FASTLANES: Don’t cash in on Sendong please!

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I was taking my dinner watching ANC’s World Tonight Tuesday when one of their crawling news titles caught my attention.

It says: “Group warns Valencia floods may reach CDO.” I almost dropped from my seat when a person they interviewed, a certain Dr. Steve Godilano, popped up and said that most likely in five hours flood waters cascading from the Pulangi river in Valencia, Bukidnon may hit Cagayan de Oro.

Friends and relatives made frantic calls and texts asking me if the news is true. Almost the whole day, Tuesday, I was explaining  through text and the social media Facebook about the Pulangi River draining to the Rio Grande de Mindanao in Cotabato and not to Cagayan de Oro. And then here comes this guy.

The ignorance of that guy presenting himself as a scientist and a member of the Climate Change Coalition Philippines (CCCP) is a crime.

I have called friends who have been in the climate and energy campaign to ask who this guy is. Frankly, I have just heard of him after Sendong despite my being active in the climate and energy campaign circles. I may have just missed him, or maybe he moved in different circles.

One campaigner I asked told me he knew of this guy but when they met he introduced himself as an agriculture expert.

I did some research on the CCCP and the people behind it are truly honorable people, like Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, and Christian Monsod. Perhaps they should check the people around them. For after all they could be victims of bum steer from great pretenders and switiks.

Now here is what got my goat further, in an article of a big Manila-based broadsheet  after Sendong, this same guy who was described as “geo-spatial watershed specialist” called for a press conference to make claims that he already made flood warnings since last year. I have told myself then, “good, we are not alone as voices in the wilderness.”

In that article he was said to have given the “Godilano maps” to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gasmin who appreciated his work, according to that article.

Secretary Gasmin should be extra careful with those maps.

How can this guy, who claims expertise on “geo-spatial watershed,” which means among others that one can read maps, does have an expertise on remote sensing and other Geographical Information System (GIS) tools yet missed the drainage of one of the biggest river systems in the country, the Pulangi-Rio Grande de Mindanao.

The National Irrigation Authority (NIA) has a dam or water reservoir for the irrigation of the thousands of hectares of rice lands in the plains of Valencia and San Fernando town in Lumbayao, an upland community northeast of Valencia.

Heavy rains brought by the convergence of two weather systems, the low pressure area in Mindanao and the tail-end of a cold front hovering the Visayas, was estimated to have poured about 200mm of rains Monday and early Tuesday upstream in the Pulangi in Malaybalay City causing the intake gate of the NIA reservoir to collapse, spilling water to downstream communities like Brgy. Batangan and Purok 2 in Poblacion.

Downstream  in Valencia, the Pulangi is again diverted to the large reservoir of the Pulangi 4 hydroelectric plant, which has a installed capacity of 255 megawatts, in Maramag town.

The Pulangi River that overflowed last Tuesday, Dec. 27, comes from the headwaters in the eastern part of Malaybalay and drains towards Valencia,  the towns of Maramag, portions of Quezon, Don Carlos, Kitaotao, Dangcagan, Kibawe, Damulog down to Carmen in North Cotabato and finally in Cotabato City and Illana Bay.

How could this self-proclaimed expert miss this? The panic he had caused among the already traumatized people of Cagayan de Oro was criminal.

Historically, the Pulangi and Rio Grande de Mindanao were one, as they are indeed one river. It was the Spanish who named the downstream part of Pulangi as Rio Grande de Mindanao.

It is in this Pulangi River which was used as the basis of the forefathers of the indigenous Mindanaons, the brothers, Apo Mamalu and Apo Tabunaway, in dividing their territory. Some historical accounts say that Apo Mamalu was converted into Islam by the Arab-Malay Muslim missionary Shariff Muhammed Kabunsuan. Shariff Kabunsuan is said to have married their sister Bae Putri sometime in the 16th Century.

The account further said that Apo Tabunaway, who did not convert to Islam, went upstream in the Pulangi, settling in the plains of Bukidnon while Apo Mamalu took dominion of Cotabato, Maguindanao and the greater Muslim Mindanao.

What further alarms me, according to that newspaper report, is that this guy and purportedly “CCCP scientists,” drew up a proposed project amounting to P700 million to draw up a “vulnerability and poverty mapping” of the Cagayan de Oro watershed.

If true, entrusting this very large amount which could be enough to relocate the people dislocated by Sendong in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to safer grounds, is not just extremely dangerous but also unnecessary as what needs to be done now are just enhancements of the existingwatershed maps, like the production of thematic maps, which include among others the geo-hazard, settlement and vegetation maps and have these verified on the ground.

These materials could then be vital inputs in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRR-CCA) planning and management. These could also be vital information in capacitating communities to become resilient to disasters and climate change.

Finally, utang na loob, shut this guy’s mouth. Had I been near him Tuesday night, I would have taken back in an instance my dislike to Davao Mayor Sara Duterte’s punch and would have sent him star gazing.

(Comments can be sent to [email protected])

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