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Cotabato to probe DPWH dredging project

/ 08:29 PM June 03, 2012

COTABATO CITY—The city’s legislative body is poised to investigate an abandoned multimillion dredging project of the national government.

Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema said as presiding officer, the council will have to summon the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the private contractor to explain the stalled dredging work at the Rio Grande de Mindanao that was blamed for the 2008 floods that displaced thousands of families here and other parts of Maguindanao and Central Mindanao.

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With the onset of the rainy season, Sema along with reporters visited the project site and noticed a wrecked boat dredger with substandard siphoning materials.

“What has happened to this project?” asked the former mayor, as he allayed fears of another catastrophe with heavily-silted rivers and tributaries gradually teeming with water hyacinths that may cause water to overflow and start to flood low-lying villages.

Sema recalled that Malacañang has ordered the release of P120 million, in staggered basis, to the DPWH intended for the Vic Lao construction firm that undertook the project.

He said prior to the abolition of the Mindanao River Basin Task Force, created by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the dredging project had been marred with funding controversy, prompting its head to resign in frustration leaving the DPWH behind.

Sema said the city council’s findings would be brought to the attention of President Benigno Aquino III, who was here last year to assist flood victims and likewise directed the DPWH to resolve the frequent flash floods in areas bounded by the Mindanao River Basin.

According to Sema, the council’s environment and public works committee chairs would have to investigate an abandoned dredging project worth P100 million by a Manila-based construction firm that allegedly got the award due to its lowest bid of P49 million.

“The project, which was supposed to start late last year, has been abandoned for several months now and residents are endangered of having submerged communities with the coming rainy days,” he said.

While the country has just embarked on “Project Noah,” a government-private collaboration aimed to establish a warning system to alert citizens of impending floods, earthquake and other catastrophe in prone areas, Sema said Cotabato, which is below sea level, “is not only flood-prone but high-risk to tremors due to the presence of a fault line.”

He recalled the August 1976 quake here that crumpled buildings and left over a thousand people dead following a tsunami, an offshoot of the 7.5 magnitude jolt.

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Loreto Rirao, Muslim Mindanao civil defense chief, said the government’s disaster awareness program has been focused on schoolchildren in preparation for the opening of classes on Monday.

He said dozens of school buildings were under water here and in Maguindanao during the 2008 and 2011 floods. Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Central Mindanao, dredging project, Maguindanao, Regions
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