AT the height of the rains last Sunday, with many areas flooded, a big part of Metro Manila found itself without water from its faucets. It was “water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” to quote the Rime of the Ancient Mariner about a ship stranded in uncharted waters near the equator.
The rains that fell on Metro Manila and several provinces was good water that was fit to drink, but it caused the water supply stored at Angat Dam in Bulacan to turn turbid, clouded with stirred-up sediment from soil eroded from the Angat watershed area. Maynilad thus reduced its supply of water to Metro Manila as it stepped up its treatment of the water supply at its La Mesa plant.
Meanwhile, most of the rain that fell on a wide area of Luzon caused floods in many towns and barangays, before flowing out to sea. The dams we now have are in danger of overflowing if the rains continue, as the weather bureau expects, for a few more days.
Now that we have a new administration, it should be time to take this long-standing problem and turn it into a vital element for progress, not only in flood mitigation and control but also in averting the perennial waste of a valuable resource – our abundant rain water – and using it for increased agricultural production.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted to Congress last Monday the administration’s proposed national budget of R3.35 trillion for 2017, higher by 11.6 percent than the R3.002 trillion for 2016. Notable among the many increased budget items is R860.7 billion for infrastructures. It will be a “golden age of public infrastructure” in the country by the end of the Duterte administration, DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.
We expect a great part of that infrastructure budget to go to agriculture which needs to rehabilitate its long-neglected irrigation system – one big reason we can’t produce our own rice needs and have to import hundreds of thousands of tons of it yearly from Vietnam and Thailand.
We need to rehabilitate our dams and to add to them so that the heavy rains that regularly fall on our islands will be saved for irrigation and household use, as well as for the production of hydro-electric power. All this rain water that’s causing so much destruction is really a valuable resource if we only use it properly.
The 2017 national budget is only the first for the next six years of the Duterte administration. We can begin this year with the more urgent infrastructure needs, such as roads and bridges to open up the many still isolated parts of our country – and incidentally ease the traffic in our cities, flood-control projects to protect our urban areas, and immediate repair of irrigation systems. But in succeeding national budgets, we hope to see the construction of reservoirs that will save our rain water and use it for national production.
By the end of the six years of this administration we will truly have a golden age not just in infrastructure but also in total national development.