will be a big help to the city.
Ungab, on the other hand, committed to help.
“I will help look for funds to finance the drainage flood program of the city. We will start first with the request of mayor, kadtong dakong kanal sa (the drainage canal in) Barangay 22-C. We will start to do that and (later on) include the drainage and flood control plan,” he said.
Duterte initially wanted to address Barangay 22-C whose drainage canals are heavily silted, a situation that had cause frequent street flooding in the area and neighboring barangays.
Ungab revealed that the Davao City Engineer’s Office and the Department of Public Works and Public Highways (DPWH) are working closely for the drainage plan for the city.
The congressman said the two agencies are now preparing the cost estimates of a comprehensive program designed to improve the city’s drainage system and solve the nagging flooding problem of the city.
“We will not know how much would be needed until the cost estimates are finished,” Ungab said.
He said the project could be included in the consideration of the budget of the DPWH starting August.
Former Mayor Sara Duterte, in her 2013 State of the City Address, mentioned that she ordered the City Engineer’s Office to identify priority drainage projects amounting to P96 million to address the incidence of flooding on surface streets at the start of her term.
“Of the 15 areas in the priority list, we were able to allocate budget for nine projects amounting to P57,844,927.47, eight of which have already been completed as of this year,” she said, adding that future budget allocation should be made for the remaining six areas.
“And as recommended by our Dutch consultant, we should continue to review the 1998 Master Drainage Plan and cull out other drainage projects for implementation. Likewise, there is need to create a plan for river flood protection and mitigation,” the former mayor said.
She also mentioned that Department of Interior and Local Government granted the city P175 million after being cited with the Seal of Good Housekeeping in recognition of the drive to advance the principles of accountability and transparency in local governance.
“This award paved the way for the grant of P175 Million as Local Government Support Fund for the city’s projects in flood control and drainage, disaster risk reduction and management and the maternal health needs of the city,” the female Duterte said.
“Part of our drainage control measures is the acquisition of a P45 Million dredging machine, which is still being processed for final purchase,” she added.
Fuentes of Idis once said: “Flood is a form of cost that we have to pay for our actions—for what we have done to nature: non-stop cutting of trees in the forest, despite log ban, land-use conversion from forest to intensive agriculture, improper agricultural practices in the uplands, too much carbon emissions with lesser and lesser trees to absorb them. These aggravated the natural greenhouse effect thereby contributing to climate change.”
“Let us accept it. Whether we like it or not, climate change is here and the most likely impact on us in Mindanao–floods and drought depending on what area you are situated. We have to be prepared,” she said.