500 villages in Region 12 prone to floods, landslides, warns MGB

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 June) – At least 500 villages in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao are considered at high risk to severe flooding and landslides when the ongoing rainy season intensifies in the coming weeks, a government geologist warned over the weekend.

Engr. Jaime Flores, chief geologist of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Region 12, said their recent assessment showed that the land surface in most parts of the region was already saturated and turned loose due to the high volume of rainfall that poured into the area during the last several weeks.

He said such condition rendered some 341 barangays in the region highly vulnerable to flooding and at least 218 barangays in upland or elevated zones to possible mudslides or landslides.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Kidapawan, Tacurong and Cotabato.

“Our overall situation right now remains critical because of the ongoing rainy season, which may possibly trigger more major landslides and flashfloods,” Flores said.

In terms of flooding, the official said most of the 341 barangays in the region that were listed as high risk areas were located near major river tributaries and in lowland zones.

He said 210 more barangays were considerate at moderate risk and 75 others at low risk to flooding.

But Flores cited that only “a thin line” presently separates the areas that were classified at high and moderate risk to flooding due to the erratic weather pattern and the condition of river tributaries in the area.

He said such condition may be seen in several parts of Cotabato City and North Cotabato, which topped their list in terms areas that were at high and moderate risk to flooding due to the presence of the Pulangi River and the Rio Grande de Mindanao.

Flores said the heavy siltation of the Pulangi River and the clogging of water lilies along tributaries of the Rio Grande de Mindanao mainly caused the continuing severe flooding in Cotabato City and several towns in North Cotabato.

In South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, he said more than 140 barangays are currently highly vulnerable to flooding due to the heavily-silted Banga and Ala rivers.

In terms of landslides, Flores said they classified some 212 barangays at moderate risk and another 750 at low risk aside from the 218 that were considered at high risk.

He said these areas were mainly located in elevated areas and near the slopes of hills and mountain ranges.

Flores the MGB-12 has been regularly issuing advisories to local government units regarding the geological status of their areas to allow them to prepare and properly respond in case the situation eventually worsens.

He said they also assist the LGUs in crafting short and long-term disaster responses and mitigation plans.

Flores said they recently linked up with the National Economic and Development Authority to assist LGUs in coming up with their own disaster risk reduction plans.

He said NEDA mainly handles the social and political planning component while the MGB 12 leads the physical planning part.

“Our goal is to come up with a comprehensive plan that will allow our local government planners and officials to implement early disaster risk reduction programs and strategies as well set preparatory and response mechanisms in case disasters would occur in their areas,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)