Calamity feared as water hyacinths invade Maguindanao, North Cotabato

DATU PIANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/09 February) – Communities surrounding the Rio Grande de Mindanao feared another calamity may yet happen as water hyacinths continued to pile up in portions of Datu Piang, Maguindanao and Midsayap, North Cotabato.

This has resulted to flooding for several days now in the low-lying village of Ulandang in Midsayap where the Datu Gelen Piang Elementary School is located.

Despite a flooded school ground, children like Ana Lumenda still attended classes. “We still can handle crossing the flooded school but cannot afford to skip classes, as we will be left far behind if we lose our motivation to come to school” she said in the vernacular.

The culprit – huge masses of water hyacinth, locally known as “pusaw,” upstream of Datu Sajid Piang Bridge that connects Datu Piang and Midsayap — blocked the normal flow of water. This forced the water to change its course inundating portions of Ulandang.

Residents feared for the worst if the water lilies were not removed. One of their options is to cut the water lilies, mostly three to six meters thick, into smaller chunks to restore the normal water flow.

They said that if rains continued upstream or in the Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato mountain areas, more hyacinths will clog the Liguasan marshland waterways.

Estimates showed that about the clogging had already covered eight hectares near Datu Sajid Piang Bridge.

Engr. James Mlok of the Maguindanao engineering district said manual removal is not feasible as water lilies from upstream would continue to move downstream every minute.

“Clogged water plants have reached to almost eight hectares,” Mlok said. “Good enough the ARMM-HEART has initiated coordination meeting the other day for the military and the Moro rebels to help in unclogging the waterways.”

He was referring to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team headed by Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary.

Alamia convened major stakeholders and organized a “convergence team” composed of disaster workers, 6th Infantry Division, local residents and Moro Islamic Liberation Front members to lend warm bodies in manually and mechanically removing water lilies.

Lt. Col.l Warlito Limet, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion called on Moro rebels for help.

“Let’s set aside ideology and work for the common good of our people,” Limet said.

Mayor Genuine Kamaong of Datu Piang asked the regional government for the purchase of a water master for faster removal of hyacinths before to prevent further flooding in Datu Piang.

He said the the calamity fund, which is five percent of the local budget, is not enough to handle the huge resources needed to eradicate the clogging.

“We are flooded here every three months or every time heavy down pour occurs upstream, kawawa naman kami (we’re so pitiful),” he said. “We are asking ARMM to help us procure water master or floating backhoe. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)