Cotabato City

Cotabato flooding highlights city’s perennial water hyacinth problem

Herbie Gomez

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Cotabato flooding highlights city’s perennial water hyacinth problem

PERENNIAL PROBLEM. Water hyacinths which rapidly reproduced and clogged sections of a river in Cotabato City factored in the citywide flooding spawned by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (Nalgae) before All Saints' and All Souls' days.

BARMM Ministry of Public Works

Cotabato City Mayor Bruce Matabalao declares a massive cleanup campaign to get rid of the troublesome aquatic plant and other water flow obstructions

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Cotabato City Mayor Bruce Matabalao on Wednesday, November 2, ordered a citywide cleanup campaign to rid waterways of water hyacinths and other obstructions which he said factored in the flooding of several dozen villages in the city during the onslaught of Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (Nalgae) just before All Saints’ and All Souls’ days.

Water hyacinths have been a perennial problem in Cotabato and its neighboring provinces because the troublesome freshwater weed rapidly reproduces. Once allowed to populate, the aquatic plant chokes rivers and other bodies of water.

Matabalao said the accumulation of silt in riverbeds and illegal structures obstructing water flow also aggravated Cotabato City’s flooding problem.

When Paeng – the country’s 16th tropical cyclone for 2022 – unleashed its fury late last week, Cotabato saw flooding in its 37 barangays following hours of heavy rain.

In some villages, the floodwaters reached waist-deep levels.

The flooding also impacted Cotabato’s water supply, forcing the Metro Cotabato Water District to resort to rationing.

Ali Macabalang, a deputy executive director of the information office of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said the flooding affected the entire city, including the area where the seat of the Bangsamoro government is located.

Macabalang said Cotabato is a natural catch basin with four rivers crisscrossing the city.

Aside from the rivers, the Liguasan Marsh south of Cotabato City also swelled and overflowed following hours of heavy rainfall during Paeng’s onslaught, aggravating the flooding in the city, according to Matabalao.

The more than 2,000-square-kilometer marsh, which stretches from Cotabato province and Maguindanao up to Sultan Kudarat, forms part of the basin of Rio Grande de Mindanao, the country’s second largest river system with headwaters in the mountains of Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao.

Matabalao declared a massive citywide cleanup campaign in Cotabato to remove water hyacinths.

He also said there was a need to dredge shallow parts of rivers downstream, a massive and costly undertaking that would require aid from the national government.

Matabalao ordered the immediate removal of illegal structures on creeks and other waterways that obstruct the flow of water.

“We will devote the entire month of November for massive clearing operations as a flood mitigation measure,” he said.

BARMM’S Ministry of Public Works has tasked the Maguindanao 1st District Engineering Office to deploy teams to help in removing water hyacinths which reproduced at an extraordinary rate near Cotabato’s Delta Bridge, making river sections overflow. –

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.