By John Unson
Torrential rains have flooded over 70 villages in Central Mindanao since Friday after the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta overflowed in mountain ranges around.
The most affected villages are in interior areas in the adjoining towns of Pagalungan and Montawal in Maguindanao and in nearby Pikit and Kabacan in North Cotabato.
Swamps have dotted the landscape of the four towns, and crisscrossed by rivers that connect to the vast Liguasan Delta.
The Liguasan Delta is a catch basin for a dozen rivers that spring from forested hinterlands in Bukidnon,Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and South Cotabato provinces.
The local government units in Pagalungan, Montawal and Pikit have relocated hundreds of families to higher grounds with the help of volunteer organizations, the police, and the military.
Pikit Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council personnel said 27 villages in the municipality have been inundated since Wednesday.
“We have no way but evacuate to higher areas. The flood in our barangay is now waist-deep,” an evacuee, 36-year-old farmer Edris Sandigan, said in the Maguindanao dialect.
The flood has destroyed their crops, he added.
Sandigan, his wife and four children are among of over 20,000 flood-stricken Moro and Christian families displaced by the floods that also hit low-lying towns in the second district of Maguindanao. The district lies along the upper zones of the oft-flooded Liguasan Delta.
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The Bangsamoro government’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READI) has started its relief interventions for flood victims.
The quick deployment READI outfit is operating under the supervision of lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, the local government minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Sinarimbo said the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government and READI shall together also reach out to flood victims in several barangays in North Cotabato. These villages have became part of BARMM after residents voted in favor of the inclusion of their communities into the Moro-led autonomous government during a plebiscite in early 2019.
Sinarimbo, also concurrent BARMM regional spokesperson, said the interior ministry has worked with the local government, social services, and health.
He said their chief minister has focused on possible engineering interventions. These include dredging of the waterways connecting the Liguasan Delta to the western seacoasts of Maguindanao and Cotabato City.
“These rivers have become shallow due to thick deposits of silt that accumulated on river beds as a result of perennial flooding for decades now,” Sinarimbo said.
Other senior BARMM regional officials said the Bangsamoro government and Malacañang need to work together fast in addressing the problem.
Sources from the offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Region 11 and 12 said Malacañang has a plan to dredge the rivers connecting the Liguasan Delta to seacoasts downstream. The plan never fully taken off.
Even before President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, the national government had already crafted the Liguasan rehabilitation plan.
“The ARMM and the BARMM cannot be blamed for these flooding woes because its implementation is the national government’s call,” a senior regional DPWH official, who requested anonymity, said.
BARMM has replaced ARMM, created via a referendum in 1990, in February last year as a result of the 22-year peace talks between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.