By Celso Amo
LEGAZPI CITY --- Mayor Noel Rosal of this city has asked the Department of Public Works and Highways in Bicol on Monday to assess the design of the P2.1B flood control project after 15 barangays in the city were hit by flash floods last January 3 due to unprecedented heavy rains brought about by the tail-end of the cold front.
“I want DPWH Secretary Mark Villar to help us address the city’s urban drainage system project,” said Rosal on Monday before he flew to China for a sisterhood project.
The Legazpi City Urban Drainage System is the biggest mega flood control project in Bicol worth P 2.1B starting in 2012 from the national government which included the installation of the three pumping stations designed to address the perennial flooding in the city.
The city is about 1.5 meters
below sea level.
“The DPWH has not [yet] turned over the mega flood control project,” said Rosal.
Rosal said part of the project is the repair and widening of canals in the main thoroughfare.
It also involved the improvement and construction of flood control dikes, drainage system and sea walls.
Today three large pumping stations are now installed in the villages of San Roque, Bay-bay and Victory which can pump out flood waters at three cubic meters per second.
Rosal said the flash floods that hit the city last January 3 was also caused by the siltation of the city’s major river channels -- PNR site, Tibu, Makabalo and Sagumayon Rivers -- which overflowed its banks due to days of heavy rains.
He said the three pumping stations were ready but the problem was the water elevation at the pump flood gates have reached only 0.4 cubic meters while the pumping facilities needed between 1.3 and 1.8 water elevation to start operation.
“Practically there was no water for the pumping station to pump out flood waters,” said Rosal.
Many Legazpeños are asking what happened to the mega pumping stations when floods hit the city last January 3.
P2.1B flood control project
The mega flood control project was started during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III which was considered one of the biggest funded infrastructure projects outside Metro Manila.
The civil works of this project are being supervised by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Bicol in coordination with Legazpi City Engineering Office.
This project includes flood control structures along Tibu and Macabalo rivers to serve as the waterways and also the rehabilitation of canals in the main thoroughfare by replacing old-type culvert canals with new box-type canals.
Three pieces of pumping equipment had already been installed at the 4,000-square-meter area at Tibu River in Barangay San Roque while another pumping station at the 400-square-meter area at the Victory Village and a third at another 400-square-meter site in Barangay Baybay.
Another project is the so-called “Jetty” facility which will be constructed near the mouth of the Tibu River Channel in Barangay San Roque, which is designed to prevent the entry of sand bar that could cause the clogging of the river.
Rosal believes that these pumping stations could solve the problem of flooding in the city which affects almost 80 percent of city’s population during heavy rains, especially during high tide and inclement weather.
“These pumping equipment will give us more business activities that will surely result in the continuous economic growth because Legazpi will be converted into an all-weather city,” the Mayor said.
“This kind of project is needed because Legazpi City is located below sea level and we welcome this solution to the perennial flooding through a good infrastructure program,” Rosal pointed out.
The project also involves the improvements and construction of flood control dikes, drainage system and sea wall.
Rosal said the operational expenses and other maintenance of these pumping stations will cost at least P10M a year that will be shouldered by the city administration.
He said that through this project the flooding problem will be controlled, especially in Barangays Oro Site, Peñaranda, Cabangan, San Roque, Sabang, Lapu-Lapu and other low-lying areas of the city.
The three pumping stations will be closed during continuous rains and high tide and, at the same time, flood waters from the slope of Mount Mayon and other sources of waters from the nearby municipality of Daraga will be pumped out into Albay Gulf.
The pumping facilities will be the first flood mitigating structure in the Bicolandia, patterned after the project of the Japan International cooperation Agency (JICA) with a capacity of pumping out three cubic meters of flood waters per second.
Rosal said all the garbage and other waste materials in the rivers will go directly to the trash rake, be filtered by the trash conveyor and go to the trash hopper.
Out of the P2.1B budget, the national government under the General Appropriations Act (GAA), has already released P1.39B to the DPWH-Bicol for the civil works of the project.
In 2012, the Aquino administration released P500M, followed by P300M in 2013, P290M in 2014 and P300M last year.
President Aquino came over before his term ended to inaugurate the project.
Fifteen barangays in this city were flooded that created traffic jams along Rizal and Washington Streets which prompted the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to suspend classes at 4:00 p.m.
On December 29, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council placed Albay under a red warning for possible flash floods and landslide due to heavy rains triggered by the tail-end of the cold front.
Several villages in Legazpi City were submerged in flood waters after flash floods hit low-lying areas such as Vil-Amor Subdivion and Barangay Oro Site due to heavy rains since December 27 brought about by a low pressure area in Mindanao.
The Imalnod River in Sitio Capantawan overflowed its banks and flooded rice fields up to neck-high waters.
The red warning level means serious flooding and landslide are expected to occur.
Mayor Rosal had ordered Rizal St. which passes along Vil-Amor Subdivision closed to traffic due to flooding.
Rosal coordinated with barangay officials for the rescue efforts provided by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Naval Forces of Southern Luzon, the Philippine National Police and Albay Coastal Rangers.
There were reports that medical students from Nepal who were studying at the Ago Medical Educational and Educational Center were rescued after their boarding house in Barangay 18 in Cabanga was reported to have been flooded.
The medical students climbed on top of a tree to escape the rising waters.
“The flash floods heavily affected low-lying barangays which were aggravated by the high tide,” said Rosal.
He said it was the effect of almost two weeks of intermittent rain.
Rosal admitted the P2.1B pumping stations which were not yet turned over to the city by the DPWH could not function because the flood waters had remained stagnant and could not flow through the pumping stations due to siltation.
He said DPWH engineers are now conducting an assessment before the formal turn-over of the pumping stations.
“We have to desilt the choke points at Barangay Peñaranda at the PNR site and other areas,” he added.
Barangay 27 official Joy Bahoy said Purok 1, 2 and 4 were flooded after the Tibu River overflowed as of 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday last week and twenty families or 265 persons were evacuated.
Another 272 persons were evacuated in Barangay Buragwis according to Barangay chair Tina Ajero.
Barangay 15 Ilawod Chairman Ernie Asotea said 60 families or 180 persons were evacuated after the Makabalo River overflowed.
Oro Site Barangay Chairman Jaypee Lee said six families were evacuated in Purok 3. He said about 50 houses were flooded.
Many office workers, including shoppers, were stranded at Gaisano and Ayala Malls after jeepney drivers stopped plying their route due to rising flood waters.
The Office of Civil Defense in Bicol under Dir. Clyde Yucot in coordination with the Philippine National Police, the 901st Brigade, the Philippine Navy provided free rides for stranded commuters from Legazpi to Daraga as well as up to the first and second districts of Albay.
Four families were luckily evacuated at Barangay Pinaric before a landslide occurred.
Mayor Noel Rosal thanked the barangay officials for insuring zero casualty.