Tunggol Bridge in Maguindanao in danger of collapsing

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 04 September) – A disaster waiting to happen.

Tunggol Bridge in Barangay Tunggol, Datu Montawal town in Maguindanao is in danger of collapsing as the series of flooding incidents has eroded the soil and destroyed the slope protection underneath the approach of the bridge towards Cotabato City.

In a conference convened Wednesday by ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu expressed fears that the bridge, a vital link between Davao and Cotabato cities, would collapse.

“We fear that if one more flashflood or strong current of water will come, that bridge cannot anymore hold its weight and that’s the problem we don’t want to see in the next days,” Mangudadatu said.

Maguindanao province has been experiencing heavy flooding since last week, affecting some 25,000 residents in 10 of its 36 towns, including Datu Montawal.

Mangudadatu urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to immediately address the problem.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) has recorded two deaths in the towns of North Upi and South Upi this week due to landslide and drowning from flashfloods.

“We have to act urgently, we need to assess sooner the situation to release certain budget from the emergency fund,” Hataman said as he asked DPWH Assistant Secretary Dimas Soguilon and DWPH-ARMM Secretary Emil Sadain to attend to the problem immediately.

It was the second regular meeting Haaman convened with the governors, DPWH and contractors to monitor the infrastructure projects but the current state of Tunggol Bridge was a priority topic.

Vital link

The slope protection of the Tunggol Bridge's approach from Datu Montawal in Maguindanao. Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu has expressed fears the bridge would collapse. Photo corutesy of DPWH-ARMM
The slope protection of the Tunggol Bridge’s approach from the Datu Montawal in Maguindanao (Davao City side)  destroyed by floods. Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu has expressed fears the bridge would collapse. Photo taken September 3 , 2014  courtesy of DPWH-ARMM

Tunggol Bridge connects Datu Montawal town in Maguindanao with Pagalungan also in Maguindanao (Datu Montawal was formerly part of Pagalungan), en route to Pikit in North Cotabato.

Passengers and goods from the cities of Davao, Digos, Kidapawan, and the provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato pass this bridge to connect with the other towns of North Cotabato and Maguindanao and Cotabato City.

A few months ago, DPWH 12 repaired the slope protection on the same problematic approach but floods destroyed the slope protection.

In the early 1990s, the bridge was also rendered impassable. Bus passengers had to ride a barge to get to the other side of the Tunggol Channel and take another bus to their destinations.

Warning from 2011 report

In its Situation Report dated June 17, 2011, the Presidential Task Force on Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development  (PTFMRBRD), then headed by Cotabato Archbishop, now Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, had already warned of a disaster waiting to happen.

The report said the Tunggol cut-off channel “is now practically a lake.

Aerial view of Tunggol Bridge and cut-off channel taken June 11, 2011. Photo from the June 17, 2011 Situation report of the PTFMRBRD
Aerial view of Tunggol Bridge and cut-off channel taken June 11, 2011. Photo from the June 17, 2011 Situation report of the PTFMRBRD

It noted that the cut-off channel was constructed decades ago “to divert a portion of the water flow of the Lower Pulangui River directly to the Ligawasan Marsh so as to avoid the flooding of Pikit” in North Cotabato during heavy rains.

“The channel, constructed of clay loam soil, eventually widened from its original 40-meter width to its current 120 meter span,” the June 2011 report said.

The PTFRBRD, set up in February 2010 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,was given until December 2012 to complete the Mindanao River Basin master plan, among other tasks. But it was disbanded through President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s Executive Order 50 on July 28, 2011 and was given three months after the effectivity of the EO, to wind up, its functions turned over mostly to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

“Possible wash-out”

There is no available data yet on how wide the span is as of September 2014, from 120 meters in 2011.

The June 2011 report also said that the heavy siltation of the river and the heavy rains had caused a breach in several portions of the channel, and that the upper portion of the channel “has formed into a lake.”

The report featured pictures taken during an aerial survey on June 11, 2011, showing how precarious the situation had become and how the channel had “transformed into a lake.”

The report also noted the “immediate danger” of “possible wash-out of the bridge which is slowly being encircled by creeks on both sides of the bridge.”

The report stressed the need to “immediately address the problem.”

It said several requests were made to the DPWH “and one of these was for the dredgers currently at Cotabato City to be assigned to the area to arrest the siltation in the said channel” but the equipment were being used at that time in Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)