In Bacoor, residents decry ‘too little help’ as they rebuild their lives after Paeng

Photo courtesy of Jovelyn Colibao

By JANNELA PALADIN
Bulatlat.com

BACOOR, Cavite – It has been a week since Typhoon Paeng (international name: Nalgae) wreaked havoc, and yet the flood water in a small community in Bacoor Cavite, south of the Philippine capital, has just begun to subside. Their streets are still buried in mud, which flood water has left behind.

For Jovelyn Colibao, 32, a resident of Riverside Dulong Bayan in Bacoor, fully recovering from the disaster has yet to begin with flood water still in their home.

“We can hardly sleep at night. We don’t know where to ask for help,” she told Bulatlat.

The province of Cavite is still under a state of calamity, following the destruction that Typhoon Paeng brought. Two days before its landfall, heavy rains have begun submerging many communities. Three of the reported 112 deaths due to the typhoon came from Cavite.

The Zapote River swelled to 13 feet. Residents, on the other hand, reported to Bulatlat that the Prinza Water Dam, which is located in the Zapote River and stretches between Bacoor and Las Piñas, seemed to have overflowed due to the Paeng rains, resulting in massive flooding in the nearby villages of Talaba, Zapote, Mambog, Habay, and Bayanan.

Such flooding, said Colibao, is not new to them, having lived in Cavite since birth. She is sure, however, that this flooding will not be the last.

“The (government) should act on this. We get flooded even in the slightest rain. That has been the pattern over and over again,” Colibao stated.

No assistance

Colibao considers her small income as a quality control officer for a garment factory enough for her family’s needs. But Paeng and the flooding that came with the typhoon destroyed their belongings.

“The flood water was more than five feet high. This is a first for our community to experience that kind of flooding,” she said.

But the harrowing experience did not end there. In the days that followed, they tried to ask for assistance both from the local and national government but did not get any. This, she said, made their experience more traumatizing, especially since they do not know where to start in rebuilding their lives.

Apart from Colibao, Paul Barce, 23, a resident of Noveleta, Cavite, which was among the most affected city by Typhoon Paeng, said that while they received government assistance, including ready-to-eat food, rice, and other toiletries, it should not stop the government from properly addressing the situation and ensure that this will not happen again.

The heavy outpours made the Ylang Ylang River swell, resulting in critical levels. Barce said this brought flooding to their community, and their home was submerged in flood water.

“The issues we are facing should be addressed. The projects that they are doing should be relevant, like proper drainage for each village, to ensure that this tragedy will not happen again in the future,” Barce said.

A highly populated city

Colibao said that there are so many road projects surrounding them as the city attempts to accommodate the growing number of people hoping to reside there due to its proximity to Metro Manila. Over the years, residents have seen the city transition from a largely agricultural-based economy to a residential and commercial center.

The Philippine government’s 2020 data showed that Cavite is the most densely populated province with 2,847 persons per square kilometer.

Bacoor, too, is the most densely populated component city in the country with 14,395 persons per square kilometer, per the 2020 Philippine Statistics Authority data.

“There are so many road constructions here that aim to elevate the highways and make them bigger. But this has also destroyed our rivers, with construction debris dumped there,” Colibao said.

In a very dense city, the Bacoor City Council has long attributed the city’s long-standing flooding problem to:

(a) deficient drainage systems constructed by the DPWH and private land developers,

(b) parts of the city’s drainage system silted with plastic garbage and other flotsam or obstructed by unethical private property developers,

(c) the increase in water levels caused by the augmented severity of weather-related events for the past years.

Findings of the 2011 Cavite Development Research Program of the De La Salle University – Dasmariñas revealed that “Cavite being one of the fastest growing urbanized centers in the Philippines is expected to experience a severe flood crisis as population growth and surburbanization intensifies.”

Government response?

At the height of the massive flooding and destruction caused by Typhoon Paeng, citizens have noted the seeming absence of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Read: Citizens criticize Marcos Jr.’s absence in hardest hit areas, low budget for disaster response

Later, he told the media during a visit in Noveleta, Cavite that the government is working with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to look into long-term flood mitigation efforts for the province.

In its website, JICA said in 2021 that the Imus River Basin, which has a holding capacity of 35 hectares, may ease the Imus and Bacoor rivers from swelling during heavy downpours. This basin was among the three off-site flood retarding basin mentioned in the 2009 JICA comprehensive study in cooperation with the Philippine government.

“It is difficult to talk now because we have never benefited (from these projects). For now, we have not received any assistance,” Colibao added. (JJE, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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