[PHOTO -CRUISING President Aquino takes a speedboat from Malacañang to inspect the progress of the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project. Its two phases are 87.99% complete. These included dredging and widening operations. This project is part of the P13-B flood control master plan that will take 3 years to complete. MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU]

MANILA, JUNE 26, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Norman Bordadora - Stretches of the Pasig and Marikina rivers are now wider and deeper—hopefully enough to prevent a repeat of the 2009 “Ondoy” tragedy.

This was according to Secretary Ricky Carandang, who made a report after President Benigno Aquino III spent Friday morning inspecting the progress of the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project.

The president toured the river on a speedboat from his riverside residence in Bahay Pangarap in Manila to the Napindan flood control facility in Marikina City.

“What we’re hoping is that, with this, we will be able to avoid the Ondoy type of flooding that we saw before,” Carandang said in a Palace briefing, referring to the tropical storm that caused flash floods of unprecedented magnitude in the capital and parts of Luzon in September 2009.

[PHOTO FROM UGNAYAN.COM.PH By Benhur Arcayan- Funded under a loan agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project, under two contract packages with contractor Toyo Construction Company Limited, was implemented by the DPWH Major Flood Control Projects (Cluster 1)-Project Management Office under supervision of Project Director Patrick Gatan, according to the DPWH in an earlier statement.]

He said two phases of the channel improvement were 87- to 99-percent complete. These included dredging and widening operations and increasing the height of river walls, he said.

Carandang cited the overflowing of the Wawa River, whose tributaries lead to the Pasig River, as among primary causes of flooding in Metro Manila.

“So what we saw this morning was one effort to increase the holding capacity of the Pasig River,” he said, adding:

“[The President] was generally pleased with the progress. [Public Works] Secretary Singson has done a pretty good job of completing the project and we’re hoping that this will help alleviate the flooding … It appears that all the things Secretary Singson promised were either already done or are being done.”

[PHOTO -President Benigno S. Aquino III inspects the Pasig River Malacañang to Napindan Hydraulics Flood Control Structure (NHCS) in Pasig City Friday (June 22) that was built in 1983 to regulate the flow of water between the Pasig River and Laguna lake. (Malacañang Photo Bureau)

Carandang said the projects President Aquino inspected on Friday were part of a bigger, P13-billion flood control master plan that would take two to three years to complete.

“For us to really resolve this flooding problems, we need to go into that two to three-year project that creates the retarding basins and the dam and all of that. This should minimize the impact of the floods,” Carandang said.


Iloilo Flood Control Project

[PHOTO -Construction of Jaro Floodway.
Photo from]


No search yet for Jordanian By Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) Updated June 25, 2012 12:00 AMComments (3)

[PHOTO -Jordanian reporter Baker Atyani reports from Jolo, Sulu island in the southern Philippines on June 11. Atyani, from Dubai-based Al Arabiya news network, and his two Filipino television crew went missing on a southern Philippine island notorious for kidnappings by Islamic militants, the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebels, police said. Atyani and Filipinos Ramil Vela and Roland Leftreiro were last seen leaving a hotel on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometers south of Manila, on Tuesday. (EPA Photo/BEN HAJAN)]

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The military is awaiting the go-ahead to begin rescue operations for a Jordanian reporter and his two Filipino crewmen after Malacañang confirmed they were “being held hostage” by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu, according to officials.

Security forces have been preparing for the rescue mission, waiting for orders from the crisis management committee (CMC), Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes said yesterday.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said Baker Atyani and cameramen Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrico “were not kidnapped but being held hostage” by the Abu Sayyaf.

[PHOTO -Philippine troops man a checkpoint in Jolo, the capital of the island province of Sulu in southern Philippines Friday. Troops have increased their presence in the volatile capital following the reported disappearance of Jordanian television journalist Baker Atyani and his Filipino crew on June 12 on the island, about 950 kilometres south of Manila (AP photo)]

Robredo’s pronouncement came after the Jordanian embassy reported Friday that Atyani and his crew were indeed being held hostage by the bandits.

Atyani, 43, bureau chief of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel, and his two-man crew were reported missing on June 12 when they went to the Abu Sayyaf lair to interview bandit leaders.

A certain Abu Sayyaf leader Nadzmir Alih claimed they have Atyani and his two companions in custody.

“We will wait for the decision of the CMC, but our troops on the ground are prepared,” Coballes said.

Ground commanders said they were also holding off any operation but continued the surveillance on the movements of Atyani amid conflicting reports on the journalist’s situation.

“There is no large scale operation yet because the real status of Atyani has not been confirmed on the ground,” a military officer revealed.

“We will be have his status checked first before any movement is ordered to the soldiers, because all the information on the ground does not support that Atyani is being (held) hostage. All his itinerary to interview the contact in the (Abu Sayyaf) or JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) were being made available. How can he be kidnapped if he can follow all his itinerary?” the official added.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, deputy commander for Marine Operation of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao, said troops are continuously tracking the movements of the three.

Cenabre claimed they already know the location of the three journalists but could not afford to be too hasty since their safety is at stake.

“So far, they are safe going around with different Abu Sayyaf and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) groups doing interviews,” Cenabre said.

“We cannot confirm or say that they were victims of kidnapping but for sure they are with the Abu Sayyaf or any armed group.”

“It’s still the same. They are still missing,” Cenabre said.

“The fact that they are missing does not mean that we are sleeping on the job,” he said.

According to Cenabre, there were no sightings of guns pointed at the three media men.

“We have other sightings but these things we cannot divulge,” he said.

Ground security sources in Sulu, however, confirmed the kidnapping of Atyani’s group, saying the Abu Sayyaf led by Tahil Sali is holding them somewhere in Talipao and Patikul.

Malacañang refused to label the situation of the missing Jordanian journalist as kidnapping.

No less than President Aquino himself, apart from deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, has been saying that Atyani should explain why he declined government protection.

Valte said they are leaving it up to Robredo to explain the difference in Atyani’s situation.

“We leave it to Secretary Robredo to explain the change in circumstances regarding Atyani’s situation. We will defer to the DILG on why he is now called a hostage,” Valte said over dzRB.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome maintained the case of the Jordanian journalist is not yet considered a kidnapping in the absence of any ransom demand.

“He (Atyani) is still considered to be missing but we know he is with the Abu Sayyaf. There’s still no ransom demand so we are still trying to determine his status there,” he said.

Bartolome also pointed out that Robredo could not have confirmed that Atyani was being held by the Abu Sayyaf against his will.

He said Atyani could have been very busy and does not want to be disturbed in his work, thus he could not be contacted.

Bartolome noted the local crisis committee led by the Patikul, Sulu mayor, with the support of the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines, is still trying to exert effort to contact Atyani and his group.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan gave instructions not to carry out any rescue operation since Atyani’s group could be exploring the area and enjoying the scenery in Sulu.

Sulu Police Provincial director Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra told Bartolome that “the situation remains the same” and there was no development on the case of the Jordanian journalist.

Freyra said Malacañang clarified that there was no confirmation on the information that Atyani and his team were in the hands of Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Freyra maintained the government committed no lapses since proper security was supposedly assigned to ensure Atyani’s safety but the journalist’s team deliberately refused and went on their own.

Malacañang insists the incident is not one that can be categorized as kidnapping, despite confirmation issued by the Jordanian foreign ministry.

Military sources confirmed Atyani is now under the custody of the bandits in Sulu.

“At this point, we don’t quite agree that it’s an abduction. Now, it seems that he is not able to leave,” Valte said.

Valte pointed out Atyani and two of his Filipino crewmen voluntarily left their hotel and refused security.

An incident can be considered kidnapping if the victim remains missing for three consecutive days, especially if the victim is held against his will. – Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Alexis Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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