Residents fear more floods in Asuncion

ASUNCION, Davao del Norte (MindaNews/18 January)— Having experienced the worst flooding when typhoon Pablo hit this town last December, residents here feared they will have more floods this year due to climate change, a village official said.

Kagawad Ireneo Tonga of Barangay Doña Andrea said in an interview they had experienced six floods in about three months since November last year.

He said there were two floods in November, one by Pablo, two when typhoon Auring hit last January 3 and another last January 7, which was brought by a low pressure area (LPA) that was earlier expected to hit Davao and Caraga regions.

Tonga pointed out that they are expecting to have more floods with higher level of water this year after such experiences.

But residents expect a dry season from March to May based on experience, he added.

Flooding is a recurring problem here with an average of two to three floods a year, Tonga said, noting that floods usually occur after two days of continuous rains.

But last year, there were about seven floods, particularly in Sitio Mahayag in Barangay Doña Andrea, he recalled.

In 2011, there were three floods recorded, particularly in January, July and December in Davao del Norte, the disaster situationer report of the province’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed.

Farmer Arcadio Familar, 79, said in an interview last January 6 that barely a month after Pablo ruined his two-hectare rice field, he and his wife Crisencia, 73, had planted again only to be wiped out by another flood.

“Since I was a bachelor, it’s been flooding here,” he told MindaNews, holding a pack of seven-kilo rice he received from the Relief and Children’s Alternative Program Foundation, Inc. (RECAP) at Barangay Doña Andrea.

Familar said that in order for them to adapt to such inevitable condition, they planted root crops and bananas for subsistence at the elevated portion of their land.

But typhoon Pablo still destroyed them all, he added.

Now that their three children are married, flooding has continued and even worsened, with Pablo’s water reaching the roof of their house, Familar said.

Caught between two rivers

Pio Bebero, 47, president of the parents’ association of Kiddie Care Center at Sitio Mahayag in Barangay Doña Andrea, said that Asuncion town is located in between two rivers that cause flooding when they overflow.

He said the Ilog River, which comes from Kapalong, Davao del Norte, and the Saug River, which is a tributary of Agusan River, would converge at the Libuganon River, starting at Pagsabangan Bridge.

Bebero recalled that less than a decade ago, flood seldom reached Sitio Mahayag from the village’s center a kilometer away, adding that if there was flood, the water level barely reached the knee.

In the last few years, however, Sitio Mahayag would be flooded up to the waist after at least two days of continuous rains, he said.

When typhoon Pablo hit their village, the water level was chest-high, Bebero said.

Joint resolution

In early 2012, Tonga said that nine barangays in Asuncion submitted a joint resolution to the provincial and municipal engineering offices to de-silt the Ilog River as solution to the flooding problem.

He identified the nine barangays as Pamantayon, New Loon,  Doña Andrea, Camuning, San Vicente, New Bantayan, Magapos, New Santiago and Poblacion.

Tonga said the provincial engineer’s office told them that the provincial government has yet to act on their proposal due to lack of funds as the project would need “billions of pesos.”

Romulo Tagalo, Davao del Norte information officer, said that under the 2013 Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan, desilting of rivers shall be one of the mitigating actions that will be given priority, by buying a floating backhoe.

Land use conversion

Zelda Galagala, RECAP executive director, told MindaNews that land use conversion, particularly planting forestal lands with bananas for export, had contributed to the worsening floods.

Providing relief assistance to the province since 1988, Galagala said she has witnessed the worsening of floods in the area as banana plantations expanded three to four years ago.

She explained that the expansion of banana plantations from the lowlands to highlands, replacing the forest cover to monocrop plantation, has intensified soil erosion, causing siltation of the rivers.

The Davao del Norte provincial government has no data on banana expansion in Asuncion.

But Rene Dalayon, president and chief executive officer of the Federation of Banana Cooperatives in Davao (Fedco), told MindaNews Friday that, according to an assessor, Asuncion has about 20,000 hectares (ha) of banana plantations in 2009.

Presently, he said at least 25,000 ha are planted to bananas in Asuncion, which means an increase of 5,000 ha in the last three years.

Climate in crisis

Rose Latonio, executive director of Network towards the Empowerment, Transformation and Sustainability of Communities and Organizations (NETSCO), said in an interview the worsening floods is a “clear indication” of a climate in crisis, brought by the historical dumping of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by the world’s largest economies.

She said these entities should be held liable for this crisis, which puts Third World countries like the Philippines highly vulnerable.

“Climate justice should be demanded by compelling them, among others, to pay for the costs of mitigation and adaptation of the Third World communities to the impacts of climate change,” Latonio said.

NETSCO is planning to conduct disaster risk reduction and climate change mitigation workshops in communities susceptible to floods and landslides in the region, she said. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)