COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Members of the Mindanao River Basin-Technical Working Group (MRB-TWG) convened here on Tuesday to review ongoing projects aimed to provide long-term solutions to the flooding within the area and to fast track technical preparations needed to jumpstart the construction and implementation of both structural and non-structural flood control interventions.

Convened by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the meeting gathered the core members of the MRB-TWG composed of representatives from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of Regions X, XII and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), along with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the Regional Planning Development Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

Structural interventions are composed of infrastructure and other flood-control projects, while non-structural interventions include reforestation, mangrove rehabilitation, and sustainable watershed management.

"Both of these structural and non-structural interventions are aimed to address the issue of flooding beyond a piece-meal method and are part of the strategic programs prioritized in the MRB Master Plan which adopts the ridge-to-reef approach," said MinDA Chair Luwalhati Antonino.

The ridge-to-reef is a development approach that requires the protection, utilization, and rehabilitation of the environment from the mountains to the seas. Mindanao's roadmap for peace and development or Mindanao 2020 calls for the full implementation of this strategy.

Initiated by MinDA, the MRB Master Plan is a result of several years of study that delved into the root causes of the constant flooding in the river basin, and at the same time outlined recommendations on interventions to address the problem in an integrated and holistic approach that cuts across regional and provincial borders.

Completed in 2013, the MRB Master Plan was subsequently endorsed by the Regional Development Councils of Regions X and XII, as well as the Regional Economic Development and Planning Board of the ARMM by the first quarter of this year. The same plan was also adopted by the Cabinet Cluster on the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation during its meeting in Quezon City last month.

To date, there are seven structural projects that are on going and designed to relieve the flooding problem in the area. These include the P39.89 million River Bank Protection Project along the Cotabato-GenSan Road in Tamontaka, Cotabato City which is expected to be completed in June 2014; the P174.19 million Simuay Flood Control Project in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao which is expected to be completed by the end of 2014; the P46 million Allah River Flood Control Project in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat which is expected to be completed in July 2014; a P50 million and P74.5 million Libungan Flood Control Projects Phase III both in Libungan, Cotabato which are expected to be completed in August and October of 2014, respectively; a P72.5 million Carmen River Bank Protection with Revetment Flood Control Project in Lumayong, Carmen, Cotabato to be completed in November 2014; and a P15.2 million University of Southern Mindanao Flood Control Project Phase I in Kabacan, Cotabato which is already substantially completed.

Aside from these existing structural projects, MinDA has been proactively advocating for the fast tracking of the implementation of six priority flood control projects in the MRB with a budget of P6.9 billion from DPWH. The six identified priority projects are: Channel modification of the Ambal-Simuay River; Dredging of the Rio Grande de Mindanao; Dredging and dike construction along the Tunggol River including the expansion of the Tunggol bridge; Construction of revetment dikes along the Ala River; Construction of revetments along the Buluan River; and the Construction of revetments along the Tamontaka River.

The DPWH central office has already prioritized these projects and the detailed engineering is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Along with the River Basin Control Office (RBCO) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), MinDA has been mandated by Executive Order No. 50 to not only complete the MRB Master Plan and to facilitate development interventions, but also to create the MRB Management council to serve as lead organization that will oversee the protection and management of waters and natural resources within the MRB.

In line with efforts to climate change-proof the MRB Master Plan, the MRB-TWG recently completed its second module of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (DRRM-CCAM) training, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to include DRRM and CCAM initiatives in the master plan.

"This is part of our integrated effort to also prepare our partner agencies including the LGU alliances within the MRB to implement their respective preparedness, prevention and mitigation measures," said Antonino.

As part of non-structural efforts to address flooding in Mindanao, MinDA, the DENR and the DILG are collaborating in massive reforestation efforts in areas in and around critical rivers, mountain ranges, watershed and identified flooded areas in Mindanao.

Under the Mindanao Barangay StraTREEgic Forest Project (BSFP), an initial 200 barangays throughout the island-region will be actively engaged in reforestation efforts in support of the National Greening Program.

The BSFP, a sub-project of MinDA's MindaNOW! Nurturing Our Waters Program will help mobilize stakeholders, resources and partnerships in reforestation efforts not only as a mitigating measure against further flooding, but is also envisioned to restore the forest cover of the island-region. From the initial 200 barangays, the BSFP is planned to expand to an eventual total of 1,700 barangays all over Mindanao.

Also present during the meeting are Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr., ARMM Executive Secretary Atty. Laisa Alamia, and Ching Ayupan, representative of the office of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo.
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