City councilors on Monday criticized the City Engineering Office for failing to assert authority over erring establishments who have blocked the city’s waterways during the recent storms, causing severe flooding in low lying areas.
Appearing at the Question Hour of last Monday’s session, councilors cited, in particular, the almost waist-deep flooding that occurred in a portion of the national highway in Barangay San Miguel, which city engineers blamed on a building construction that blocked the waterway.
City Engineer Alberto Jimenez Jr. said an establishment fronting Ford Palawan, owned by a certain Manuel Pua, has blocked a natural waterway, causing flashflood that almost rendered the road impassable during the typhoon.
Jimenez added that the owner of the said business establishment had disregarded the three violation notices they served and even finished the building construction without them issuing a permit.
“The owner turned a deaf ear and did not heed our notices. It seems he doesn’t recognize the waterway because during the time we talked to him he said there’s no waterway included in his title, although in our survey there is,” he said.
However, Councilor Jimmy Carbonell, who sought the inquiry, did dismiss Jimenez’ statement, saying “I’m not convinced by your statement that they are not heeding the notices.”
“We’re the local government and they are the ones who should follow,” Carbonnel said.
“How come they finished the construction despite that you (wrote to) them while they were just starting to develop that area?” Carbonell said.
He warned that the city’s failure to assert its authority would set a bad precedent for other businesses.
“What if all other businesses who want to put up massive buildings will wantonly do the same?”
Councilor Nesario Awat chided the engineering office, even as he compelled it to exert its authority over the said erring business establishment.
“The moment business establishments blocked a waterway, the state can intervene and exercise power over them to protect the public interest,” he said.
Jimenez said they have already endorsed the matter to the City Legal Office for the filing of a legal action against the building owner.
Carbonell, on one hand, requested the engineering office to furnish them an inventory of active and inactive natural waterways. “It’s for us to know who are the other violating business establishments that also blocked these waterways, so we can sanction them,” he said.
At the committee level, the councilors will tackle the possibility of issuing a cease and desist order to the erring business establishments found obstructing natural waterways.
Meanwhile, Carbonell also slammed the engineering office for what he claimed was its failure to implement a comprehensive drainage master plan that would address the city’s recurrent flooding issue.
“It’s saddening to know that our highly urbanized city submerges in floodwaters when there’s a typhoon and yet until now we don’t have an operational comprehensive drainage master plan,” he said.
City Planning and Development Office’s George Vasquez said the city government, in its 2018 Annual Investment Plan, has allotted P40 million for drainage projects, including some in Barangays of San Manuel, San Miguel, Bancao-Bancao, Tagumpay, Tiniguiban and Sta. Monica.
On top of this, Vasquez said the city government has P35 million unutilized lump sum under the 2017’s disaster risk reduction and management fund.
Awat suggested that the said lump sum be used for more drainage projects in other low-lying, flood-prone areas in the city proper.
“Probably, we can make a recommendation to the city mayor for you to utilize that, considering this flooding problem is so urgent and we don’t want that bad experience to happen again,” he said.