Aug 232013

A collective sigh of relief has swept over the entire metropolis at the reluctant departure of those fierce monsoon rains that descended on us last Monday. I say reluctantly because, even as Pagasa has declared the official exit of  typhoon Maring, many areas were still experiencing heavy, heavy downpours all of Tuesday and Wednesday. When the skies cleared last Tuesday, my wife and I bravely set out for the office, but the rains came back all too soon. EDSA, though, was clear of vehicles and flood-free. Many of our employees couldn’t even set foot outside of their homes, especially those residing in Marikina and Cainta. We had no work for three whole days because the floods in those areas fully subsided only last Thursday, which wrought havoc on our air-tight work schedule. Now we’re scrambling like crazy to get back on track. Oh well.

Thankfully, many areas remained flood-free as well, like most of Paranaque and Alabang. However, several vehicles were stranded along the South Luzon Expressway near the Southwoods Exit in Binan City. Southwoods itself, the golf club, was flooded, a first in its long history of existence. Traffic here was terrible because many light vehicles got stranded at the exit as the flood waters rose to “unnavigable” levels. It looked like a war zone, a friend who lives in the area reported.

Biñan, Sta. Rosa and San Pedro took the brunt of Maring because the rains poured since Sunday. In Sta. Rosa alone, 15 out of the 18 barangays were put under a state of calamity. Most if not all of the lakeshore villages in the area have been submerged in floodwater and as the newspapers reported daily since last Monday, the scope of the tragedy seems to widen every day.

What is happening in our country now is an urban planner’s nightmare. To think that typhoon Maring was considered little more than a tropical storm or monsoon rains by our weather forecasters when it started last Monday.

Regions 3 and 4 have likewise been declared under a state of calamity. In the center of this big fiasco is the once mighty Laguna de Bay, the biggest lake in the country with a shoreline of 220 km. which has been reduced to a shallow lake that is screaming to be dredged free from the meters-deep silt that has accumulated in the lake over the years.

Whatever happened to the Laguna Lake Development Area Authority which was supposed to act as a regulator, watchdog, and planner for the lake? Nothing has come out of the LLDA’s plan to produce a Lake Fishery Zoning and Management Plan which was supposed to reduce the area of fish pens in the lake. Big fish pen operators have boldly staked their claim on the lake with permanent metal structures, virtually taunting the authorities. Listening to DZMM’s interview with a Laguna official, I learned that the lake is now only three meters deep, from the original 14 meters that it used to be.  No wonder the water overflows from the lake easily with every heavy downpour.

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The fact that it drains through a single outlet, the Napindan Channel to form the Pasig River upon joining the Marikina River is crucial. Laguna de Bay is fed by 21 small rivers and streams, and at high tide, sea water used to flow into the bay until recently, when a hydraulic control structure addressed the problem. Still, much needs to be done to save Laguna de Bay, and dredging is foremost here. Haribon Foundation’s Save the Lake Movement forced the Rizal Cement Factory to relocate, thank heavens, but continuous dumping of waste from other factories has harmed the lake tremendously and resulted in rapid geological ageing so that we now have much poorer fish harvests from the lake. We need more concerted efforts and much government intervention and funding not only to save the bay but to ensure sustainability of the lake system.

Amazing Siargao

Siargao Island in the province of Surigao del Norte is the undisputed surfing capital of the Philippines. I was there recently at the invitation of Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), exclusive importers and distributors of Hyundai in the country and marveled at its pristine beauty despite the steady influx of tourists. Years ago, this was the state of Boracay, and I wondered sadly if (and when) Siargao would meet the same fate.

Siargao is 62,796 hectares of developed but unspoiled coastal land, with vast mangrove forests and fine, powdery sand in some of its beaches. Uniquely, several dialects are spoken here: Surigaonon, Cebuano, Tagalog and Boholano.

While there, I spoke with town officials and residents and learned that somebody influential has erected a structure that encroaches on the beach. This is exactly what has happened to Boracay.  If commercialism and urbanization will successfully devour this island so blessed with the bounty of Mother Nature, we would surely lose another jewel.

Siargao is rich in marine resources (think yellow fin tuna, blue marlin, lapulapu), endowed with natural lagoons, waterfalls and water caves, marvelous natural rock formations and healthy coral reefs. The town of General Luna here hosts big international surfing competitions (surf waves here reportedly reach up to 9 ft. high) while the Magpupungko Beach in Brgy. Poblacion, Pilar hosted the 1st Siargao Invitational Game Fishing Competition in 2008 and every year since then, prompting the past administration to declare the island as the game fishing capital of the Philippines.  It is picture-perfect, a world-famous site for surfing, diving and snorkeling, unspoiled and tranquil.

 Let’s keep it that way please.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

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