Damaged bridges, roads in Davao Oriental hamper trade
DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Elma Palin, protected by a green umbrell, stood for hours at the east end of the Caraga bridge as she watched workers carrying sacks of copra to the west end of the bridge.
The Caraga bridge, which connects the town of Caraga to the city of Mati, was damaged last week by ravaging waters and debris brouht on by Tropical Depression Agaton.
While personnel from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) immediately tried to repair the bridge, as of Monday, January 20, only light vehicles were allowed to cross the bridge, and passengers were asked to cross it by foot.
Palin said the damaged bridge is causing delay in the delivery of agricultural products from the farming communities to Mati City and Davao City. They have to unload their agricultural products on the east end and then carry the sacks of copra to a waiting truck at the other end.
"The damaged bridge is a big hassle for us, most especially for those who deliver copras. We have to transfer it to another truck," Palin said.
The process takes more than 3 hours.
In Baogo bridge, also in Caraga, workers created a footbridge in the damaged parts of the bridge. Enterprising fishermen ferry passangers for P20 per person.
Colonel Benjamin Madrigal, brigade commander of the 701st Infantry Brigade, said alert status was still up and all responders and state forces had been dispatched all over the province to conduct preemptive evacuation and relief operations.
However, the delivery of relief services in several areas – including the Typhoon Pablo-devastated towns of Cateel, Boston, and Baganga – was still a big challenge because of the damaged bridges.
Soldiers and local police forces use pump boats, makeshift rafts, and pulleys to slowly deliver aid in isolated areas.
All air assets are grounded in Davao City while a navy ship is on standby in Mati City. The province also experienced numerous landslides, which were immediately cleared by the DPWH.
Madrigal added that residents must not be complacent just because Agaton has weakened.
"If we will check, all of the 9 casualties in Davao Oriental happened while Agaton was still a low pressure area," Madrigal said.
He said the possibility of flooding is high in the province because the mountains in the area were heavily deforested during Typhoon Pablo in 2012. "Flooding is faster here because many mountains are already bald after Typhoon Pablo," he added.
Meanwhile, environmentalist group Panalipdan Southern Mindanao said that the deforestation in the region must be attributed to decades of massive logging and mining activities.
"We are hoping that the reforestation program will be successful here," Madrigal said. –Rappler.com