Floods displace 25,000 villagers in Philippines

TACURONG CITY-At least 25,000 persons in 15 villages of Sultan sa Barongis town in Maguindanao province have been displaced by floods as water level in some communities reached as high as neck deep, officials said.

Sultan sa Barongis Mayor Ramdatu Angas said the local government has placed the entire town under a state of calamity as flood water from Ala River continued to rise brought about by torrential rain in the mountains of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces.

Rasol Angas, a resident of Barangay Barurao, one of the hardest hit villages, said the flood remained unpredictable as it recedes and suddenly rises although Maguindanao experiences no rain.

"It could be raining up there in the mountains of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat," he said, pointing at Daguma ranges south of Sultan Kudarat province.

Zenaida Sandig, 28, a resident of Barangay Paidung, said the water level in her village reached as high as 1.52 meters (5 feet) on Saturday afternoon.

Sultan sa Barongis, situated in the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, is at the direct path of Ala River, a major tributary emanating from South Cotabato.

"Floods here come and go but this is the worst so far," Mayor Angas told reporters. "We are at the forefront of the flood catch basin," he added.

Aside from Sultan sa Barongis, also flooded were the towns of Mangudadatu, Datu Paglas, Pandag, Paglat, Rajah Buayan, Buluan and Datu Salibo.

It was the third calamity to hit Maguindanao this year. In late January, the province was hit by mass evacuation triggered by government action against lawless elements, and the five-month dry spell.

"We can still handle this," Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said of the floods that hit eight of Maguindanao's 36 municipalities. He said the province has enough calamity fund to use until year-end.

But the governor admitted the situation was "very difficult for our people" because of Ramadan where Muslims abstain from food and water at daytime.

He alerted local executives of towns around the Maguindanao marshland of the possible sudden rise of water as unfavorable weather continues in nearby provinces.

Mayor Angas blamed a flood control dike constructed by a banana plantation company. He said the firm put up a dike to save its farm site but the flood water from Ala River was diverted to his town.

Last week, four persons were killed in separate landslides triggered by moderate to heavy downpour in South Cotabato, Sarangani and Koronadal City.