A flooded street in Barangay Tumana in Marikina City, Philippines. Photo by: Dave Llavanes Jr

Another storm is threatening to dump heavy rain on the Philippines, which is still reeling from recent floods. But in the works is a government master plan that seems to hold promise to reduce flooding in the Asian nation.

The government’s flood management master plan — initially billed at 352 billion Philippine pesos ($8.4 billion) — aims to make the country flood-resilient, Patrick Gatan told the Inquirer. The Department of Public Works and Highways’ flood control director said the master plan contains 11 “high priority” projects, including dikes, embankments, catch basins and pumping stations.

The projects — at least three of them — are expected to be finished before President Benigno Aquino III’s term expires in 2016. But work on any of the projects has yet to start as the master plan is awaiting approval from the country’s economic and development authority, which the president heads, Inquirer reports.

Flooding in the Philippines is a perennial problem — an average 20 typhoons hit the country every year. Last week, monsoon rains paralyzed much of Manila, leading to class and work suspensions, and the deaths of more than 80 people, according to the National Disaster for Risk Reduction and Management.

While the government says it is now better prepared, the country is in need of more robust disaster risk-reduction measures to mitigate the effects of the seasonal rains. Apart from loss of life and infrastructure, storms and floods cost the Philippines millions in dollars in economic losses. In 2011, the country lost $370 million to these disasters, according to statistics from the Emergency Events Database of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

The country has already put several other measures in place. Its weather bureau, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services, now makes use of a color-coded rainfall and flood warning system: yellow for monitoring, orange for possible evacuation and red for evacuation.

In addition, the president has asked the bureau to use layman’s terms in its weather forecasts and updates.

But there remain a number of challenges for the Philippines to address, including the problem of urbanization. DPWH’s accomplishment report on dismantling illegal structures across the country last year was, “in reality … a drop in a huge bucket,” Philippine columnist Ducky Paredes said Tuesday in an opinion piece for local paper Malaya.

Slum dwellers often return to danger zones such as river banks and dump sites to set up shanties following relocations.

“The new climate situation [in Asia] requires more disaster risk reduction investments in urban planning as unplanned urbanization is increasing flood impacts,” U.N. disaster risk reduction chief Margareta Wahlström said in a news release.

There is also need for strong political will.

“I haven’t heard of a local government, a town or city that has a comprehensive drainage masterplan,” Urban planner Nathaniel Einsiedel told Agence France-Presse.

Tropical storm Kai-Tak, known locally as Helen, is expected to make landfall Wednesday (Aug. 15). While no warning signals are raised over Manila, the Philippine capital can expect more rains in the next 24 hours, according to PAGASA.

Meanwhile, Canada, the European Union and South Korea have announced aid in support of disaster relief operations in the Philippines due to last week’s floods. The U.N. World Food Program is also complementing the government’s relief efforts by providing food to those affected by the floods, according to a press release.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.