To Build or Not to Build

The situational briefing of regional line agencies conducted at the Pampanga Provincial Capitol last August 7 heated up after the idea of creating a water catchment area at the Candaba Swamp had cropped up. Political leaders led by Rep. Ana York Bondoc of Pampanga’s 4th Congressional District simply did not take the idea hook, line, and sinker – and threatened of a “security issue” that might erupt if the plan to make a water impounding area in the swamp pushes through.

Bondoc said the 4th District is the remaining rice-producing area of Pampanga province and submerging it with more water will trigger an agrarian revolt of sort referencing to the armed group Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap) of World War II which degenerated into Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB), the precursor of the modern-day New People’s Army.

But will the development of a 200-hectare area of Candaba Swamp into a water catchment area trigger an armed conflict? The area is around 2,000 hectares. In the free market place of ideas, an armed conflict is not likely to erupt in the 4th District with the blessings of political leaders.

In the presence of no less than President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Bondoc has aired her opposition to the development of water catchment basin, something that Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando and Bulacan officials had supported. Why not build the water impounding area in Bulacan instead? Since most of the floodwater are going to Bulacan anyway.

Since the Bulacan International Airport will be located in a reclaimed land which is elevated, the flow of water into the Manila Bay will also be constricted, meaning the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan are in for the long-haul of constant flooding. Thanks to Bulacan officials, the residents of Pampanga will be damned forever.

Marcos is no longer satisfied with the dredging of tributaries because as he said it was “exceedingly expensive” and is draining the government coffers while rivers become silted in every four to six months. It’s simply money down the drain.

Not even the Korean loan that Bondoc had been trying to tell Marcos will solve the flooding because as Marcos said “dredging is only temporary.” The Korean loan again will be used for desilting purposes and the fortifying of slope protection.

But Marcos was right noting the siltation comes from the upper reaches and not from the slopes, thus flooding will be experienced every rainy season. Typhoons “Egay” and “Falcon,” by any standard, were not even super typhoons. And the lives of ordinary people had been severely affected with trade and commerce affected by the monstrous traffic jam created by the flooding of the North Luzon Expressway, the first time that it was experienced in its long history.

So what now?

With the upcoming Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICECON) 2024 in the Clark Freeport Zone fast approaching, the state-run Clark Development Corporation feared that the rains may bring the specter of flooding anew and affect the important occasion.

MICECON is set to take place on July 10 to 12, 2024, at SMX Clark and with it Pampanga province will play an important role during the said event. But if Pampanga province becomes a waterworld anew in July next year, we can kiss the MICECON 2024 goodbye.

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