Maguindanao villages submerged in water–authoritiesBy Cai Panlilio, Edwin Fernandez, Germelina Lacorte, Orlando Dinoy
COTABATO CITY – Maguindanao villages near the Liguasan Marsh, including areas where residents displaced by fighting between soldiers and Moro rebels had recently resettled, had been underwater since Wednesday.
The deluge was triggered by the swelling of the marsh due to the large volume of water flowing in from the Pulangui River in Bukidnon and other major waterways from the nearby provinces of Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and South Cotabato, authorities said.
The 220,000 hectare Liguasan Marsh serves as catch-basin for some of Mindanao’s major rivers.
Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Hao, commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion, said that in Montawal and Pagalungan towns alone, some 2,217 families had to be evacuated because of the rising water level in their villages.
Hao said there had been no reports of casualties so far and evacuated residents were being assisted.
On Tuesday, floods also swept through Caraga region, Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao and, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley in Eastern Mindanao.
Although the floods damaged, crops, properties and infrastructure, no one was injured or had died as officials immediately evacuated affected residents.
The fresh floods – triggered by a low pressure area over Zamboanga – occurred as residents in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro were still trying to cope with the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm “Sendong” on December 17.
Nearly 1,250 people had died in the floods that had depths of about 30 feet in many areas.
In Cagayan de Oro City, non-government organizations have joined the relief effort for thousands of people cramming in evacuation centers since the disaster struck.
Jordan Apat of the Philippine Service for Mercy Foundation said aside from diseases, they were also keeping an eye on human traffickers, who might take advantage of the sufferings of the evacuees.
“These individuals have to be protected because they are prone to human trafficking,” he said.
In Davao City, religious and cause-oriented groups on Tuesday launched Bulig Alang sa Mindanao (Balsa-Mindanao) to help in the relief and rehabilitation of families affected by floods in the island.
At the same time, the United Nations Humanitarian Fund announced that emergency operations in shelter, water and sanitation, food, and logistics, were underway for flood victims in Mindanao.
Also, Valerie Ramos of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (Cerf) announced the release of a $3-million grant for aid to flood victims.
This is the third Cerf grant allocated to the Philippines for 2011 alone, bringing the total amount received to $11.5 million.
The National Democratic Front (NDF) Far South, meanwhile, warned of more disasters unless the government did something about the destruction of the environment.
The NDF said the government should now ban mining and cutting of trees.
“Logging and large scale mining is dangerous and destructive. We must act before it is too late.” The NDF said.
Among those that the NDF wanted halted was the activity of Xstrata-owned Sagittarius Mines in South Cotabato.
“This wanton destruction of our natural resources in Far South Mindanao is the precursor of another disaster similar to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan,” the NDF said.