Heavy rain from an unprecedented five tropical storms since 25 Ocotber has caused severe flooding and mass displacement in metropolitan Manila, Philiipies. One of these has been the 21st tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, arriving just two weeks after Typhoon Rolly, which has been recorded as the strongest typhoon of 2020, so far.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), preliminary data from the Philippine’s Department of Social Welfare’s Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center, more than 5.6 million people have been affected and 14 people have died.
The historic flooding prompted a 25 November Senate hearing on the events, in response to which the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has said that it is working on three major flood control projects at a cost of approximately $2.9 Billion USD expected to be completed “in the coming years”.
Specifically, Pasig-Marikina flood walls are expected to be completed in the next 4 years. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is in the process of reviewing proposals for the Marikina Dam, and a feasibility study for the Parañaque spillway is already underway, according to DPWH Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) flood control engineer Jerry Fano.
The Cagayan River has 20 tributaries, six of which are considered to be “major”. The department’s long-term flood control management plan also includes construction of five or six additional dams along the Cagayan River, especially during major typhoons.
Currently, only the Magat Dam serves to control flood waters along the Cagayan River and the DPWH is proposing that four of the new dams be multi-purpose; that is, serve as hydro-electric power supply as well as flood/irrigation control.
The three current projects are supported by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri but political will must apply to effect the DPWH’s proposals as informal settlers currently occupy portions of the waterways in Manila. The settlers will have to be relocated. In addition to the “bricks and mortar” construction, the DPWH plan includes planting of fruit trees to help rehabilitate the Marikina Watershed.
Separately, Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro has pushed for flood prevention measures in his city and other low-lying areas in Metro Manila.
The Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape has been protected since 2001, but land grabbing, illegal logging, and quarrying activities have continued despite the order. Teodoro is calling for a statutory framework that would provide programs and activities to address the effects of climate change.
Many municipalities are currently impassable due to landslide blocking access but the priority needs remain shelter, food, health assistance and mental health and psychosocial support. IOM specifically cited emergency aid relief being provided through USAID Philippines and Germany and that distribution conforms to government protocols.
“We had the strongest typhoon since Haiyan in 2013 and now the biggest floods in Manila since Ondoy in 2009 – all in a very short period of time,” said Kristin Dadey, IOM Philippines Chief of Mission, after visiting some of the worst affected parts of Manila.
Dadey added, “The Philippines is one of the least contributors to the cause of climate change and yet is one of the most impacted by it.”
The IOM’s assessment also states that annually about 20 tropical cyclones enter the Philippines, with nine per year on average, making landfall. Climate change is leading to stronger, longer-lasting typhoons. Rising sea levels are also a grave concern, with water level rising at triple the global average.
“Consisting of more than 7,000 islands and with a population of over 100 million, it is projected that, within the next three decades, areas in the Philippines currently home to at least 8.6 million people will be likely directly impacted and submerged by sea-level rise and inundation. According to Climate Central, these areas include parts of Manila, Malabon, Bulacan, Pasay City, Iloilo cities, Cotabato, and many more.”
To raise climate awareness and action, IOM Philippines in August launched the Climate Change Adaptation and Community Resilience in the Philippines Project (CARP), funded by the IOM Development Fund. Partnering with national and local government—including the Climate Change Commission (CCC), academic and research institutes—and the private sector, the programme aims to enhance understanding of climate change and its impacts on human mobility among general public, media and local governments.