Flood early warning system sought for Pulangi communities

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/04 January) – Setting up an early warning system on the water level of the Pulangi River is an urgent need for communities located along its banks, Bukidnon’s environment chief said Tuesday.

Felix S. Mirasol Jr., reacting to the December 27 flashfloods in Valencia City that displaced 1,146 families and damaged several houses, said the mechanism will help protect the lives of those who live near riverbanks.

Pulangi River, Bukidnon’s biggest and longest river, overflowed on December 27 due to heavy rains spawned by a low pressure area near Cotabato City.

Mirasol said there are existing early warning mechanisms along portions of the river such as the one used by the National Irrigation Administration.

“It is only a matter of consolidating (and strengthening it river system wise),” he said, adding it should be installed not just along the Pulangi but also in other watersheds [of the province].

He said the provincial government must spearhead the project with the help of the national government agencies.

He cited that Bukidnon must learn from the Albay provincial government’s award-winning low-cost disaster warning system, which he said should be implemented along with a ready evacuation and relief assistance plan.

He said the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council must consider the mechanism in its plan, which he noted was yet to be developed.

He said that unlike before it is easier now to present the idea because the province has experienced big flashfloods.

Aside from the December 27 floods in Valencia, Libona and Baungon towns were also hit by the flashfloods brought by Tropical Storm Sendong last December 17 which killed hundreds in neighboring Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.

Mirasol said he would push for the mechanism at the PDRRMC meeting today.

Anianita Fortich, chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) Malaybalay weather station said the devices for the warning system include staff gauge to measure rainfall and flood markers in different points along the river.

Valencia City Councilor Glenn Peduche has proposed a Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Development Plan for the Pulangi River system. A former provincial board member who chaired the environment committee, Peduche said the problem is not only about the river but the environment in general.

He said the plan should include relocation, removal of silts, reforestation, and relocation of residents along constantly flooded areas. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)