SAN PEDRO, LAGUNA, Philippines—The flood that has kept many towns of Laguna under water is making local chief executives realize that they are losing portions of the land to Laguna Lake.
“I think this will last longer,” San Pedro Mayor Calixto Cataquiz said.
As a temporary solution, Cataquiz said his office was transferring evacuees from the Central Elementary School to three buildings in the town to allow classes to resume.
But even after the flood subsides, “illegal settlers will now have to leave the shorelines,” he said because it would no longer be safe for people to live there.
He said the municipal government was requesting 5,000 housing units from the National Housing Authority to serve as permanent relocation shelters for displaced families.
At least 3,000 families in the town were displaced by the flood, of which about 300 are squatters.
Lumban Mayor Wilfredo Paraiso said most of the displaced people in his town were farm workers who lost crops when about 300 hectares of farmland were flooded.
He said his office was planning to impose a total log ban and a ban on the use of plastic materials as these clog waterways.
Unlike other towns, the flood that hit Sta. Maria following Tropical Storm “Ondoy” has receded, said Mayor Josie Cuento.
However, she said about 10 hectares of agricultural land were damaged by the deluge and at least 355 homes need to be rebuilt.
The municipal government is set to embark on tree planting to prevent landslides, which left several of the town’s roads mired in mud.
Mabitac Mayor Gerardo Fader is appealing to government agencies and private groups to help him revive the town, a fifth class municipality with a large portion of the population relying on agriculture.
“Both farm workers and fishermen were affected,” he said.
“Most of the farm workers do not actually own the land they till, and now, they have no source of income,” the mayor said.
In Pangil, large portions of three villages are still submerged in waist-deep flood, said Mayor Juanita Manzana.
“The flooded areas facing the lake are almost uninhabitable now. The residents are now in evacuation centers or relatives’ homes,” she said.
Lumban Mayor Wilfredo Paraiso said at least 1,400 families that rely on farming and fishing were displaced in the town.
The Laguna Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) is not taking chances against the possible rise of the lake that might again wreak havoc on already-flooded villages and municipalities as more typhoons and rains come.
Valentin Guidote, provincial planning officer and deputy coordinator of the PDCC, said people would have to be educated on environmental destruction and climate change.
Guidote reminded evacuees and residents to respond immediately and heed calls to evacuate.
“We are instructing people to build their own bamboo life savers, which are more durable than the rubber boats, to keep them afloat during floods.”
The flooding could be largely due to the massive concreting of land areas as a result of rapid urbanization, the head of the country’s volcano and earthquake monitoring agency said.
“Land in Manila is almost wholly covered with concrete roads and pavements,” said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
He said water from heavy rains has nowhere to go “so that it takes more time for floods to subside.”
He said a rise in sea level, even if just millimeters, would have drastic effects.
One of these, he said, is soil sinking as a result of more water being depleted from ground sources than water being absorbed. Maricar Cinco, Karen Lapitan and Romulo Ponte with a report from Ray Nasol, Inquirer Southern Luzon