Palace urged to lift suspension of dredging works in Cotabato

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/28 Sept) – With flood water rearing its ugly head anew here and parts of Maguindanao province, there’s a need to resume dredging operations at the heavily silted Rio Grande de Mindanao River, an official said on Wednesday.

Aniceto Rasalan, secretary to the city mayor’s office, said that Malacañang has suspended the dredging operations, which if not resumed may further aggravate the flooding if bad weather continues in the area.

“There’s no dredging works now pending results of the investigation on the alleged misuse of funds of the task force,” he said, referring to the Arroyo-created Presidential Task Force on Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development (PTFMRBRD).

One of the two dredging equipment deployed by the Department of Public Works and Highways to Rio Grande de Mindanao needs to be repaired, he said.

On the other hand, the water master, which is used to clear water hyacinths and other debris, has been lying idle at the Simuay River, Rasalan added.

Although flood waters have receded, the roads at Crislamville in Barangay Rosary Heights 6 in Cotabato City are still covered with water. Heavy rains in the past days have affected 16 towns in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by Gigi BuenoFloods hit the city starting last Friday and affected eight villages in the city, with water as high as 1.7 meters in some areas at one point, he said.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, the floodwaters have receded with the city government expecting it to fully subside on Friday if no rains fall by then in the area and neighboring upland localities.

Rasalan attributed the floods in the city to a tidal surge or a sea high tide, coupled by the floodwaters coming from Maguindanao province.

Maguindanao has been placed under a state of calamity with 16 towns affected by the floods, Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said on Tuesday.

In this city, Rasalan lamented that the floods triggered not just evacuation but also a problem on the local garbage disposal.

The Biniruan dumpsite in Barangay Poblacion 8 was not accessible since Saturday because of the floods, he said, adding that dump trucks could not pass because the waters would reach the engine.

But compared to the massive flooding in June, which affected 32 villages of which 21 was totally submerged in water, the latest inundation that hit the area was not as worse.

“The speed at which the water rose this time was slower than the massive flooding in June,” Rasalan told MindaNews.

For the flooding not to aggravate in the future, he urged Malacañang to lift the suspension of dredging works at the Rio Grande de Mindanao even if the investigation on the alleged misuse of funds in the task force and its transition is still not completed.

He also said they have asked the Department of Public Works and Highways-Region12 to resume the dredging works but in vain apparently in respect to the Palace stoppage order.

Last July 28, President Benigno C. Aquino III issued Executive Order 50 abolishing the PTFMRBRD and transferred it to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

The transition was expected to be completed by October 30, Rasalan said.

The Task Force’s term is supposed to end on December 31, 2012. At the time it was disbanded, the task force has listed 19 priority projects, including the preparation of a master plan for the Mindanao River Basin.

EO 50 said the functions of the PTFMRBRD “overlap with other national government agencies that can in turn perform the said tasks in line with the government’s policy of rationalizing and streamlining the bureaucracy.”

Under EO 50, MinDA is tasked to “coordinate the formulation, implementation, and finalization of the Mindanao River Basin (MRB) relief, rehabilitation, and long term development plan, also known as the Mindanao River Basin Management and Development Master Plan.”

It is also tasked to negotiate, apply for, receive and accept grants and donation of funds needed for the relief, rehabilitation and development of the areas affected by the disaster; decide on important interventions that need to be immediately implemented and acted upon; and spearhead and coordinate all actions to rehabilitate and develop the MRB affected areas.

MinDA was created through Republic Act 9996, signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on February17, 2010, “to establish an effective institutional mechanism to address the need for a coordinated and integrated approach in the formulation and integration of a Mindanao-wide inter-regional development plans, programs, and projects.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)