SOUTHERN COMFORT: Missing the point

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 11 January) –City Mayor Darlene Antonino Custodio is taking pains and splitting hairs addressing one of the maladies of a rapidly growing urban city.

The sight of flooded streets, residences and villages are evoking images thereto only seen and captured by television in faraway Metro Manila. Not anymore.

An hour of heavy downpour now guarantees that large portions of at least seven villages in the city will be submerged in deep waters.

Yes, we can blame residents in communities for not taking care and disposing of their solid wastes as well as drains which are clogging up the city’s very limited drain system.

But it is the first time I heard Custodio said the city is one huge catch basin of rainwater with unpredictable spillways.

Is it woe to them who live in areas now prone to flooding, then?

Custodio should ask her father Adelbert and, before her, former Mayor Pedro ‘Jun’ Acharon Jr what they have done when the red flags were raised more than a decade ago.

Or maybe she needs to travel back farther in time and read Patricio Diaz’s column ‘What a wrath’ in the 09 January 2013 issue of to better understand why we are now suffering from the sins of past commission and omissions.

And if I may add to Mr. Diaz’s anecdotes, my mother, who arrived here on the same boat that took Manong Pat (as I now call Mindanao’s eminent chronicler of the Moro issue) in 1939 as a six-year old girl, said Lagao, Ligaya, Katangawan and Conel were once teeming with dau and molave so large they could not be embraced by three people extending their arms around their trunks.

Of course these are now gone.  No use shedding tears for them.  If these trees and forests were still around, we would not have been here now.

No Mayor, this city has never seen this flooding before.   Not until recently.

And yes, Mayor.  You were right.  Many of the city’s natural waterways are gone, buried and covered by concrete jungles of the city.  And you were right, too.  Somehow, city hall allowed many of these waterways titled to private owners.

But to say the city is one huge flood catch basin is to cover up for the pathetic and unforgivable lack of foresight and poor hindsight of city officials.

No, I am not entirely putting the blame on you Mayor.  I know how workaholic you are.

But please spare us from the absurdity of putting the blame on everybody else except on them who could have done everything to address this one issue of urban blight before and who should be addressing them today.

When the city government started paving our city streets with concrete, it failed to accompany them with drainage system.  When the functionaries of the city government started to issue development permits for the rising number of subdivisions and resettlement areas, nobody cared to also assess their environmental impact.  Well, they are now.  But belatedly.

For every square foot of paved streets, you take away the soil’s capacity to absorb drain and rain water.  Once it cannot seep through the soil, water seeks its own level.  Our basic science told us that.

Mayor, you are right.  The city’s topography is now dictating the flow of our rapidly changing waterways but only because most of them they are either gone now or are already too narrow to accommodate the volume of rain and drain water.

Look at how floodwaters are bursting violently from underneath the drain and manholes along J. Catolico Street and the intersection near dxCP.  There used to be a ditch that passed through Socoteco II office and what is now Gaisano Mall and spilled to a creek near the abandoned Caltex depot in Bula.  It is now gone.  No thanks to those who allowed it to be condemned in the name of development.

We understand the magnitude of the problem, Mayor.  But please do not miss the point. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for