Major flooding disrupts Ramadan in parts of Maguindanao, Philippines

It is the recurring flashfloods, not armed conflicts as what authorities had prepared for, that have been disrupting the on-going observance of Ramadan by residents in the province and surrounding towns in low-lying areas in North Cotabato.

Hundreds of commuters were again stranded on Wednesday at the Bulalo-Pinaring stretch of the Cotabato-Davao Highway in Maguindanao’s Sultan Kudarat town after rivers straddling through the area overflowed and inundated the thoroughfare following three days of heavy rains in surrounding hinterlands.

Workers of the Humanitarian Emergency Action and Relief Team (HEART) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the local government unit of Sultan Kudarat, the police, and the military were busy helping commuters and motorists cross through the flooded portions of the highway until dawn Thursday.

The HEART, in its latest advisory based on a report by the Sultan Kudarat LGU, said 22,000 villagers in 12 barangays were affected by Wednesday’s flashfloods, which perennially hit the municipality’s lowlands during the rainy season.

The rescue operations of the HEART in Sultan Kudarat came barely three days after its workers accomplished a week-long relief mission to facilitate dispersal of food rations to thousands of villagers in 13 towns in Maguindanao that were inundated last month by knee-deep floodwaters after nearby marshes and rivers that connect to the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta overflowed due to heavy rains.

Relief workers of the Maguindanao provincial government, led by the chief provincial budget officer, Lynette Estandarte, have also just distributed thousands of food packs to flood victims in the adjoining towns of Sultan sa Barongis, Pandag, Mangudadatu and Buluan, which are located along the upper Liguasan Delta.

Estandarte said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu on Wednesday night ordered more relief missions to areas affected by most recent flashfloods that swept through dozens of Moro farming enclaves.

Estandarte’s group had earlier distributed more than five truckloads of food packs, comprised of rice, noodles and canned goods, to flooded barangays in more than a dozen towns, including the oft-flooded adjoining Kabuntalan and Northern Kabuntalan towns, both located along the lower flood catch basin of the Liguasan Delta.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the 6th ID prepared for possible attacks during the Ramadan by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, but soldiers got preoccupied instead with humanitarian missions supporting the relief and rehabilitation efforts of the HEART and the office of Mangudadatu.

“The continuing backdoor peace efforts of Gov. Mangudadatu and the league of mayors in the province to maintain law and order during the Ramadan, in close coordination with the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, are working efficiently, but these floods are something we can’t control. We can only pray for our towns to be spared from these calamities,” Hermoso said.

He said ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, who has ministerial control of the HEART, and Mangudadatu had both asked the 6th ID to help monitor on a 24-hour basis the levels of rivers in Maguindanao, and the marshes and swamps scattered in its low-lying towns along the Liguasan Delta.

Hermoso said the 6th ID’s commander, Brig. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, is grateful to the Maguindanao provincial peace and order council, and the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the MILF for helping maintain the fragile peace in the province amid the on-going observance by Muslim folks of the Ramadan atonement season, which will end on the third week of July.

The extremist BIFF, which does not recognize the government-MILF July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, perpetrated bloody attacks in several towns in the province during the Ramadan in 2012 and 2013, causing the dislocation of thousands of Moro villagers.

“Maguindanao has been relatively peaceful since the Ramadan fasting month started last June 29. Thanks to the PPOC, the municipal mayors, the GPH-MILF ceasefire committee, and the police,” Hermoso said.


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