[PHOTO -Nuns and police officers pack relief goods for flood victims at a DSWD warehouse in Pasay City yesterday. JONJON VICENCIO]

MANILA, AUGUST 11, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Mike Frialde - A major pumping station in Taguig City lay idle on Tuesday as Metro Manila and its environs were being inundated by flood triggered by continuous monsoon rains.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino said yesterday no diesel fuel was available to operate the pumping station in Taguig City, one of the areas in Metro Manila most devastated by the flood.

Tolentino said he had ordered the relief of Baltazar Melgar as head of the MMDA’s Flood Control and Sewerage Management Office (FCSMO) for negligence. Melgar denied Tolentino’s accusations.

Tolentino said Melgar, who has been with the MMDA for the past 15 years, is now on “floating” status.

Melgar was also suspended for allegedly mismanaging pumping operations in the flooded P. Tuazon underpass on EDSA in Cubao.

The flooding of the P. Tuazon underpass last Tuesday triggered a massive traffic jam along EDSA, said Tolentino.

Melgar, who is now under investigation by the MMDA, will be replaced as head of the FCSMO by engineer Maxima Quiambao, head of the FCSMO’s Operations and Maintenance of Drainages, Floodways and Waterways.

Tolentino said Melgar failed to order fuel for the pumping station even though he had already signed a purchase order for it.

Tolentino said Melgar only ordered fuel delivery Wednesday morning. By that time, he said, the floodwaters were already too high for the delivery truck to reach the pumping station.

“ The pumping station didn’t run for a few hours because the fuel truck couldn’t reach it. Fuel delivery should have been done Tuesday night. The pumping station lacked 6,000 liters of fuel,” he said in Filipino.

Tolentino said the Taguig pumping station had been running for 10 days straight when it ran out of fuel.

“We need a more proactive hand,” said Tolentino, explaining his relief of Melgar. “I told her (Quiambao) to be more proactive.”

Aside from Melgar, Tolentino said other MMDA personnel assigned to pumping stations in Taguig City have also been relieved and placed on “floating” status pending the completion of an investigation.

Although he did not name names, sources said Tolentino could be referring to engineers Michael Doce (pumping station and floodgate operation head), Glen Miranda (plant manager, Wawa pumping station), Peter Macabenta (plant manager, Hagonoy pumping station), and Alfonso Oliver (plant manager, Labasan pumping station).

The pumping stations are all located in Taguig City.

Tolentino said Melgar had already filed a leave of absence.

Tolentino assured Melgar and the other personnel removed from their posts that they would be given due process in the MMDA’s investigation.

Tolentino said Melgar, who has been with MMDA since the time of former MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando, has shown “laxity that already bordered on incompetence.”

As another proof of Melgar’s apparent “laxity,” Tolentino cited the relieved official’s failure to inform him of the existence of an MMDA barge in a state of disrepair in the Malabon-Navotas River.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, in text message said the Taguig City government has already sent 1,500 liters of fuel to two pumping stations in the city.

Melgar, for his part, denied that he had been negligent in his duties. “It’s not our fault, because we’re in operations. We just take delivery of fuel,” he said in Filipino in an interview with The STAR.

“We have a purchase request. Our request is good for three months. I don’t know where they (purchase requests) are,” he added.

He said it was the Taguig City government that sent them fuel.

“We knew we were running out of fuel so we made an emergency request for 6,000 liters.

“Our request is 200,000 liters of diesel every three months divided among 22 pumping stations,” he said.

Asked if Tolentino had indeed signed purchase receipts, Melgar said he didn’t know where these are now.

He added the MMDA’s budget for diesel purchase is P50 million monthly. “One pumping station consumes 6,000 liters in 24 hours,” he said.

Pampanga mayor fears new lahar flows By Ding Cervantes, The Philippine Star Posted at 08/11/2012 12:08 AM | Updated as of 08/11/2012 12:08 AM

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines – A Pampanga official warned residents Friday that millions of tons of Mt. Pinatubo’s lahar along the Pasig-Potrero River could move toward heavily populated centers and two major highways here.

“The towns of Sto. Tomas and Minalin are in danger of being buried by volcanic materials, in the way that Bacolor was buried under several meters of debris in the 1990s after Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption. Portions of southeastern San Fernando are also in danger,” San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez said.

In a meeting with Gov. Lilia Pineda, other local officials and engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Rodriguez appealed to the national government for “immediate engineering intervention against the serious threat we are facing.”

Asked how much lahar debris could be remobilized if the monsoon rains continue on Mt. Pinatubo slopes, Rodriguez cited the estimates of experts that it could be “in the millions of tons.”

This, after raging floodwaters shattered the so-called transverse dike and accompanying lahar materials overtopped the “tail dike” along the Pasig-Potrero River, one of the most active lahar channels after the Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

Rodriguez recalled that much of Bacolor was then buried by volcanic debris, and in 1995, a dike built across the river purportedly to protect Barangay Cabalantian and other remaining portions of Bacolor gave way, sending an avalanche in the middle of the night and burying alive scores of residents.

The following year, government engineers started construction of a U-shaped megadike along the Pasig-Potrero River to contain lahar flows and shield this city and other populated areas from lahar.

They also built within the megadike other structures, including the transverse dike across the lower reaches of the river, to soften the impact of lahar flows on the lower bend of the megadike as well as the “tail dike” which served as additional protection.

“The transverse dike has been destroyed and remobilized lahar materials have already overtopped the tail dike, creating two channels that are now flowing dangerously toward the towns of Sto. Tomas and Minalin,” Rodriguez warned.

He said that if the lahar flows finally destroy the megadike, millions of tons of lahar debris that accumulated on the riverbed of the Pasig-Potrero could bury Sto. Tomas and Minalin, which have remained heavily flooded since typhoon “Gener” last week.

“We know the danger that could face us and the threat is really serious now,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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