As rainy season nears, Miriam's flood-related bills still pending

MANILA, Philippines – Proposed legislation intended to ease flooding remain pending in the Senate even as the rainy season nears.

To address the country's perennial flooding problem, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed 3 bills proposing flood prevention reforms and the creation of a flood recovery fund. These bills, however, await second reading in the Senate, said Santiago.

Inundations have become commonplace in the country with the onset of the rainy season. These are especially evident in Metro Manila, where sudden rainfall easily translates to flooded areas. (IN PHOTOS: Flooding in Manila)

In recent years, monsoon rains or habagat have also become as destructive as the typhoons that hit the country every year. Monsoon rains in 2012 and 2013 brought Metro Manila and most of southern Luzon to a standstill, in almost the same way Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) did in 2009. (BY THE NUMBERS: Ondoy, Habagat 2012, Habagat 2013)

Two of Santiago's Senate bills propose to allot funds for financial assistance to flood victims and for research purposes to study how best to prepare for and respond to floods.

Flood recovery fund

Senate Bill 394, refiled in the 16th Congress in July 2013, seeks to establish a Flood Recovery Fund, which will be made available to Filipinos adversely affected by floods.

According to Santiago, the fund will help victims to immediately recover from the debilitating effects of intense flooding and heavy rains.

Applications for financial assistance in the form of no-interest loans will be processed by Flood Recovery Fund Action Centers, under the supervision and control of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1576, or the national flood and research education bill, proposes to create an Office of Flood Research and Policy (OFRP) to develop best practices for predicting, preventing, and minimizing flooding and its effects.

As proposed by SB 1725, filed in September 2013, research grants to institutions of higher education may also be extended by the OFRP. The office will be put under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Preventing accidents in culverts

The third bill, Senate Bill 1724, or the culvert safety bill, would require all governmental entities to have uniform safeguards to prevent people from falling into culverts (imburnal or open sewers) or other similar forms of drainage during floods.

"This bill will especially protect children who wander into culverts or drainage systems, particularly when an area is flooded and the drainage system can hardly be seen," explained Santiago.

If passed into law, the culvert safety bill would require concerned government agencies to ensure (1) that culverts or enclosed drainage systems are appropriately covered, (2) that warning signs are posted near the culverts, and (3) that culverts would have a hinged opening and closing mechanism to permit emergency services personnel to access the system.

Originally filed during the 13th Congress, SB 1724 was refiled in the current 16th Congress in September 2013. – Michael Bueza/