Cotabato City’s Delta Bridge finally freed from water hyacinths; floods subside
COTABATO CITY – The floodwater has gone down, the water hyacinths have been cleared from the downstream channel of Rio Grande de Mindanao and floods have subsided in more villages in Cotabato City.
“Good news, the water level has receded,” Sam Mundas of the Cotabato City disaster unit, told reporters Sunday.
Soldiers, policemen and civilian volunteers have finally cleared the Delta Bridge of water hyacinths that prevented the normal flow of water to the Moro Gulf, and which caused flooding in at least 33 villages here.
Engr. Manuel Viloria of the Cotabato 1st engineering district, said the more than two hectares of water hyacinths at the foot of the Delta Bridge were gone.
“But we remain here because we know huge chunks of water hyacinths upstream are expected to come down soon,” he said, adding that the heavy equipment plus the manpower have been moved upstream to destroy the hyacinths before they could reach the Delta Bridge.
Col. Prudencio Asto, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the normal downstream flow of the Rio Grande toward the sea was restored at around 7 a.m. Sunday after more than two weeks of continuing battles by soldiers and villagers to remove the water hyacinths using only farm tools and chainsaws.
“We commend our soldiers and non-military sectors that helped unclog the river of that monster water lily carpet,” Asto told reporters.
Brig. Gen. Rey Ardo, 6th ID chief, had ordered a thousand soldiers to help in removing the aquatic plants along with hundreds of civilians and public works personnel.
“What we did was a typical showcase of Muslim-Christian solidarity in times of disasters and calamities,” Ardo said.
With the water down, displaced families who cramped various evacuation centers, have started to return home. But a big number of evacuees from low-lying villages remained in evacuation sites, as of Sunday.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Mindanao continued its food aid distribution Sunday even as social workers appeal to displaced families to return home.
Water inside and in front of the region’s biggest university, the Notre Dame University, had receded but it left thick mud and an unpleasant smell.
Floods have also subsided in the densely populated Barangay Notre Dame Village, allowing affected residents to return home. Thick mud and mushrooms greeted the residents.
Rizelma Eliaca, a private employee who owns a house that was flooded neck-deep, said she and her neighbors faced the huge task of cleaning up. They immediately went to work clearing mud and debris Sunday morning.
The city has not experienced a downpour the past three days, giving hope to affected residents the flood is gone.
Rogelio Doruelo, another displaced resident, hauled his children and valuables back to their home amid thick mud, foul smell and wet surroundings.
“I hope this will not happen again, I hope our leaders will unite and do something that will benefit us poor,” he said in the vernacular as he pushed a cart loaded with his valuables.
Mundas said the floods were a reminder of the importance of proper garbage disposal.
He reminded every city resident of the city government’s slogan which said “Basura ko, sagot ko (My Garbage, My Responsibility).”
Sorahayda Taha, social welfare and development regional director, said her office has been coordinating with the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Trade and Industry to formulate plans on how to organize communities that could produce merchandise such as bags and decors, out of the water hyacinths that had clogged Rio Grande.
The Villar Foundation, through former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, expressed readiness to help Cotabato City residents make livelihood out of the water hyacinths.
“We will train the city residents how to use the water hyacinth in income generating projects,” she said in a radio interview.
The Villar Foundation produces bags, baskets and decors out of the water hyacinths from the Las Piñas-Zapote Rivers. The project bagged the United Nations award for Best Water Management Practices.
She said if the city government was willing to learn, she would send experts in the city.
The foundation has already shared their expertise in other communities living near the rivers in Pasig City, Taguig City, Muntinlupa City, Malabon in Metro Manila, and in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, and even in South Cotabato.
Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr welcomed Villar’s offer and said the city government has been coordinating with the Villar Foundation.
The floods that submerged more than 200 villages in Central Mindanao and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao displaced more than 600,000 persons, mostly poor Muslims who have been relying mainly on farming and inland water fishing as source of livelihood.
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