By Jhon Aldrin Casinas
It has been a decade since Storm “Ondoy” unleashed cataclysmic floods that swamped most of Metro Manila.
On Sept. 26, 2009, the swollen Marikina River breached its banks and floodwaters of up to 10 feet deep it some places submerged 14 out of Marikina City’s 16 barangays.
Ondoy left 78 people dead and displaced over 15,000 residents.
A lot has changed since that tragic September weekend. What endures, however, is the unwavering resiliency of Marikeños to recover from adversity.
Dave David, Marikina City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office chief, said that the secret behind the Marikina’s resiliency is the strong partnership of the community and the local government.
“It was the partnership of the community and the city government. That is the secret to our resiliency,” David told Manila Bulletin in an interview.
Marikina residents, David said, became more responsive to evacuation advisories and evacuated their homes even before the river began to rise.
“That is the reason why our system is organized for we have already realized during ‘Ondoy’ that whatever resources the government could provide, it would still be insufficient to mobilize everything,” he said. “Aside from the preparations laid out by the city government, the whole of Marikina prepares as well whenever there is a calamity.”
The Marikina City government throughout the years has rolled out various disaster management measures and flood mitigation systems.
Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said the city government allotted over P180 million annually for the city’s disaster management budget.
“This is used for the purchase and upgrade of equipment, training of personnel, management of evacuation camps, and rehabilitation of areas damaged by calamities,” Teodoro said.
The city government has also developed disaster-resilient communities wherein residents are trained in first aid, water rescue, and evacuation protocols.
Among the changes were the improvement of the city’s drainage systems, construction of retaining walls along the stretch of Marikina River, and continuous dredging operations to increase the river’s water capacity.
Rainfall monitoring systems have also been installed in the surrounding areas of Marikina particularly in Mount Campana, Mount Boso Boso, Mount Aries, Mount Oro, and in Nangka.
“If it registers up to 30mm of rainfall in the next three hours of continuous rains, we expect that the river will rise at 15 meters,” Teodoro said. “Even the travel time of water at a given speed is computed.”
In 2018, the city government acquired modular tents for its evacuation centers. David said this is to improve the decency and privacy of evacuees in evacuations centers. To date, Teodoro said the city government has 5,000 modular tents that could each accommodate seven to eight persons.
A new system has been set up at evacuation camps wherein evacuees have to check-in and register once they arrived. Evacuees will be given an ID and a booklet to monitor the assistance provided to them before they were led to their assigned modular tent.
However, with all the equipment, training, and funding, David said that they could never claim to be fully ready for future calamities.
“Nobody can exactly determine what nature will give you. So our mindset is to continuously prepare.”