Citizens help Marikina achieve disaster resiliency
“Ang secret ng resiliency ng Marikina is the partnership between the government and the citizens of Marikina,” said Dave C. David, the chief of the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO) in a conference for multiple climate stakeholders, according to a report by Manila Bulletin.
David shared Marikina City’s best practices in terms of the end-to-end Early Warning System (EWS) utilized in flood control and management during the 4th-day session of the 9th “Ecosystem Approach to Disaster Risk and Climate Change.”
The event was hosted by the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP), in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UN-SSC).
He highlighted the institutionalization of the city’s flood protocol as the basis for the standard operating procedure of all concerned units, wherein responders do not need to wait for the mayor’s orders, and barangays do not need permission for evacuation.
It includes the monitoring for the weather, the Marikina River water level, and the rainfall level, as well as the dissemination of information, and then evacuation camp management.
This concrete action plan provided all departments of the city government to be involved in the calamity response by assigning them roles in varying stages of the protocol. They are liable to the mayor.
“Everybody is doing their share. Hindi po kaya ng gobyerno lang na kami lang po ang nagtatrabaho (The government cannot do this alone),” David said.
“Sa Marikina, ini-empower po namin sila. Walang sisihan. Nagtutulong-tulong po kami. Kung mayroon pong nagkulang, defined po iyon sa role niya, so madali po i-identify kung sino ang hindi nagtrabaho (In Marikina, we empower all stakeholders. We don’t blame one another, but help each other. If there are any issues, it is defined in their roles, which makes it easier to identify the individuals who did not fulfill their assigned tasks),” he added.
Catch basin of the valley
David said the city’s geographical location is the primary reason why flooding persists in the city, despite the implementation of solid waste management programs, and conversion of the Marikina riverside to a 21 km eco-tourism park.
Marikina City sits within a valley, bordered by the Sierra Madre mountain range to the east; Pasig City, and Cainta, Rizal to the south; Quezon City to the west; and Montalban, San Mateo, Rizal to the north.
Rains that target the northern border areas trickle down to the city, particularly to the Marikina River. Nine out of 16 barangays lie beside the river which increases their risk to flooding.
Early Warning System
This geographical characteristic of the city gave birth to the DRRMO’s Early Warning System (EWS).
The DRRMO command center monitors the weather conditions through the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) forecasts and rainfall density via the Effective Flood Control Operation System (EFCOS).
Extensive CCTV and on-the-ground monitoring through the water level gauging station (WLGS) are also done to the Marikina River water level set up at the pillars of the Marikina Bridge.
Based on the protocol’s alarm system, the first alarm is rung when the water level reaches 15 meters. This means that those residing in low-lying areas near the river must prepare for evacuation. The second alarm is triggered at 16 meters, which allows voluntary evacuation of residents. When the water level reaches the highest alarm, the third at 18 meters, residents are then forced to evacuate.
David recalled the Marikina River water level rose to 23 meters during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, and 21.5 meters during Typhoon Ulysses in 2020.
Different local government agencies also monitor flooded areas, and identify streets that are passable or non-passable to vehicles.
Based on the collected data, they are able to pinpoint the locations where they need to fix drainages that may have contributed to the flood.
In terms of rainfall levels, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) installed rainfall gauges at the mountainous areas in the upstream of Marikina (Mt Campana, Mt. Boso-boso, Mt. Aries, Mt. Oro, Nangka).
In-city rainfall gauges are also set up at Youth Camp, Jesus Dela Pena; Green St., Concepcion Dos; Bulelak, Malanday; and Sampaguita, Concepcion Uno.
Based on rainfall data from these areas, they are given a lead time of around two to three hours to determine the expected water level in the river.
They are able to preposition their assets such as deploying rescue boats and other needed equipment and personnel even before flooding starts. There are more than 55 boats owned by the DRRMO. Boat staging areas or terminals are also determined.
David emphasized that they always use quantifiable measurements to determine and calculate their data.
David said that social media, particularly Facebook, plays a vital role in disseminating information to the public.
The DRRMO through the Marikina Rescue 161 Facebook page have CCTV live streams of the Marikina River water level. They also post their forecasted data through this page or the Marikina Public Information Office (PIO).
David said that Marikina citizens are “empowered because of information.” They know the protocols and are “not simply reliant on their barangays or local government to call on them to evacuate.”
The siren system also helps relay information as it notifies residents about the river’s condition, and signals their respective courses of action.
There are overall 12 sirens in the city, with seven located around the Marikina River.
The DRRMO coordinates with the Parks Development Office (PDO), the Engineering Office, and the Department of Education (DepEd) in regards to possible suspension of classes.
The Marikina Settlement Office (MSO) mainly manages the evacuation procedures as they are immersed in the communities. Personnel are put on stand-by, as well as their equipment and transport vehicles.
For registration, David noted that all departments and offices who may be idle in times of calamities such as the Local Registry Office, or the finance offices are given duties such as camp managers to support disaster response.
Cages are also prepared in evacuation camps to cater to rescued animals or pets in need.
The city has 58 evacuation centers that utilize modular tents per family.
Food relief and preparation is also centralized, managed by the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), with the Marikina Sports Center serving as the distribution hub.
An all-hands-on-deck approach is implemented where all available local government laborers can serve as cooks and other roles. David added that they can prepare around 10,000 packs of food in two hours.
The flood protocol is also continuously evolving, wherein changes are made to certain provisions every year in areas that need improvement, David said.
Prior to the pandemic, the local government only opened evacuation camps when the water level hit 14 meters. Now camps are opened at 13 meters in order to implement the health and safety protocols.
Protocols for fire, mass casualty incidents, and earthquakes are also continuously being refined.