As the saying goes: When it rains, it pours. But in most parts of Metro Manila, the more accurate adage seems to be: When it pours, it floods. This is especially true in late June and early July until October when temperatures drop and rains fall due to the southwest monsoon, commonly known as habagat. Typhoons strike our country with an average number of 20 each year.
In this regard, the Metro Manila Development Association (MMDA) has identified more than a hundred flood-prone areas in Metro Manila. We asked the help of Mr. June Trinidad, Communications Operator of MMDA Flood Control to narrow down the list to the top three.
1. R. Papa Street in Sampaloc, Manila
Why it easily floods: The high tide along Manila Bay, heavy downpour, and the heavy foot traffic in the area (where an LRT station is located), which usually means more trash in the streets, are just some of the factors why this area is frequently flooded.
Faith Moneda, an 18-year-old student from the Technological University of the Philippines, who passes by this route on her way to school, has learned to adapt to the flooding situation. “When I find out that rain is coming, I pack my slippers along with my umbrella and rubbing alcohol.” She surmises, “I think the problem is the blocked drainage system because of the trash. Because of this, I strongly urge my fellow students to limit the use of plastic and to properly dispose of wastes.”
2. Araneta Avenue, Del Monte Avenue, and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City
Why they easily flood: These areas are filled with structures and don’t have enough trees to absorb floodwater. A total of 104,000 families in these areas were identified by the Department of the Interior and Local Government as living in danger zones, such as railroad tracks, garbage dumps, canals, rivers and creeks.
Antony Alcorin, who plies these routes while selling fruits talks about his experience on floods: “I felt scared when I experienced my first flood. The water was above my cart, and I could not cross the street because of the stranded cars. But I still had to sell my fruits or else they would be wasted. Floods keep me from earning money. In my opinion, these floods are caused by clogged canals. I suggest that these should always be cleaned and deepened.”
3. Pasong Tamo and Buendia Avenue in Makati City
Why they easily flood: There are a lot of road construction and improvements in these areas—some of it are along the Magallanes Tunnel Drainage System, Chino Roces Avenue and within the vicinity of District I in Makati City. Other flooding factors include the overflowing of the Pasig and Marikina Rivers.
Danilo M. Sobebe, a taxi driver for 20 years says, “I have many flood encounters especially in Makati. If I find out that my route is flooded, I change direction. If that’s not possible, I wait for the floods to subside or I just struggle with the traffic. I think floods are caused by road reconstructions and clogged drainages. I don’t want to see people throwing their trash everywhere. They don’t know that this affects everyone.”
According to Mr. Michael Puya, a Communication Equipment Operation under MMDA Flood Control, these places are classified according to flood frequency and flood level—the latter measured through stop gauges that use inches as a unit of measurement. According to their records, these places experience floods with an average height of waist-deep or 36 inches. Floods here usually reach a minimum of six inches.
Metro Manila is a low-lying area; therefore floods come from the surrounding elevated regions, all the way up to the Sierra Madre Mountains. Ground water extraction due to deep wells is causing major areas of the metropolis to sink. Global warming and climate change in the past decade have unleashed nonstop rains and stronger typhoons, which in turn, have created floods, destroying thousands of homes and roads, and submerging 90% of Manila.
Rapid urbanization is also a culprit and should be addressed properly. Houses, buildings, roads, parking lots and infrastructure cover ground that can absorb much of the storm water that falls on the metropolis. Meanwhile, road improvements add to soil wastes that clog the drainage. We need to recover our forest cover to reduce the amount of rain that floods our low-level metropolis.
Where do these floods go?
A process called the Lateral Scheme of Continuity was explained by Mr. Bobot Balboco of the MMDA Flood Control shares these stages:
1. Flood water enters an inlet or opening.
2. It goes through gutters, concrete tubes of 24 inches called Reinforcement Concrete Circular Pipes that are placed all over Metro Manila.
3. Water goes down the Drainage Lateral.
4. Water flows and converges at the Main Drainage.
5. The collected water flows to the esteros or creeks.
6. Water enters the Pumping Station or Flood Gates, whose main function is to pump out water from esteros into the water sources such as the Pasig River and Manila Bay.
But the citizens we’ve interviewed seem to have hit the problem right on the head. In these pumping stations, a total of 8,000 tons of garbage a day are being collected, equivalent to 13% of the country’s total garbage.
Balboco demonstrates the problem by using a sink and two pails of water. “This huge amount of water poured into the sink will surely fill the whole thing, but we can observe that it will smoothly subside afterwards. But imagine the sink is filled with trash that has clogged the waterways.” This way, floods will surely occur because of the blockage. But as Balboco fittingly concludes,“The response is within our hands.”