CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The City Council here wants to compel the public works officials to assure government leaders and the business sector that flooding problems will not plague this city’s downtown area despite the delay of the Sagip Ilog Project.

In a committee hearing Tuesday, the council invited representatives of contractor RD Policarpio, officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the City Disaster Coordinating Council, and engineers from the city.

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The hearing was called by City Councilors Noel Tulab and Jimmy Lazatin, who chairs the council's committees on public works and good government, respectively.

“This meeting aims to get an assurance from the DPWH that flooding would not hit the poblacion area in case of sudden rains. Some of our constituents fear that there might be severe flooding because the project has yet to be fully completed in time for the rainy season,” Lazatin said, stressing that the DPWH tried its best to reason out the delay in the project.

In earlier reports, the DPWH explained that the contractor has been instructed to remove the obstructions and that the delays were caused by problems in "moving out" encroachers and illegal settlers there despite the City Government's efforts to have them relocated at Northville 14.

An almost apologetic Engr. Leo Mendoza of the DPWH assured the officials that severe flooding will not hit the downtown area and that the city will reap the initial benefits of the project. Mendoza said that the project will soon go full swing and is expected to be finished in January 2011. Currently, the project is 54 percent complete but officials are worrying that rains may damage the still unfinished structure and may result into flooding if not completed on time.

Tulabut, meanwhile, said that he will discuss the situation with his colleagues during the council's regular session Wednesday to come up with possible safeguards to prevent such delays in future government infrastructure projects in the city.

“We are hoping that the DPWH would do its best in accomplishing the project the soonest possible time,” Tulabut said.

Lazatin expressed his dismay that the DPWH has yet to present any mitigation measure in case severe rains hit the city.

“We see no concrete back-up plan in case of a worse-case scenario. But we are urging the DPWH to work with us on this to prevent any possible disaster,” Lazatin said.

Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Pamcham) president Rene Romero for his part expressed concern over the delayed project adding that it can inevitably affect the businesses in the city if not accomplished on time.

“The DPWH should be more diligent in compelling contractors to follow agreements and deadlines. If it entails imposing punishments or penalties, the government should not think twice of imposing them in favor of public safety and welfare,” Romero said. (Ian Ocampo Flora)