Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Wenceslao: Change and flooding

THE weather bureau Pagasa said that the rain that fell in Cebu last Friday was just the normal level. Weatherman Al Quiblat pegged the rain amount at 55 millimeters per hour. Imagine what would have happened had the rain amount been abnormally heavy. Even with that “normal amount,” flooding was experienced almost everywhere.

I was on Junquera St. near R.R. Landon St. when the rain fell Friday afternoon. Before that, somebody commented about the very black and thick clouds that gathered towards the western horizon conjuring a thunderstorm. I was already inside an internet café when the rain fell so I wasn’t able to observe how heavy the rainfall was.

Then it happened. An internet café employee pointed to the water that entered the gap between the floor and the door. I looked through the glass door and saw water, black and muddy, already covering the street. Every vehicle that passed by formed waves that moved away from the street and into the establishments along it. I was trapped inside the internet café for almost an hour.

They call it flash flood because it disappears minutes after the rainfall lightens. When I finally got a chance to head for the office, I was stopped by the same kind of dirty water flooding the portion of P. del Rosario St. in front of the Sun.Star Cebu office. There was no way I could go near the office without wading through the murky water.

At that time I thought of leptospirosis. But I did see some stranded commuters, there were tens of them standing on elevated sidewalks, decide to wade through the flood, worrying me. I ended up looking for a roundabout way to our office’s Don Pedro Cui side, the area where the flood first subsided. Without an umbrella, I was wet all over.

Friday’s rain was obviously just for starters because we are still in the early phase of the wet season after we endured the
searing heat of El Niño for months. But it already gave us a glimpse of the weaknesses of our infrastructure setup, things that we have been pointing out for eons now. The flood not only stranded people but caused traffic woes.

Reports say flooding that Friday hit the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay. But it actually happened everywhere wherever that “normal” amount of rain fell. I was in a resort in Dalaguete, Cebu over the weekend and a staff member told me that, yes, they did experience “flooding” when rainwater that fell on the highway entered their premises.

Which brings me to one problem I have long written about and which Ador Canlas of the Department of Public Works and Highways shared. Because structures block the water’s movement towards natural waterways, the roads take the function of rivers and creeks—they become artificial rivers and creeks.

But again, we are merely being repetitive. The cause of all these is anarchic drainage system planning by concerned government agencies. And government, both national and local, has not done anything much to solve it. But there is hope. To borrow the common logic of President Rodrigo Duterte fanatics, the problem can now be solved in a jiffy. Duterte is president and change has come.

That applies, too, to Cebu City, which now has a mayor in Tomas Osmeña. If his predecessor Michael Rama failed to do things right, then Osmeña can. I hope that after he is done kicking out Rama’s appointees from City Hall or assigning Rama’s former department heads to the graveyard shift in cemeteries, he would review the drainage problem and act on it.

Change is coming? As the late journalist Abe Licayan would joke, “Let us to see.”

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