DPWH no longer keen on Marikina dam project


Jenina P. Ibañez


Senior Reporter

A DAM at the Pasig River-Marikina basin will not be built by the government as originally planned under a World Bank loan, as a similar project would instead be done by the private sector.

World Bank in its implementation report of a $2.73-million grant on flood management in the greater Metro Manila area said the studies and designs were achieved despite delays caused by the pandemic.

“However, the long-term development outcome of flood control and management in the Pasig River-Marikina Basin may not be fully realized,” the World Bank said in a report released on Saturday.

“As of the preparation of this (report), the government has indicated that the dam will not be constructed as originally planned.”

The World Bank loan was used for preparing priority projects identified in a flood management master plan to improve flood control in and around the capital region.

The flood management master plan approved by the National Economic and Development Authority in 2012 estimated a P352-billion cost over at least two decades. The plan includes measures to reduce flooding from rivers running through the city, improvements on city drains, and the development of early warning systems.

The World Bank-financed project studied flood management priority projects through engineering, economic, and social and environmental analyses.

The project, implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), prepared proposals for upper Marikina River structural measures, flood forecasting, and institutional arrangements for sustainable flood management.

The project successfully developed studies for a heightened upper Marikina dam, flood retention basin design, early warning system, and institutional plan.

This was done amid delays that extended the closing date by 54 months after election and pandemic-related disruptions.

“The grant became effective in June 2015 and national elections happened in May 2016. During this period, DPWH did not carry out any procurement as the outgoing administration decided to leave the decision on the grant to the incoming administration,” the World Bank said.

The new government approved the plan, but DPWH decided on a consultant strategy that led to delays.

Linking the design of the upper Marikina dam and the retention basin also required design adjustments in both, after a study found that basin excavation would be deeper than expected.

Consulting teams in 2020 were also caught in the lockdown during the start of the pandemic last year.

The loan was approved in 2014 and came into effect in 2015. The original closing date of January 2017 was extended and the project closed by June 2021.

DPWH, in the report, said that it agreed with the World Bank’s assessment on pandemic-related delays, which “significantly impacted the consultant’s conduct of field works and liaisons with the stakeholders.”

“Nevertheless, the project’s expected outcomes were eventually realized amidst substantial delays,” the department said in an Oct. 1 letter to the bank.

The flood control management outcome may not be fully done under the bank’s assistance, the department added, as it would be done by the private sector.

“We would like to assure, however, that the department is very much keen on pursuing the implementation of the flood retention basin under the bank’s financial auspices.”

World Bank said studies from the project would likely still be used by the government in coming up with alternative flood management solutions.

DPWH Flood Control Engineer Lydia Aguilar said the proposed upper Marikina dam is similar to a project under the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, the Upper Wawa Dam. The project, under Wawa JVCo., aims to provide additional water supply in the greater Metro Manila region.

“During our coordination meeting, which was instructed by the NEDA Investment Coordination Committee, it was found out that both projects are almost on the same location, approximately 250 meters away from each other,” she said in a Viber message.

The private firm had already secured all clearances for the Upper Wawa Dam under the same location, while the DPWH had yet to secure complete documents.

“The Department has decided to forego the implementation of the Upper Marikina Dam on the condition that the Wawa JVCo accommodate the total required flood volume equivalent to 87.0 MCM (million cubic meters) designed under the DPWH Dam, including all the necessary operating protocol in the dam management for flood control and water supply,” she said.

The DPWH, she added, will instead focus on other flood control infrastructure like the retarding basin.