Of strong rains and flooding, in the past and the future

By Joshua Corcuera

With the Philippines now in the rainy season, torrential rains are occurring frequently in most parts of the country—Metro Manila being no exception.

In the past few days, strong thunderstorms have caused flooding in some places in the Philippine capital. Last Thursday, weaker localized thunderstorms occurred but still flooded some roads in Manila, such as Nakpil Street and Taft Pedro Gil LRT station as reported by the local government.

Several factors are blamed as to the flooding such as the inherent risk that Manila is a flood-prone area. This is true even in the past with photos and documents during the Commonwealth era of the early 20th century proving this claim. For instance, a kalesa—a horse-drawn carriage—was photographed while dealing with floods. As a matter of fact, a photo from 1914 showed a part of the Bridge of Spain in Manila being destroyed by heavy rains which resulted in the overflow of the Pasig River. Infrastructure damage caused by storms, after all, is not a new thing.

Additionally, stronger intensity of typhoons, and the fact that such deadly storms are becoming more frequent due to climate change, contribute to more common cases of flooding. It cannot be denied that the global climate is abnormal and extreme. Just recently as well, record-breaking rains and flooding in South Korea has claimed at least 11 lives and damaged thousands of homes as of Thursday evening. Foreign media outlets have also reported that the strong rainfall in the East Asian country was the heaviest in a century. There are also several scientific articles claiming that strong storms are expected to become more common in the next few years.

Moreover, an article published by the University of California (UC) Press by Dimas Fauzi, from the National University of Singapore, stated that rising sea levels and land subsidence, due to rapid urbanization and over-extraction of groundwater, are also to blame for flooding in the Philippine capital. From the same article, it can be implied that responses to coastal flooding must address the mentioned root causes. “However, it appears that the policies implemented tend to be infrastructural,” wrote Fauzi (2021). “For example, dike construction, which could provide immediate protection but do not really solve the problem,” the researcher ended.

Nevertheless, in response to these problems, the Makati local government was reported to focus on flood control programs such as the Solid Waste Management Code and Green Building Code, among others. Aside from these, other programs that are intended to lessen environmental damage would be pursued such as anti-smoke belching and banning single-use plastics.

It is of the utmost importance for other local government units to deal with climate change and typhoon-related problems just like the local government of Makati. Time is of the essence, and an efficient response is a must. More importantly, dealing with the problems we face have to be holistic, data-driven, and guided by scientific consensus, rather than responses that are merely short-term and simply being appealing to the eye instead of solving real problems.