Here comes the rain again

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The state weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) announced the start of the rainy season last Tuesday and, as if on cue, a sudden downpour arrived early evening as working folks were on their way home, flooding several areas in Metro Manila.

If that is what a short deluge could do—causing flooding, crippling traffic and stranding commuters—we hate to think what could happen when an actual storm with very strong and continuous rains comes and hits Metro Manila.

Some areas, in no time at all, became submerged in floodwaters, making streets impassable to both pedestrians and motorists.  If last week was a sneak preview of what’s in store for us during the rainy season, then God help the kids who are returning to school. Most schools start classes this week and traffic everywhere in the metropolis is expected to get even heavier.

Pagasa said last week’s downpour was due to a southwest monsoon. “Intermittent to continuous rains and thunderstorms, associated with the southwest monsoon, will continue to affect Metro Manila and the western section of the country,” its statement read. “Most parts of the country are likely to experience near to above-normal rainfall conditions in the next two months [June to July].”

Pagasa advised the public to take precautionary measures during the rainy season. The government would do well to heed this same advice.

The Aquino administration had a P350-billion Metro Manila Flood Control Plan, which had a 2035 completion date, but surely some part of that budget, or perhaps even a huge chunk of it, should have already been spent to ease the perennial and deadly problem of flooding in the metropolis.

And yet, the Duterte administration has proposed for cofinancing by China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank another flood-control project in Metro Manila, this time worth $500 million, or about P25 billion.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority also does quarterly cleanups of creeks and other waterways and drainages in flood-prone areas in Metro Manila, which is why we were surprised when these same problem areas got flooded just because of the sudden downpour last week. What happened to all the cleanup activities?

Of course, it’s not all the government’s fault. People should also stop their indiscriminate and irresponsible dumping of garbage on esteros and other waterways. We should learn our lessons from past flooding and behave as responsible citizens.

Also, it could not have helped at all that there are so many road-repair projects and diggings under way all over Metro Manila, some by water concessionaire Maynilad, others by the Department of Public Works and Highways, and still others by local governments.

A lot of these projects were started before the resumption of classes, but the fact that they are still “ongoing” speaks, perhaps, of the poor quality of the contractors hired for them or of mismanaged budgets and timetables. These road projects and diggings certainly contributed to last week’s flooding and should be finished promptly.

The Duterte administration should make sure its public-works projects cause the least inconvenience to commuters, pedestrians and even residents, whose normally quiet neighborhoods have been turned into busy roads because traffic has been diverted to them in order to ease the choke points caused by various excavations. And to public contractors, including those of water concessionaires, please, if you’re going to cause such an inconvenience, you could at least instill a sense of urgency in your people to finish the job as soon as possible.

Because when the rains come, as they have now, your excavations and diggings only worsen traffic and flooding in the cities. More rain is coming still, Pagasa warns. Please hurry up and get the job done.

We should all learn our lessons from past flooding and put up better flood defenses and instill better practices.