TACLOBAN CITY — The national government has prioritized the allocation of PhP48 billion for the construction of a 27-kilometer seawall or tidal wave embankment to be called the “Great Wall of Tacloban” to protect the city and its coastline municipalities from future storm surges.


It would be recalled that Tacloban was the hardest hit when Super Typhoon “Yolanda” hit the country on November 8, 2013 where more than 10,000 people perished.


Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said the 27.3-kilometer stretch steel and concrete seawall would be four meters high and four meters wide.


To be implemented under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the project will cover 20.1 kms seawalls in Tacloban, 4.1 kms in Palo, Leyte and 3.1 kms in Tanauan, also in Leyte.


The officials in Palo, Tolosa and Tanauan already endorsed the project.


The tidal embankment would be the first of its kind in the Philippines with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) providing the technical assistance.


The allocation would be sourced from the DPWH’s annual general budget for the next six years, according to DPWH Regional Director Rolando Asis.


The project is expected to start in the last quarter of this year after needed documents like environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and information drive involving residents that would be affected by the project were complied with.


It is expected to be finished by 2020.


Mayor Alfred Romualdez and senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, however, said there are more important issues that need to be addressed such as providing the people with potable and safe water supply.


“I am not against this seawall or tidal embankment project. Neither do I endorse it,” said Romualdez in a news conference Sunday at Patio Victoria here. “We have come to call it the Great Wall of Tacloban.”


Romualdez noted that the immediate need now is “to move the people into safer grounds. However, the first major problem in the relocation sites is water.”


“If you ask me which is more important, water or a wall? I would say definitely, it’s water,” he said.


According to the mayor, it would only take about PhP4 billion to put up a water facility in the northern part of the city.


The residents now only depend on water rations provided by the city government or they source the water from deep wells.


Rep. Romualdez agreed with the mayor and insisted the DPWH had to complete its study first.


“The timing and priority could be the issue. Permanent housing facilities with adequate water and electricity are the more immediate needs,” he said.


According to Mayor Romualdez, there was no sufficient data that could prove the seawall was “foolproof” in protecting the coastlines from storm surges.


At the same time, he said while the other mayors and officials were backing up the seawall project, he could not make an intelligent decision unless the DPWH could make other national government agencies support the project.


“All stakeholders must be consulted. This early, the fisherfolk already fear they would be deprived of access to the sea, and thus had to find alternative livelihood,” he said.


The mayor said for as long as the national government would not give an assurance that the seawall project would be given enough funding, then he would find it difficult to give the city’s approval. Lilybeth G. Ison/PNA