With the advent of the rainy season, and the seemingly inaction of government agencies on expected improvements in the Cotabato River Basin, the Mindanao Cross interviewed Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, the head of the defunct Task Force on the Cotabato River Basin of his views on the situation.
1. Is the Presidential Task Force for the Rehabilitation and Development of the Mindanao River Basin still existing?
No, the Presidential Task Force stopped existing and operating at the end of October 2010, more than 7 months ago in accord with the President’s instructions. It was originally supposed to work until the end of 2012.
2. Is there any government group continuing the work of the Presidential Task Force.
Yes, there are three government agencies continuing the work of the Presidential Task Force. As instructed by an Executive Order the Presidential Task Force handed over its functions and responsibilities to the following agencies: Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of Civilian Defence.
3. What immediate recommendations did the Presidential Task Force make regarding the Flood Control Projects it was monitoring?
Among the recommendations of the PTFMRBRD that directly affect Cotabato City and the Municipalities of Sultan Kudarat and Sultan Mastura are: :
a. To redesign the Simuay Cut-Off Channel, resume work, and close the Simuay River breach;
b. To continue dredging the Cotabato River from the bucana to Delta Bridge in Cotabato;
c. To continue working on the flood control projects at the Ala River;
d. To do the engineering projects necessary to protect Tunggol Bridge;
e. To monitor the flow of water hyacinth and prevent it from once more clogging the Cotabato River and thus flooding Cotabato City;
f. To complete the construction of the new Matampay bridge.
4. Has work resumed in the above projects? If not, why?
As far as I can ascertain, the work on the above projects has not resumed. I don’t know why. I heard that there is some controversy about the cost of land where the cut-off channel has to pass through. I also believe that a review of the cost of the projects may also be delaying the resumption of the projects. It seems now that there is no agency that pressures for the completion of the projects. This was a role that the PTF used to have.
5. Is there a Master Plan now for the management and development of the Mindanao River Basin?
At the end of December 2011, the PTF submitted the Master Plan to the Office of the President of the Philippines. It was not the final document since those who were doing the Master Plan had originally been given up to 2012 to finish its work. The PTF specifically instructed the consultants to improve and refine two sections of the Master Plans, namely, the feasibility studies and the investment plan .
6. When will the Master Plan be finally finished and will it solve the perennial problems of flooding?
I learned only recently that the Master Plan will hopefully be finished in the next two months, i.e., June to July, 2012. Or maybe up to September. The Master Plan has immediate and long term projects that would resolve the causes of flooding in the Mindanao River Basin.
7. In the absence of the Presidential Task Force, what agency is now monitoring the flood control projects?