Espinoza: Does Cebu City have flood mitigating measures?

Elias L. Espinoza
·3 min read

"PERENNIAL floods are one sure sign of a badly managed metropolis, and may discourage investments. Local government units are forced to be reactive to such incidences of flooding every time it happens. It would seem obvious that this situation cannot be allowed to continue without addressing the root causes of the problem," the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP)-Cebu Chapter, and United Architects of the Philippines (UAP)-Datu Lapu-lapu Chapter stated in their joint position on urban flooding.

After the inundation of Cebu city's streets on October 13, 2020, a total of 83 establishments are found constructed beside or over the city's canals, creeks and rivers that caused the obstruction during torrents that results in flooding and aggravated by the indiscriminately disposed trash.

In a meeting with Mayor Edgar Labella, the owners of the structures that obstructed the city's waterways accordingly promised to voluntarily remove the structures and it will be supervised by the committee he created composed of City Engr. Kenneth Carmelita Enriquez, DPWH-7, Cenro, Probe team, and the City Legal Office. Let's give the building owners the benefit of the doubt that they will comply. But, does the city have its flood mitigating measures?

The PIEP-Cebu Chapter and UAP-Datu Lapu-Lapu Chapter, in their joint position paper, said the lack of proper planning is the cause of the overall problem. It stated that rivers, creeks and streams are natural waterways that traverse through the lowest portions of a natural catchment area. These natural waterways have to be protected and cleared of obstructions to prevent flooding especially the downstream of the urban areas.

They suggested the following short-term mitigating measures:

1) Survey of existing natural waterways -- There are existing studies and surveys that define the metes and bounds of these waterways that have unexplainably remained unacted upon. It's imperative for government agencies that grant development permits to know these metes and bounds. LGUs should also consult experts in Lidar/geographic surveys or seek the services of technical professionals to delineate the existing natural waterways and establish a firm, technically correct basis for reckoning the proper setbacks and easements.

2) The City Map -- A convenient planning tool but hardly used. This is a legal document that defines all waterways, roads, bridges and other infrastructure existing and planned. This map if incorporated into an ordinance could institutionalize the reservation of these easements and preserve them perpetually. It will serve as a basis for the preservation of the easements that are not yet occupied and the eventual removal of all structures that have encroached.

3) Implement clearing operations -- The waterways clogged by the debris, garbage and structures is a persistent problem. But regular maintenance of waterways can only be achieved if access on the 3-meter legal easements is available on both sides of the waterway. With the City Map, the 3-meter easements should be pursued relentlessly, initially at free areas and consequently on existing structures.

4) Protection of cleared-up easements -- Pre-cast curb and gutters may be installed along the 3-meter easements on waterways to establish a clear physical boundary to restrict future development on these easements.

5) Catchment areas or ponds -- Existing city ordinances requiring rainwater cisterns for buildings should be extended to include land developments and in barangays to implement rainwater harvesting systems. Direct all storm water drainage lines to collect in large rainwater cisterns (with open-bottoms) under multi-purpose gyms, basketball courts or parking areas, and allow these to percolate into the ground to recharge the aquifer. The rainwater collected may also be used for washing, irrigation, or firefighting.