Cleanup of SouthCot rivers called to prevent floods

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 31 Oct) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has ordered a massive cleanup of various rivers and waterways in Tantangan town following the severe floods since Monday that ravaged eight farming villages in the area.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Thursday she has directed the municipal government of Tantangan and other local stakeholders to prioritize the cleanup of their clogged up rivers and waterways of wastes and other related materials to help ease the floods in the area.

“Based on our assessment, the flashfloods in Tantangan were caused by the accumulation of various wastes in some rivers and drainage canals there. It disrupted the normal flow of water and eventually caused them to swell and divert towards local communities and farmlands,” the governor said.

She specifically cited a major river traversing Barangay San Felipe, which caused heavy flooding in the area and three neighboring villages early Monday.

The floods submerged a portion of the national highway in Barangay San Felipe, slowing down the movement of local residents to the polling precincts in Monday’s barangay elections.

On Tuesday night, some 145 families from portions of Barangay New Iloilo were forced to evacuate after the area was submerged by waist-deep floodwaters that overflowed from a river in Barangay San Felipe.

The local government of Tantangan placed the entire area under a state of calamity on Wednesday due to the impact of the floods and landslides that affected 8 of the town’s 13 barangays.

Fuentes said she instructed Tantangan Mayor Benjamin Figueroa Jr. to facilitate the river cleanup and tap the services of local residents through a food-for-work scheme.

The governor said the provincial government has released some rice stocks to expedite the food-for-work program.

“We need to remove the obstructions along the river to allow the water to flow normally towards its outlets,” she said.

Fuentes noted that some rivers in the area need immediate rehabilitation as portions of their waterways have narrowed down after some farmers extended their production areas along the river banks.

She urged local residents to participate in the cleanup drive by clearing their own surroundings of various wastes and make sure that they don’t end up in the drainage canals and rivers.

As of Thursday morning, Figueroa said the damage wrought by the floods in the area has already reached around P43.4 million.

He said the estimated damage to agricultural crops, specifically on palay, has increased to around P38 million while they assessed an initial damage of P5.4 million to local infrastructure.

Hardest hit were the palay-producing barangays of New Iloilo, San Felipe, Maibo, Cabuling, Tinongcop and Dumadalig.

Nelida Pereira, South Cotabato provincial social welfare and development officer, said they have so far assisted around 1,100 families that were affected by the floods.

She said 500 of these households were in Barangay San Felipe, 200 in Cabuling and 400 in New Iloilo.

The number of evacuees that have temporarily settled at the Tantangan municipal gymnasium has increased to 300 families, she said.

Pereira added that they released food packs and other relief items to augment the ongoing relief operations spearheaded by the municipal government of Tantangan.