Bukidnon flood postscript: bigger waterways most urgent

This as the monitoring group released its findings and recommendations this week almost a month after floodwaters on Dec. 27 wrecked villages, washed out houses, killed people and left millions of pesos in damage to property and crop.

Belino Epie, MMT member representing the Diocesan Ecological Desk, said the more urgent of the recommendations is the building of bigger waterways or culverts by both the Department of Public Works and Highways and the National Irrigation Authority

"Culverts constructed by DPWH at the highway of Barangay Bugcaon should be redesigned in order to contain the large volume of water of Dalaingan Creek during heavy downpour," the MMT said in one of its recommendations in the report, a copy of which was furnished by the office of City Councilor Melchor Maramara to MindaNews.

Maramara, who is chair of the city council’s committee on environment, headed the ocular inspection of the MMT.

The MMT found out the first culvert at Dalaingan Creek at Sitio Bilayong, Bugcaon was destroyed because it is too small to contain big volumes of water.

Earlier, weather bureau officials told reporters "cloud bursts" are abnormal weather conditions and could not assure there will be no more similar incidents in the future.

MMT members, led by Maramara, inspected the flood path on Jan. 15 following a call from the Diocese of Malaybalay ecological desk for a probe.

Fr. Jonathan Tianero, desk coordinator, sent the letter to provincial board member Glenn Peduche, who chairs the SP's environment and natural resources committee.

Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., according to the MMT report, gave verbal orders for the inspection over the desk's request to check allegations agricultural plantations in the upland town of Lantapan have contributed to the flooding.

The MMT also recommended that NIA culverts at Sitio Patag, Bugcaon and Purok 4, Cabangahan be redesigned to accommodate the water of Dalaingan and Cabangahan Creeks.

This was the village where a 57-year-old woman and her two grandchildren, aged 6 and 4, were washed out and killed by floodwaters. A two-year-old grandchild is still missing.

Epie told MindaNews by redesign they meant building of bigger and wider waterways.

They also pushed for the extension of the trapezoidal flood control canal constructed by the city government to the NIA main canal at Purok 4, Cabangahan, Malaybalay City to prevent overflowing of water to low lying areas.

Epie, a retired official of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), said since flooding in the area had happened several times in the past, there is a cause for alarm over measures to mitigate damage.

"Records show that similar incidents have recurred three times, hence it is recommended to install automatic meteorological equipment at the head source of the micro watershed of Dalaingan-Kulasihan-Cabangahan Creeks for monitoring purposes," the MMT further recommended.

The MMT also pushed for the agriculture offices of the province, city and municipal level to require all farmers and agro-industrial companies within the micro-watershed "to practice agricultural farming technologies such as Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT), agro-forestry, soil erosion control measures, etc."

They have also noted the need to rehabilitate all stream banks by planting of fruit and forest trees, bamboos and other tree species.

The MMT also urged local government units to "strictly implement and enforce" the law on easement or bank allowance along rivers and creeks.

The MMT also went further on asking Malaybalay's City Engineering Office to study and prepare a comprehensive flood control plan of Dalaingan-Kulasihan River starting at Purok 1, Barangay Bangcud.

The MMT also recommended that the local governments of Malaybalay City and Lantapan town jointly prepare and implement a comprehensive integrated watershed management plan in coordination with the provincial government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The MMT relied on narrative reports from barangays officials and other sources.

The reports noted that on that day, it was raining at about 5 p.m. Later on, dark clouds were observed in Sobsob and Belayong villages northward of Bugcaon proper. It was about 8 p.m. when rain started to fall heavily. Two hours later villagers reportedly heard "a rushing sound of rocks and water at Dalaingan Creek."

The MMT cleared Lapanday Pineapple plantation, which was named in the ecological desk’s request for inspection.

"That the perception that Lapanday Pineapple plantation is contributory to the flooding of the mentioned barangays is out of context considering that there is no evidence or proof gathered during the ocular inspection to support the allegation," the MMT report noted. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)