3 dead, 3 missing in Davao Sur flood

A rescuer carries an elderly to safer grounds  in > Barangay Darong, Sta. Cruz Town, Davao del Sur. Mindanews Photo by Froilan Gallardo

DARONG, Sta. Cruz (MindaNews/18 January) – Three persons were killed and three remain missing while at least a hundred huts were swept away by flash floods that struck early Monday evening, barangay officials said.

Barangay councilor Eman Sinacan told MindaNews the floods caused  a heavy traffic jam along an eight-kilometer stretch since Monday evening,  leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

Darong traverses the national highway between the cities of Davao and Digos. Commuters to and from the cities of General Santos from Davao City pass through the highway here.

Barangay residents blamed the floods on what they said was a “dam” of  a hydropower plant that broke down but Hedcor, Inc., the firm behind the 42.5-megawatt Sibulan hydropower project, denied the allegations. “We have no dam and we only operate a run-of-river hydropower plant and it is running,” the firm’s vice president for operations said.

Inset map courtesy of Wikipedia.Minda Quijada, Darong midwife, told MindaNews three persons have been confirmed dead while 810 families were affected by the floods. Quijada, however, gave no names of the victims.

The 39th Infantry Battalion’s  report to the 1002 Infantry Brigade, identified the victims as Ellen Mae Iligan, 13; Marito Cadorna, 54; and infant Jocelyn Navina.

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) regional office in Davao City reported Gretchen Labanon, a resident of Bansalan town, was reported missing. It also quoted GMA-7 Davao’s “Una ka Bai” s report at 7 a.m. which named three others, Jocelyn, 1; Jean Clara 22, and barangay health worker Alma Isidro, 42, as missing.

Jocelyn is likely Jocelyn Navina, leaving three persons still missing, based on the combined report of PIA and GMA-7 Davao.

The 39th Infantry Battalion report said there was a  “sudden rise of water” at around 6:34 p.m. Monday.

The report added that  residents believe that Hedcor, Inc. “unleashed water in the dam,” while another report from barangay officials said the Hedcor dam broke down.

Hedcor’s Engr. Gregorio Jabonillo, vice president for operations, denied the reports. Jabonillo said they do not have a dam and that they only operate a “run-of-river hydropower plant and it is running.”

Jabonillo explained to MindaNews that part of the riverbank of Sibulan River, between the International Pipe Industries (IPI), which manufactures the pipes used by Hedcor, and the JV Angeles Construction, collapsed, diverting the waters of Sibulan into what has become the flooded areas.

He said a fabrication shop of the IPI was destroyed while a portion of the flooring of the JV Angeles Construction office was swept away by the rampaging waters.

Jabonillo added that floodwaters in their Darong office were knee-high and that some of their computers were damaged.

He said heavy rains in the Tudaya area started at around 9 a.m. Monday and continued to pour until Tuesday morning.

Hedcor Sibulan, Inc. inaugurated on September 16 the 42.5-megawatt Sibulan hydropower project with President Aquino launching the generating facility.

“Today’s launching of the Sibulan Hydroelectric Power plant is a clear indication of the private sector’s urgent response to our call to address the power situation in Mindanao,” the President said.

According to Hedcor’s website, the  hydropower plant consists of two cascading run-of-river hydropower plants that harness water of the Sibulan and Baroring Rivers to generate electricity.

“The Sibulan Hydropower Project is a vital greenfield project for Southern Mindanao. It will deliver over 200 million kilowatt-hours annually of Cleanergy, AboitizPower’s brand for clean and renewable energy, to Davao Light to augment its power supply to sustain Davao’s impressive growth,”  AboitizPower president and CEO Erramon Aboitiz said.

The construction of the hydropower plant was met with opposition. In February 2008, the  Tagabawa Lumads under the Sin_b-badan ka mga Lumad Bagobo Mekatanod (SiLuBaMe)  brought their opposition to Hedcor’s hydropower plant before the local government of Davao del Sur. “We hope that they would heed our just demands.  All we want is for our inherent rights over our ancestral lands to be respected,” said Roger Limokon, SiLuBaMe chairperson.

In a statement on February 2, 2008, the SiLuBame and the Pasakaa Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, said “the construction of a hydropower plant, within Tudaya falls, a sacred ground for the Bagobo -Tagabawa Lumads violates their cultural and ancestral land rights.”

It claimed the project “violates environmental preservation since it is located in Mt. Apo, a declared protected area” and warned that among the environmental impacts “include the possibility of flash floods, endangering the school children and the communities below.”

In Davao City, Mayor Sara Duterte ordered the public safety offices, the city engineers and the 911 emergency center to keep a 24-hour watch of the Talomo River to quickly respond to emergencies in case of flooding.

The mayor’s order came following the flash floods in neighboring Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

“I have told them to watch. We already have the infrastructure and we have fielded the rescue teams and all CEO (City Engineer’s Office) drivers keep a 24-hour watch for quick response. With the technology we have now, the texting and the 911, I believe that we will be a lot quicker in our emergency response, this time,” the mayor said. (Froilan Gallardo, Germelina Lacorte and Carolyn O. Arguilllas/MindaNews)

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