Brooke’s Point mayor Cesareo Benedito was surprised with the recent flooding the town has experienced. Although flooding is prevalent in the area for years now, he believes that the recent flooding is very different.
“Ay ibang-iba talaga ito. Kasi ako nga sabi ko dito ako ipinanganak sa bayan ng Brooke’s Point so almost 58 years na ako dito ay ngayon lang ako nakaranas ng ganitong pagbaha,” the mayor told Palawan News.
“Mayroon itong bago nung nakaraan 1975 nagkaroon din nawash out din pero hindi ganito. Sobra yung pagbaha kasi almost lahat ng barangay ay affected ng pagbabaha. Napakalaking perwisyo at napakalaking pagkakaiba. marami na ring nadamage itong baha na ito,”he added.
Vice mayor Mary Jean Feliciano, who also served as the town’s chief executive in the last 9 years, said that aside from the widespread damages, what makes the recent flooding different is the mud that comes with it.
“Kakaiba itong bahang ito kasi pagkatapos ng baha may naiwan sa mga bahay eh. Mula doon sa Mambalot, Barong-Barong, Ipilan may bakas,” she said.
“Dati kapag bumaha man pag natapos na yung baha, tuyo na. Ngayon hindi eh. Yung sakahan talagang kitang kita ang laterite,” Feliciano noted.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines laterite as “a residual product of rock decay that is red in color and has a high content in the oxides of iron and hydroxide of aluminum”.
Farmer Moharen Tambiling from Brgy. Maasin is among the farmers affected by laterite presence in their waterways and farmland.
According to Tambiling, he was surprised by the reddish brown mud washed into his farmland by the flash flood that ravaged their town last December 26.
“Ang patubig sa aming basakan ay dinaanan ng tubig na kulay pula na nagmula sa natibag na kanal sa gilid ng kalsada ng minahan,” he said.
Tambiling is now unsure whether his farmland is safe for planting or even his own health.
SB wants fair probe
This prompted the town’s Sangguniang Bayan to call for a fair and independent investigation.
In his privilege speech, councilor Victoriano Colili asked the Department of Agriculture (DA), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)–Environment Management Bureau (EMB) to assess and test the effects of laterite to the rivers, farmlands, and the sea, including the port operated by the Ipilan Nickel Corp.
“Ating napansin ang pagkakaiba ng kulay ng tubig baha sa mga ilog ng Maasin at Mambalot, ganoon din ang baybay dagat sa pantalan ng Ipilan Nickel Corp. sa Brgy. Maasin kumpara sa baybay dagat sa pantalan na matatagpuan sa Buligay, Brgy. District 1,” Colili noted.
To ensure the credibility of the investigation, Colili also asked for the participation of the Western Philippines University (WPU) and the Environmental Legal Assistance Center.
Earlier this week, a team from the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau conducted an initial investigation.
But the Sangguniang Bayan wants the conduct of a separate investigation.
“Sana mayroon sa academe na magkaroon ng pag-aaral. Wag na yung mga nagbigay ng permit [sa mining] kasi baka maging bias lang sila dahil nagbigay sila ng permit syempre dedepensahan nila yung pagbibigay nila ng go signal na ituloy na yung mining operation,” Feliciano said.
The vice-mayor plans to present the result of the “independent” investigation to DENR Secretary Toni Yulo for possible actions including, according to Feliciano, the expired Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of INC.
“Sa ngayon expired na kasi ang MPSA ng Ipilan Nickel noong 2018 pero nagulat kami bakit naextend ito hanggang 2025 ng walang pasabi sa LGU,” Feliciano said.
Looking for solutions
Earlier, Benedito met with the Barangay officials to assess the extent of the problem, trying to look for the root cause and possible solutions.
Yesterday, the Sangguniang Bayan approved the extension of the state of calamity period from December 28 to January 28 for another 6 months until July 28.
“Mas malaki na yung damages talaga. Kulang yung isang buwan para marehab yung mga nasira at syempre kung kami ay gagamit pa ng calamity fund, kulang na kulang yung nakaraan,” Benedito said.
Benedito is also hopeful that the results of the DENR-MGB investigation will lead to an infrastructure plan to help aid the flooding problem of Brooke’s Point.
For Feliciano and Colili, the solution lies not just on infrastructure but on implementing the law as it is.
“Tingin ko hindi basta mga infrastructure and engineering plan ang dapat gawin. Ang mahalaga dito matukoy ang mga areas susceptible for landslide and flooding at ienforce yung mga batas tungkol dito,” he said.
Feliciano admits that the majority of their forest was lost not just in mining but also in slash and burn, charcoal making and illegal logging by locals that have contributed to the recent floods.
“Pero ano ang solusyon natin doon? I-reforest o i-pamina?” Feliciano asked.