THE ENTIRE province of Capiz was flooded, with water rising to as high as five meters in some areas, after typhoon Ursula (international name: Phanfone) dumped rain across the Visayas and parts of Luzon islands last Christmas.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Judy Grace G. Pelaez said the floodwater could have been minimized had the Panay River Basin Integrated Development Project (PRBIDP) already been in place.

“I am not saying that the Panay River Basin project would totally prevent flooding but it could have somehow lessened the flooding,” Ms. Pelaez said in an interview Friday.

She explained that the geographical location and features of Capiz makes it the prime catch basin in the region. “Whenever it rains in Aklan, rainwater would eventually go down here in Capiz since trees are decreasing in number and so coastal areas are highly at risk of flooding,” she said. She noted that the province suffered similar flooding during typhoon Frank (international name: Fengshen) in 2009 and super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

Ms. Pelaez also said that the threat of flooding is aggravated by the silted Panay River.

“One of our problems is also the heavily silted Panay River. There should be enough exit points to the open sea so that at least low-lying areas within Panay river will not be flooded,” she said.

The P19.785 billion PRBIDP, which is included in the government’s list of priority infrastructure projects, is intended not only to address the flooding in the sub-basins of the Panay River, but provide irrigation to 26,800 hectares of farmlands in Capiz and Iloilo.

The project was among those presented by President Rodrigo R. Duterte for funding during his official visit to China in October 2016.

By late 2017, start of construction was already being eyed by 2018, according to the National Irrigation Administration’s Western Visayas office.

The project did not commence as planned and in January 2019, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) passed a resolution seeking the hastening of the PRBIDP.

“It has been our dream and ambition for Capiz, but maybe because of the cost and prioritization of our national government, the project has not yet been realized,” Ms. Pelaez said.

Typhoon Ursula affected 32,701 families in Capiz and totally damaged 3,771 houses.

The province has been placed under a state of calamity. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo