About a thousand square meters of adjoining properties located at the back of the City Hall compound have been submerged in drainage water since 2015, turning backyards into a swamp covered with large water lilies.
In an interview with the Chronicle yesterday, new City Engineer Teodoro Estoque explained that the concern had been addressed already after the city government completed the drainage system in the area.
Estoque also said LABB Construction has already bought the property at the back portion of the fire station and raised the ground level with filling materials.
This way, no more drainage water would flow down to the nearby properties which were the subject of the concern of the residents that were brought to the attention of city officials.
However, the Chronicle found that as of yesterday, full-grown water lilies have covered the properties and floodwater of up to one foot in height remains impounded inside the house of the Carnice family and the house beside theirs remain submerged up to the roof, while the other property located next to the boundary at the back portion of the fire station have been covered with water lilies.
The concrete fence of about five-feet bordering the property of the Carnice family and the next property is still covered by water lilies with only one foot of the upper portion is left visible.
One of the property owners in the area, the Carnice family, first raised the concern in February 2015 through a letter to city officials.
Wilfredo and Natividad Carnice addressed their February 2015 letter to Mayor John Geesnell Yap with copies furnished to First District Rep. Rene Relampagos, Vice-Mayor Jose Antonio Veloso, City Administrator Leonides Borja, then Cogon barangay captain Nicanor Besas, then PENRO Nestor Canda, the city councilors and barangay kagawads of Cogon at that time.
The Office of the City Administrator received the first letter on February 12, 2015.
The Carnices appealed for help and intervention from the city government to ease their situation after Typhoons Queeni and Seniang brought a volume of rainwater that submerged their house and their neighbors’, including the informal settlers’.
They said they had been residing in the area, the lowland portion at the back of the City Hall compound and the fire station, for 27 years already as of 2015.
Many storms, even stronger ones, came in the 27 years prior, bringing heavy rainfall, but never once had they been flooded until then, Natividad told the Chronicle in an interview yesterday.
“As Seniang began pouring, our whole backyard turned into a deep swampland in just a few hours. What was worst was that this dirty, sewage-smelling, algae and trash-loaded water flooded the first floor of our residence at almost five feet. For some residents near us, it meant flooding up to the roofs of their homes,” the Carnices narrated in their letter.
They said it was during Typhoon Seniang in November 2014 that they experienced the first flooding in the 27 years that they had been living in the area.
Their things inside the house were destroyed and they had to transfer some of those they could still salvage to the upper ground as the water that got into their house rose to third level.
Since then, rush of water from the canal from Dao Public Market and from a big establishment nearby would reach their house and the adjacent house.
They even noticed the informal settlers had been moving their houses along the borders at the back of the fire station from one spot to another in trying to avoid the rush of water coming from the drainage.
At present, floodwater with foul odor remains trapped at the basement of the house of the Carnices that rendered unfit for use, three rooms and a comfort room there.
“The health of our family and our neighbors’ are in danger as we have been exposed to the risk of contracting diseases,” the Carnices said.
The family in the adjacent property had even transferred to barangay Taloto where they had to be accommodated by relatives as their house is totally submerged in water up to the roof.
The Carnices also reiterated what they had stated in their 2015 letter that “it is a public knowledge that in the past administration, a canal was dug for sewage from the Dao Public Market traversing the highway towards the area at the back of the City hall which serves as a ‘catch basin’ tagged as ‘Lakes 1 and 2’. It was even alleged by residents that some business establishments have diverted their waste into that canal”.
“For many years, sewage has been contained in these Lakes 1 and 2, and why all of a sudden this wastewater has now reached our place? The next big question is this: ‘Has there been an environmental clearance issued by the DENR allowing sewage to be dropped and routed to where people reside, and thus are exposed to the threat of flooding and diseases?” according to the Carnices.
They added that there were some reports that “residents living near the ‘catch basin’ dug a canal from ‘Lakes 1 and 2’ towards the lower portion to allow the impounded sewage to flow down the terrain”.
“And, since our property and our neighbors’ are at the dead end of the lowest elevation in the area, we are greatly affected. In fact, it would take several days for the extremely polluted, sewage-smelling water inside our house to recede and subside. Furthermore, as this writing (February 2015), around 600 square meters or more of our property and other adjoining lots are under water and now tagged as ‘Lake 3’,” the Carnices said.
On this, they requested the city government to investigate and initiate intervention to address their situation as it had been a traumatic experience on their part that “rains would mean flooding all over again”.
Since there had been no response to their February 2015 letter, they sent a second letter to the officials on August 15, 2017.
On August 31 that year, they received a letter from the Office of the Mayor, inviting them to personally discuss the problem with the City Mayor, then City Engineer Pianicita Castolo and Engr. Noel Datahan.
The meeting pushed through on September 6, 2017; and the following day, they attended a meeting of the 13thSangguniang Panlungsod; along with the OIC at the City Health Office; Castolo, DPWH Engineer Francis Antonio Flores, Alturas Group of Companies General Manager Marlito Uy.
Also on September 7, 2017, City Councilor Vicente Polinar volunteered to head a committee that will solve the problem.
Datahan, along with three other persons, had visited their place three times already and the third was on January 3, 2018, to check the area again.
Two days later, former city mayor Jose Torralba and City Councilor Vicente Polinar visited them to also check the area.
The next day, a truckload of soil was delivered to them by from Datahan through Val Anthony Construction.
On February 27 last year, Polinar sent them a text message, asking them what solutions did they (the Carnices) had in mind.
On March 1 last year, the Carnices sent the third letter, raising the same issue, to the mayor, the vice mayor, the city engineer, city councilors, the barangay officials, DPWH engineer, the then DENR secretary, and the OIC-PENRO at that time.
Castolo, Datahan, and Caesar Pelaez visited them on March 20 last year.
On March 27, 2018, they received a letter from DENR-CENRO and DENR-PENRO, telling the Carnices that they had forwarded the concern to the provincial head.
On May 10, 2018, Poliar visited them, along with two persons who worked for Ingenium Werks Corporation, one of them was the general manager of Diomedes Pason.
On October 12, 2018, Datahan visited them again and brought with him an excavator to level off or flatten the heap of soil that was left in the garden on January 6 that year, because the filling materials was not enough and was not the right material to fill up the flooded area.