Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Arroyo action sought on river clogging in Cotabato City

COTABATO CITY, Philippines--Officials here have asked the national government to send barge dredgers to dismantle tons of marsh grassland that typhoon Frank (international codename: Fengshen) pushed midstream, clogging Mindanao's Pulangi River.

Mayor Muslimin Sema said the city government gave up asking the Central Mindanao office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to help stop flooding in the city, and that a request should be made directly to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Makeshift tents of residents fleeing inundated low-lying areas have dotted interior streets here.

Vice Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. said the city council declared a state of calamity when typhoon Frank hit the country and dumped heavy rains here, but the city hardly received aid from the national government.

On Thursday, residents, led by Sema, tried but failed in manual efforts at splitting the huge soil mass of rooted grass and water lilies grounded beneath the columns of a bridge here. The access road of the alternative bridge has been left unfinished by the DPWH since 2007.

Over the weekend, police explosives and ordnance experts thrice exploded the vast mass of vegetated soil clogging the river, but the blasts split only a small portion, "as if it were a tiny icing part of a cake," said city information officer Abdullah Cusain.

The mayor said the city engineering office mobilized heavy equipment of bulldozers and a hydraulic crane to help residents cut and pull adrift the clogging grassland estimated by officials at some four hectares wide and about the river's depth thick.

But the virtual stream island still clung and held the river's downstream flow, forcing a waterway diversion toward the city and Sultan Kudarat town in Shariff Kabunsuan, which both lie below sea-level.

Two barge dredgers sailed here from Cavite for stationary waterway digging in 2001 on order of then Public Works Secretary Simeon Datumanong.

But city councilor Anwar Malang said the dredgers, which could have helped clear the river of the vegetated earth clog were sent back to Manila soon after DPWH-Central Mindanao director Usop Ali had his regular appointment from the President.

Efforts to reach Ali proved futile as his subordinates said the director was not available for interview.

Malang said the clogging had, in effect, diverted the river's downstream course to smaller tributaries, overflowing onto at least eight of the city's villages.

Malang said the stream's new direction also resulted in stronger river current in another tributary, which could cause the collapse of the city's Matampay Bridge.

Residents said relief goods distributed were hardly enough for the affected villages.

Sema said "with outside help neither offered nor forthcoming," the city could hardly cope with day-to-day provision of basic needs for the displaced residents.

Classes have been suspended the past days in at least two elementary schools here where most of the displaced families are temporarily sheltered, education officials said.

In the city's Nayon Shariff village, residents and students were seen wading through knee-deep floodwater on a main thoroughfare bounding the Notre Dame University. Interior streets and residential areas were also flooded.(Nash Maulana; INQ.net)

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