3 SouthCot towns to declare ‘state of calamity’ due to floods

Polomolok Mayor Isidro Lumayag, president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-South Cotabato chapter, said the extent of the destruction wrought by the floods to his town and the upper valley municipalities of T'boli and Sto. Niño during the past several weeks has already reached calamity situation.

"The damage so far was mainly on infrastructure and agricultural crops and it may even worsen because the rains are still coming. We need to declare a state of calamity now so we could make the appropriate intervention," he said.

Under the Local Government Code, local government units are authorized to declare a state of calamity to allow the utilization of its calamity fund, which comprise five percent of their annual budget.

The provincial government of South Cotabato may declare a state of calamity if at least three municipalities have made the same declaration.

In Polomolok, Lumayag said the floods destroyed several bridges, barangay and municipal roads and various agricultural crops.

The mayor said the municipal engineering and the social welfare and development offices initially placed the damage at P6 million.

He said the municipal council is slated to declare the town under a state of calamity on Thursday.

Lumayag said T'boli Mayor Ernesto Manuel is also evaluating the damage wrought by the floods to its barangay and municipal roads and signified to possibly declare his area under a state of calamity.

Lumayag quoted Sto. Niño Mayor Antonio Damandaman that they are also working for the declaration of the area under a state of calamity due to the onslaught of floods to several communities and farmlands.

A portion of the area was submerged in floodwaters since weekend due to the swelling of the Allah River.

Damandaman earlier said the river's water level rose due to the huge volume of water dislodged by the critical Lake Holon (formerly Maughan) in T'boli town where at least 15 landslides were earlier monitored.

In a disaster in 1995, a landslide in one of the lake's walls dumped 30 million cubic meters to its river-tributaries. It was the worst disaster to hit South Cotabato in decades, leaving 53 people dead, the bodies of 14 of whom were not recovered. Damage to property and infrastructure was pegged at P212 million.

Lumayag said that if the three municipalities can come up with their declarations this week, they will immediately submit them to the provincial board for immediate action.

"We need immediate augmentation funds from the provincial government to fund the rehabilitation of the damaged infrastructure and provide some assistance to our local farmers," he said.

On Monday, South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes asked local governments of the province's 10 towns and lone city to evaluate the possible damages brought by the floods and related calamities in their areas since the rainy season started to intensify last month.

She also directed the provincial agriculture, engineering and the social welfare and development offices to look into the extent of the destruction from the floods and set immediate interventions to the affected areas and communities. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)