Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Megadike a 'white elephant'

MANILA, Philippines - The multi-billion Camanava flood control and drainage improvement project, also known as a megadike, is a “white elephant,” a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official said in a meeting with local officials Monday. In a hastily called conference at the Bangkulasi pumping station in Navotas City, project manager Macariola Bartolo said the DPWH spends P40 million each year to maintain the megadike, which has been described as 99 percent complete since 2007, its target date for completion. The project remains unfinished. Bartolo said the original purpose of the project, which has ballooned from P3.2 billion in 2003 to P5.9 billion in 2007 when it was supposed to have been completed, was “to mitigate and not fully eliminate the problem of flooding in Camanava,” which covers Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela. She made the statement as she met with acting Malabon City Mayor Antolin Oreta III and village officials, who she called in response to a letter sent by Oreta a few months earlier, asking about the status of the project. Not a failure She said the project is not a failure, adding that the project has at best “helped reduce the flooding” in Malabon, Navotas and a small part of Caloocan. Niugan, Malabon village chief Eric Fulgencio confronted Bartolo, saying “the project has not really served the purpose for which it was constructed.” “We were not flooded before. But ever since the project began in 2003, it has only made life miserable for us until now,” Fulgencio said. Oreta told The STAR they are left with no choice but to hold on to Bartolo’s word that they will be making the necessary repairs and improvements. “They have been making the same promises but we can’t do anything. They’re the only ones who can do it. We neither have the funds nor the authority to complete this humoungous project,” Oreta said. Bartolo promised to repair the damaged earthen dikes in hard-hit Dampalit, Panghulo, Catmon and Tonsuya within three months. ‘No sense of urgency’ Malabon city engineer Edgar Yanga said the project managers are taking their own sweet time and seem not in a hurry to repair the polder dikes and finish the project. Bartolo said they “will take note of” the allegation, and blamed the local contractors for the delay. She said she already ordered the contractors to finish the job in two months. Panghulo councilman Gilbert Castillo said the village has already been flooded for one month. He accused the DPWH of not having a sense of urgency. Bartolo promised to include this allegation in her report. A representative from the Caloocan City government, who declined to be named, brought up the problem of residents living near the Estero de Maypajo, saying the area has never been dry at any time. Bartolo said the contractor has finished dredging the waterway. “They have been saying that all the time yet the place remains flooded, rain or shine,” said the Caloocan official who left the meeting shortly after getting this reply from Bartolo. No turnover yet A source said it is unlikely that the Camanava flood control project will be turned over to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) soon. “No, I don’t think so. The project is not complete. The MMDA will not accept it. They do not know the full extent of completion and there are no more funds,” said the source. Oreta said they are making do with 26 pumping stations built and operated with local funds. He added that only 20 are operating since six stations broke down last week. - By Jerry Botial