Floods displace thousands in central Mindanao
The flooded central Mindanao towns are located along the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta.
John Unson
Floods displace thousands in central Mindanao
John Unson (Philstar.com) - October 18, 2020 - 4:50pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — More than 70 barangays in central Mindanao are flooded since Friday after the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta overflowed following torrential rains in mountain ranges around.

The most affected barangays are in interior areas in the adjoining towns of Pagalungan and Montawal in Maguindanao and in nearby Pikit and Kabacan in North Cotabato.

The four towns are dotted with swamps and crisscrossed by rivers that connect to the vast Liguasan Delta.

The Liguasan Delta is a catch basin for a dozen rivers that spring from forested hinterlands in Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and South Cotabato provinces.

The local government units in Pagalungan, Montawal and Pikit have relocated hundreds of families to higher grounds with the help of volunteer organizations, the police and units of the Army’s 602nd Brigade of the 6th Infantry Division.

Key members of the Pikit municipal disaster risk reduction and management council said Sunday 27 barangays in the municipality have been inundated since Wednesday.

“We have no way but evacuate to higher areas. The flood in our barangay is now waist-deep. Our farms are flooded, our crops destroyed,” an evacuee, 36-year-old farmer Edris Sandigan, said in the Maguindanao vernacular.

Sandigan, his wife and four children are among more than 20,000 flood-stricken families displaced by the floods that also hit low-lying towns in the second district of Maguindanao, along the upper zones of the oft-flooded Liguasan Delta.

The Bangsamoro government’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence, or READI contingent, has started its relief interventions for flood victims.

The quick deployment READI outfit is operating under the supervision of lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, who is local government minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Sinarimbo said the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government and READI shall together also reach out to flood victims in several barangays in North Cotabato province in Region 12 that became part of BARMM after residents voted in favor of the inclusion of their communities into the Moro-led autonomous government during a plebiscite in early 2019.

Sinarimbo, also concurrent BARMM regional spokesperson, said Sunday their relief missions for flood victims is a joint initiative of their local government, social services and health ministries under Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim.

He said their chief minister is focused on possible engineering interventions, like dredging of the waterways connecting the Liguasan Delta to the western seacoasts of Maguindanao and Cotabato City for floodwaters to easily flow downstream and drain into the sea.

“These rivers have become shallow due to thick deposits of silt that accumulated on river beds as a result of perennial flooding for decades now,” Sinarimbo said.

Other senior BARMM regional officials said the Bangsamoro government and Malacañang need to work together fast in addressing the problem.

Sources from the offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Region 11 and 12 said Malacañang long has a plan to dredge the rivers connecting the Liguasan Delta to seacoasts downstream that has never fully taken off since during the time of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or ARMM.

“That Liguasan rehabilitation plan of the national government has been there even before President Rodrigo Duterte got elected in 2016. The ARMM and the BARMM cannot be blamed for these flooding woes because its implementation is the national government’s call,” a senior regional DPWH official, who requested anonymity, said.

The ARMM, created via a referendum in 1990, was replaced with BARMM in February last year as a result of the 22-year peace talks between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose revolutionary figurehead, Ebrahim, is now an appointed Bangsamoro chief minister.

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