PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed the immediate relocation of almost 200,000 informal settlers living in the shoreline of Laguna de Bay.

Arroyo ordered the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) headed by general manager Edgardo Manda to find homes for about 30,000 families living in Lupang Arenda that blocks water channels of Manggahan and Napindan floodways causing massive flooding in Metro Manila during Typhoon Ondoy last year.

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She said aside from bringing families to safer place by clearing the area of Laguna de Bay, pollution in Asia’s second largest freshwater basin will also be lessen.

Manda, for his part, said they will be taking advantage of the summer season to relocate families to safer grounds.

He said they are hoping to finish the entire transfer before the onset of rainy season in June.

He added that the LLDA will be coordinating with the Office of Vice President Noli de Castro and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) for the relocation of the informal settlers.

Possible relocation sites will be in Montalban and Baras, both in Rizal province, said Manda.

Originally, Lupang Arenda, which consists of the city of Pasig and municipalities of Taytay and Cainta, was designated as protected wetlands but it has been converted into a resettlement site after being used as a clandestine dumpsite until 2001.

During the wrath of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, Manda had ordered the relocation of informal settlers in Lupang Arenda as it was inundated by more than 14-meter deep water overflowing from the Laguna de Bay.

Personally seeing the effect of flood in the area, Arroyo had supported the suggestion of Manda ordering the clean-up of the area to avoid repetition of Ondoy tragedy.

Some illegal settlers however insisted to stay and just rehabilitate despite the danger of living along coastline.

But Manda stressed that with the recent order of the President, they will no longer be lenient and ensure all residents will be in safer habitat before another storm strikes. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)