• Maguindanao under state of calamity

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    COTABATO CITY: Gov. Esmael Mangu-dadatu declared a state of calamity in the province as floods displaced thousands of families in 158 villages in 18 of 36 towns.

    Mangudadatu signed Resolution No. 2 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) declaring the state of calamity.

    “This declaration would magnify and hasten our relief operations,” he told reporters in his town of Buluan, which was also flooded.

    Mangudadatu said the resolution will allow local officials to procure shelter materials and other supplies needed by more than 32,000 families in evacuation centers.

    Social workers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) led by Gov. Mujiv Hataman have been distributing relief goods to flood-displaced since Thursday.

    Mangudadatu said relief workers initially distributed rice, instant noodles, and canned sardines to displaced villagers in Pagalungan, Montawal, Sultan sa Barongis, Buluan and Pandag, all in the second district of Maguindanao.

    Relief workers also brought supplies to four inundated towns scattered in the two districts of Maguindanao.

    At least 11 of the 37 villages in this city were also inundated by floods. About 30,000 residents were affected.

    Medical and agriculture officials were mobilized to assess the effects of the flood on the people’s health and on agriculture.

    The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is pushing for construction of big river dikes as an “ultimate” remedy to the perennial flooding, which currently displaced over 60,000 families in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and this city.

    Meanwhile, Emil Sadain, ARMM’s regional DPWH secretary, said he would strongly endorse the revival of the disbanded Task Force on Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development (TFMRBRD).

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd abolished in 2011 the TFMRBRD then chaired by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo and transferred its functions to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

    But due to lack of technical expertise, MinDA has not reviewed, modified or carried out the flood control master plan, which ate up the P50-million subsidy provided by the state.

    Sadain said a team reviewed the plan at the height of last week’s downpour that caused flooding in Maguindanao.

    “We’ve reviewed and found it (master plan) very viable against perennial flooding,” Sadain told reporters.

    Sadain flew to Manila on Friday to meet the consultants who framed the blueprint and “get more insights” before coming up with an official endorsement to the DPWH main office and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

    The master plan recommends the dredging of the Rio Grande de Mindanao and Tamontaka River and the construction of dikes on their banks.

    “We have done it in other flood-prone areas of the country. We can do it in ARMM if given the support from our national office and JICA,” said Sadain, who was extensively involved in the construction of flood control projects along the Pasig River and in the provinces affected by the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

    The construction of soil dikes is a short-term remedy against flooding estimated to cost at least P1 billion. Sadain said the long-term solution would be the installation of high concrete walls on the two river-exits of the Liaguasan Marsh.

    The 24,000-square kilometer marsh collects water from four major rivers in Mindanao–Pulangi, Rio Grande, Simuay and Ala.

    Huge carpets of water lilies rapidly grow in the marsh, serving as source of livelihood for locals engaged in handicraft industry and organic fertilizer manufacturing. But during the rainy season, the heavy flow of water from the four rivers force the water lilies to cascade down and clog the two river outlets, and spill floodwaters to low-lying villages of this city and Maguindanao.

    “When Rio Grande de Mindanao and Tamontaka River are properly dredged, ecological balance in the marsh will follow,” Sadain said.

    The DPWH official is confident that the national government or JICA would bankroll the project.

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