Php2.1-B pumping project now ready to free Legazpi from floods

Legazpi City viewed from Lignon Hill

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 7 (PNA) -- The much-awaited operation of the vaunted three pumping stations under the controversial Php2.1-billion flood control project of this regional center city is seen to free this coastal city from perennial flooding that often renders business establishments close.

Legazpi City is reportedly below sea level during normal high tide so that seawater waves block the outflow of flood, said businessman Rafael Lo, a retired mayor of Polangui town who has businesses in the city.

Lo said it was the belief of most Legazpi residents that had Typhoon "Yolanda" not spared Albay province, Legazpi could have suffered worse than Tacloban City where more than 7,000 people died from storm surge.

City Mayor Noel Rosal said that with the three pumping stations, widening and concreting of creeks and construction of other major flood control projects in the city, Legazpi flooding would be greatly minimized.

During Typhoon Reming in November 2007, where close to 2,000 people were killed in the province of Albay, Legazpi suffered a harrowing experience when residential houses at the city's Albay district towards the coastal city poblacion were submerged by floods as high as four meters while a thousand of houses in the towns of Camalig and Daraga near the Yawa river were either washed out or buried, including Barangay Padang in Legazpi.

Disaster officials pointed out that the floods in Legazpi during Typhoon "Reming" came from storm rains and floods from Mt. Mayon and sea water from strong waves.

The Regional Development Council chaired by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda pushed for the realization of the Php2.1-billion Legazpi flood control project, Php335 million of which went to the three pumping stations.

Typhoon "Nona" could have tested the strength of the project.

Salceda said the rest of the Php2.1 billion budget has been programmed for other major flood control structures in the city alone.

The three pumping stations are situated at neighboring rivers in Barangays San Roque, Pigcale, and Victory village.

A Department of Public Works and Highways report said the major pumping station at Barangay Victory Village has so far not been completed yet, citing adjustments.

Salceda urged the DPWH to facilitate the construction of the third pumping station at Barangay Victory Village.

DPWH officials said the pumping station at Barangay Victory Village would clear the five-kilometer long Macabalo River emanating from the city's Albay district, affecting Barangays Tulatula, Maoyod, Cabangan, Imperial Court, Dapdap, Binanuahan East and West, Lapulapu, Victory village and Dinagaan.

These said barangays suffered the most during "Reming" when their houses were submerged by storm water as high as four meters while a thousand of houses in the towns of Daraga and Camalig near the Yawa river and Padang in Legazpi were either washed out, if not buried.

DPWH assistant regional director Armando Estrella said that with the construction of the wider Rawis flood control project, hopefully Barangay Rawis flooding will be solved and transportation towards the first district will not be affected.

The Rawis flood control project forms part of the Php145 million expansion to four-lane of the two-lane 130-meter-long Yawa Bridge, according to Don Asejo, information officer of the Albay 2nd District Engineering Office undertaking the project.

In a briefing at the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) with agencies concerned a day before Typhoon Nona struck on Dec. 14, the media asked DPWH Region 5 information officer Lucy Castaneda about the status of the much-awaited three pumping stations in Legazpi that have been boasted would solve the Legazpi flooding.

Castaneda said she has no knowledge about the pumping stations' status, adding it was already in the control of the city government on the strength of a Memorandum of Agreement between the DPWH and Legazpi City government.

But in the afternoon during the same continuing briefing at the APSEMO before Typhoon Nona, DPWH Engr. Egan Nunez, the pumping station project engineer, explained that the pumping stations have yet to be turned over to the city pending realization of the MOA as the third pumping station at Barangay Victory Village has yet to be completed.

He said that of the Php2.1 billion budget, which included the Php335 million for the three pumping stations, only Php1.3 billion has so far been spent.

According to Nunez, the counterpart of the city government under the MOA is the control of operation and maintenance of the three pumping stations once these are completed and turned over.

An official of the Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., which is implementing the Php2.1-billion project, said there own crewmen were ready to test operate the two completed pumping stations at Barangays San Roque and Pigcale during Typhoon Nona but, he said, it did not operate because there was no flooding.

The official, who spoke on condition his name be withheld for lack of authority to talk, however, said the MOA between the DPWH and Legazpi City has already been signed, only that the turnover has yet to be realized pending completion of the third pumping station.

He said with the consent of the DPWH, the two pumping stations were ready for testing during Typhoon Nona at the total expense of Sunwest. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MU/CBD/EDS