‘R-10’s most disaster-prepared province still unprepared’

CINCHONA FOREST, Lantapan, Bukidnon (MindaNews/21 March) –  Bukidnon may have been adjudged thrice as the most disaster-prepared province in Region-10. But for Gov. Alex P. Calingasan, much still needs to be done in the area of disaster-preparedness.

Calingasan, speaking in the meeting today of the Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, cited the lessons he learned firsthand in the aftermath of the floods brought by storm Sendong in December last year.

He said that after Sendong he and provincial board member Rogelio Lago went to Taguanao in Cagayan de Oro City where some residents of Bukidnon had evacuated after the flood, and realized that the local government still had deficiencies [in disaster preparedness].

“For example, we don’t have tents for evacuees. I was worried because the children had no place in which to sleep,” he recalled.

“A lot of rice came but there were no kettles and pans,” he added.

The governor said in half-jest that some women even confided to him that they had no underwear, although they did receive enough used clothing.

“This may sound like a joke but it tells us that we need to provide not only foodstuff during disasters,” he stressed.

Calingasan said that when floods hit Valencia City 10 days after “Sendong” Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata asked him if the provincial government can lend them [portable] toilets for the estimated 3,000 evacuees being housed at the city gymnasium.

Learning from Valencia’s experience, Calingasan said he has advised the barangays to call their covered courts evacuation centers so that they can build toilets in these structures using their calamity fund.

He said the severe lack of toilets for evacuees has been a major cause for the spread of diseases whenever disasters occur.

“They said we are prepared because we have enough land and water vehicles. But during the flood in Valencia we could not use our boats since there were holes on them,” he said.

Calingasan also echoed an earlier sentiment aired by other Bukidnon officials about claims that people in the province were to blame for the floods brought by “Sendong” citing the denudation of forests in the uplands.

“The statements were uncalled for. It (flood) was an act of God and a wakeup call for us,” he said.

He said that in 1916 a flood also hit Cagayan de Oro even if there were more trees then.

“In 1916, the water reached Delmar or what is now called Apolinar Velez Street, while last year it reached up to Capistrano Street,” he noted.

Velez Street is farther from Cagayan River than Capistrano Street. Both streets lie parallel to the river.

Calingasan said that if the cutting of trees has persisted in Bukidnon, it is because of buyers from Cagayan de Oro. “If they stop buying our logs and charcoal, the cutting will stop.”

“The loggers here were from Cagayan de Oro,” he added. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)