Illegal activities in watersheds may have caused flooding in Marikina, not dams — senators

An aerial photo of the balding portion of the Marikina Watershed in 2017, captured by then Environment secretary Gina Lopez. 📸 Gina Lopez

MANILA — The continuous land-grabbing, exploitation, and illegal logging in watersheds could have been the reasons behind the massive flooding in Marikina during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses, not the water from dams, senators said Wednesday. 

At a Senate hearing in the wake of the Ulysses-spawned flooding, Sen. Cynthia Villar said the overflow of Angat dam alone could not have caused flooding in Marikina, pointing out that there are few to none river tributaries connecting the dam to the city.

“Maybe the cause of Marikina (flooding) is not Angat. It is the Marikina Watershed… Maybe we should look into that and maybe may problema ang mga protected area na yan kaya bumaha nang husto sa mga area na yan,” Villar said.

(Maybe there are problems in those protected areas that is why record-flooding hit those areas.) 

Marikina River’s water level rose to 21.8 meters at the height of Ulysses’ onslaught in the capital region, higher than its level during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 at 21.5 meters. 

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said floodwaters submerged some 30,000 houses, prompting them to evacuate at least 10,500 families to safety.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros blamed the flooding on illegal activities such as logging and land-grabbing in the Marikina Watershed and Sierra Madre protected landscapes that, according to her, continue to be unabated. 

Hontiveros cited the concern of conservationists from the Masungi Georeserve, who previously raised the alarm on the effects of illegal activities in the area.

“Idagdag po natin ang exploitation of resources… Yong illegal [activities]… ay posibleng nagiging dahilan din ng flooding. Ayon sa kanila, ang (according to them) logging massively diminished the capacity of the mountain range to buffer NCR and Rizal from the ravages of the strong typhoon,” she said

(We should add exploitation of resources… illegal activities as possible reasons for the flooding.)

A representative from the Rizal Provincial Planning and Development Office echoed the senators, and said that a huge volume of the floodwaters that inundated Marikina were from the Marikina watershed and mountain ranges in Sierra Madre and the province of Quezon. 

“Ang pinanggalingan po ng tubig, talagang napakalaking volume ay doon po sa watershed natin sa Upper Marikina Protected Landscape. From Boso-Boso, sa may parteng Quezon, from Sierra Madre, doon bumaba ang malaking tubig at nadagdagan ng nadaanan na tributaries. Kaya sobrang mataas ang tubig na bumaba sa Marikina,” Mario Cayetano said, citing the results of their inspection after the flooding. 

(Huge volume of floodwaters came from the watersheds… and it went to the tributaries that is why the Marikina was flooded.) 

Billie Dumaliang, a trustee and advocacy officer at Masungi Georeserve, earlier told ABS-CBN News that it would be hard to reverse the damage made to the watershed due to illegal activities. 

Dumaliang described the Upper Marikina Water Basin to be in its last stages of “forest death” but illegal activities haven’t stopped in the area despite its protected status.

Under Proclamation 296 issued in 2001, the Marikina Watershed Reservation in Rizal is declared a protected area and was renamed Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape. 

It was granted protection under Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, which means the area is “protected against destructive human exploitation.”

“Importante din pong mainitindihan ang mas malalim pang dahilan ng flooding, kasama na dito yung deeply-rooted causes, kasama po yung ecological destruction, kapabayaan, katiwalaian at inequality,” Hontiveros said. 

(We should also understand the root cause of this flooding. This includes neglect and corruption.) — via Nor-Bella Tan/AdChoiceTV News

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