Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba (Photo grabbed from the Laging Handa public briefing)
MANILA – Cagayan province prepared for the flooding but did not anticipate the enormous water that came ravaging communities during Typhoon Ulysses’ onslaught, Governor Manuel Mamba said.
“Nakapaghanda kami, no question about that, we anticipated ito dahil nasanay na kami sa ganito, nagkaron kami ng preemptive evacuation, nagkaroon kami ng forced evacuation. We anticipated this but we did not anticipate how enormous yung tubig na dadating (We have prepared, no question about that. We anticipated this as we are used to it. We conducted preemptive evacuation, forced evacuation. We anticipated this but we were not able to anticipate the enormous water),” Mamba said in a briefing aired over PTV on Saturday.
He added that while they warned their residents, they did not anticipate the huge level of floods that hit villages.
“But this is worse than what we prepared, the last time that we had this was 1975, dati hanggang 11 meters lang umaabot, pero this time it went as high as 13.1 meters. This is unprecedented dito sa Cagayan. First time na nangyari ulit itong ganito kaya na surprise yung iba (Before, the water gets to as high as 11 meters only, but this time, it went as high as 13.1 meters. This is unprecedented in Cagayan. Many were caught by surprise),” he said.
He added that prior to “Ulysses”, they already experienced localized flooding most especially in the northern towns of Cagayan.
Mamba said as part of standard operating procedure, they also received warning that Magat Dam will be releasing water.
“Kaya lang talagang saturated na yung soil namin dito at talagang grabe yung buhos din ng ulan dyan sa bandang Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya. Ito talaga, nagsabay ito, and of course yung pagpapalabas ng Magat (because our soil is already saturated and we also had strong rain in the area of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and of course the water released from Magat Dam),” according to Mamba.
Mamba said he is not pinning the blame on the management of Magat Dam.
However, they will investigate what happened.
The province is now coordinating with different government agencies and has requested air assets.
Mamba said he considers this incident as the summation of all the neglect and abuse being done to the environment.
He said one big problem that the province is facing is the inundation of their forests.
“This has been our problem for a long time now, the forests are abused both in the Cordillera and the Sierra Madre side and the heavy siltation of our river beds, you can hardly see our rivers and even the highways here,” Mamba said in a mix of English and Filipino.
He added that all his life, not once that a river dredging was done in the Cagayan River.
Mamba called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB), and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to step up efforts, saying the experience should serve as a lesson and open the eyes of the national government.
He thanked the Duterte administration because for the first time, the dredging and the restoration of the Cagayan River are now allowed and that they have already started doing this.
“I hope the DENR, DPWH, MGB, EMB realize that we have to start doing this, of course, this could not be done only for a year, we have to have a middle and a long-term plan on the dredging of the river and the regreening of our forests in the region,” Mamba said.
In a briefing during the President’s visit to Cagayan, Mamba expressed gratitude to Duterte for responding to the call of Cagayanos.
“We appreciate your love for our people. As a response, we will do our best to help our people,” he said.
Despite this, Mamba thanked responders and everyone who helped most especially residents who opened up their homes to neighbors even with threat of the pandemic.
He said 70 percent of their evacuees are temporarily staying in their neighbor’s houses through “Adopt a Neighbor” program.
Despite the challenges, Mamba said he believes in the resiliency of his constituents.
“Babangon kami, kaya natin to. Makakaasa kayo na kami sa Cagayan (we will rise, we can do it. Rest assured that here in Cagayan) we will always be resilient people and we have always been one,” Mamba said. (PNA)