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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol

Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Low-lying areas in the different River Basins of Mindanao, the main sources of agricultural products, could suffer from floods worse than those which hit Luzon recently unless government agencies coordinate and consolidate programs and project.

In the recent 4th Mindanao River Basin Management Council (MRBMC) meeting held at the Provincial Capitol of North Cotabato convened by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), I submitted an observation that government efforts to address the perennial flooding in Mindanao River Basins lacked coherence and coordination.

The three major agencies involved in the preventing flooding - Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture - have spent some P6-B for projects implemented over the last few years.

The huge government expenditure, however, has not even lessened the flooding and the damage caused to agriculture and the livelihood of residents in the low-lying areas.

After a two-hour reporting on the accomplishments of the three agencies, I recommended to the MRBMC Chairman Orlando Cardinal Quevedo that the recommendation of the Council for the creation of the Mindanao River Basin Development Authority (MRBA) should be pursued.

With the concurrence of North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco who hosted the event, the following measures were submitted the the MRBMC:

1. The immediate dredging and de-clogging of the major rivers to ensure the free-flow of water, especially in the Central Mindanao Area where the major rivers are choked by water hyacinths;

2. The establishment of water catchment basins, small dams, levees and water impounding to mitigate the sudden rush of floodwater to the lower portions of the basins, a measure which could also be beneficial to agriculture;

3. The construction of levees and river embankments to manage and direct the flow of flood water and minimize damage to agriculture;

4. Strict implementation of forestry laws, including legal actions to be taken against those who encroach into critical watershed areas;

5. A serious, effective and well-planned program to grow trees in the deforested highlands, watersheds and mountains, including the growing of fruit trees.

6. Finally, the creation of the singular agency which will coordinate the implementation of these programs through an Executive Order to be issued by President Rody Duterte because of the urgency of the problem.

Satellite maps showing the thinning forest cover and the expanding flood hazard areas in Mindanao stressed the need to immediately implement the recommendations.

The Council will meet again in the First Quarter of 2021 to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations with the resolve that any delay could result in a disaster.

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