For want of diesel fuel, a major water pumping station in Taguig City lay idle at the height of the torrential flooding on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Metro Manila Development Authority disclosed the lapse as the head of the MMDA’s Flood Control and Sewerage Management Office, Baltazar Melgar, was replaced. Melgar, according to MMDA chief Francis Tolentino, also mismanaged water pumping operations at the P. Tuazon underpass in Cubao, Quezon City. The flooded underpass caused massive traffic jams.
The MMDA took over flood control in the metropolis several years ago from the Department of Public Works and Highways. Among the achievements claimed by the MMDA at the time was the upgrading of water pumping capability. While this cannot stop flooding, it can make the water subside quickly. Sophisticated pumping systems, such as those that have been in use for a long time in the Netherlands, can keep even low-lying areas flood-free. But with limited funding, Filipinos can only set modest objectives: seeing floodwaters recede quickly.
This clearly didn’t happen in certain areas of Metro Manila as rain poured from Sunday night to Wednesday. As related by the MMDA chairman, the pumping station in Taguig ran out of diesel fuel after 10 days of operating non-stop. He said he signed a purchase order for 6,000 liters of fuel but Melgar ordered the diesel only on Wednesday. By that time, the streets were already too flooded for the fuel trucks to reach the pumping station.
Melgar, who has been with the MMDA for 15 years, has denied any negligence on his part. He said they order 200,000 liters of diesel fuel every three months for 22 pumping stations, and they only take delivery of the fuel. Asked about Tolentino’s purchase order for 6,000 liters, Melgar said he didn’t know where the order was. Melgar, who has gone on leave, said they received diesel fuel during the floods from the city government of Taguig.
President Aquino should take a closer look at this distressing lapse in the MMDA. This is not disaster management but disastrous management of flood control. The President must allay public concerns that this pathetic story might become the norm in the government’s flood control and disaster management programs.