COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Text messages announcing the “collapse” of a multimillion-peso irrigation dam in Bukidnon due to rampaging floods the other day triggered panic in villages along the banks of the Rio Grande de Mindanao that traverse low-lying areas in Maguindanao before draining into the nearby Moro Gulf.
The text messages even prompted the newly appointed executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim, lawyer Anwar Malang, to convene Tuesday night the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) to iron out an emergency action plan meant to mitigate the impact of the possible swelling of the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao and the Rio Grande River due to the reported destruction of the government-run irrigation facility in Valencia City in Bukidnon.
Retired Gen. Loreto Rirao, director of the RDRRMC, however, refuted the text warnings after having confirmed from military sources in Bukidnon that floodwaters have indeed overflowed from the dam, but its walls have not collapsed, contrary to reports.
The dam retains more than 50 million cubic meters of water. Its supposedly controlled downstream flow connects to the Pulangi River which straddles through the direction of Carmen and Kabacan towns, both in North Cotabato, and Maguindanao’s adjoining Pagalungan and Montawal towns.
About 80 percent of the rivers that spring from forested areas in Bukidnon fuse with the Pulangui River, flowing down into Central Mindanao via the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh which drains into the Rio Grande de Mindanao that traverses the first district of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and parts of Cotabato City.
“We had terrible floods in 2008 and from May to July this year so we cannot take chances this time. We can stop flashfloods but we can mitigate its effects on people who dwell in flood-prone areas,” Malang said.
The ARMM’s social welfare secretary, Pombaen Karon Kader, who was also in the emergency meeting, said residents in Pagalungan and Montawal towns, which are both in the second district of Maguindanao, were alarmed by the text messages about the dam’s supposed collapse.
“Nonetheless we are prepared to mobilize our people in case such kind of disaster happens,” Kader said. - By John Unson