GenSan pushes for relocation of residents in flood-prone areas

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 January) – The city government is pushing for the relocation in the coming months of residents situated in flood-prone areas and other identified calamity danger zones.

Mary Ann Bacar, City Housing and Land Management Office chief, said Friday they received a directive from City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio to speed up the acquisition and development of a permanent relocation site to facilitate the immediate transfer of residents settled in flood-prone communities along the critical Silway River.

She said the mayor endorsed late last year the release of an initial P5 million for the purchase of the relocation site.

“We’re currently evaluating several possible relocation sites based on the government standards,” Bacar said.

The national government has mandated local governments to seek clearance and endorsement from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for the acquisition and development of relocation or resettlement sites.

The MGB earlier established a database of relocation sites or areas based on the results of its nationwide geo-hazard mapping.

The agency also made available to local governments the copies of the geo-hazard maps, which identified areas within their localities that are prone to floods, landslides and other calamities.

Aside from the geo-hazard evaluation, Bacar said they were assessing the proposed relocation sites based on their prices or valuation, development requirements and accessibility, among others.

She admitted that they were facing problems with the offered prices for some of the possible relocation areas that they have identified.

“The prices for some of the sites were quite high and way beyond the valuation made by the city appraisal committee,” Bacar said.

The official said there were identified sites that initially passed the appraisal committee’s standards but were located quite far from the city proper and require more development works.

“In choosing the ideal site, we’re also considering their accessibility to schools, churches, markets, government services and the availability of basic utilities,” she said in a radio interview.

Custodio earlier said the city government will prioritize this year the relocation of residents situated in several calamity dangers zones, especially those who were affected by the severe flooding along the Silway River here last year.

Around 200 families that were situated in communities near the Silway River were forced to evacuate several times last year due to the swelling of the river’s waters.

Silway River, which flows to Sarangani Bay, is the main outlet of several river-tributaries from the upland areas in nearby South Cotabato province.

In June and July last year, several portions of the dike along the Silway River suffered breaches and eventually collapsed following heavy rains in the area.

At the height of the floods then, some 20 feet of the protection dike in Barangay City Heights was destroyed, triggering massive flooding in nearby communities. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)