Bishop, Maguindanao officials seek help to unclog river
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – A Catholic bishop and Maguindanao local officials called on President Benigno Aquino III, and the central office of the Department of Public Works and Highways to order the unclogging of the Rio Grande de Mindanao.
Overgrown aquatic plants have encircled the columns of major bridges, Tamontaka, Quirino, Matampay and Delta bridges, raising fear these would eventually cause damage to the structures.
Maguindanao and Cotabato City have been placed under a state of calamity following days of floods that already displaced more than 500,000 persons in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
According to Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, who chairs the Presidential Task Force on Mindanao River Basin, Cotabato City is the catch basin of flood waters from rivers in Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao.
Riding on helicopters of the Philippine Air Force, Quevedo and Loreto Rirao, executive director of the Office of Civil Defense in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, surveyed on Saturday the Liguasan marshland to have a bird’s eyeview of the problem.
He said huge chunks of water hyacinths have been moving from upstream and expected to reach Cotabato City and the river mouth anytime.
Before these huge chunks of water lilies reach the Moro Gulf, they have to pass through several bridges endangering its foundation, according to Rirao.
“We need the immediate help of Malacañang on this,” Quevedo said.
Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. has already alerted the DPWH central office but yet to receive a response.
Government engineers are worried that the water hyacinths could cause serious damage to the bridges’ structures, if not removed promptly.
“We hope the President will find time to help us avert flooding in the city,” Guiani said.
Mayor Tocao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, said clogged rivers have overflowed, causing floods in dozens of barangay (villages) in his municipality and in the eastern side of Cotabato City.
Twenty-seven out of 37 villages of Cotabato City have been underwater since Wednesday, displacing more than 20,000 city residents. Water was neck-deep in some areas and waist-deep in elevated villages.
Water lilies from the Liguasan Marsh were forced downstream into the rivers here and nearby towns by floodwaters spawned by heavy rains since last week.
Guiani said his immediate concern now would be to remove no less than 20,000 tons of water lilies now tangling in the columns of each of the three big bridges in the city.
He said city engineering workers have been helplessly trying to remove the water lilies under these bridges using backhoes and through manual labor.
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