PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. conducted on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, an aerial inspection over the province of Maguindanao, one of the hardest hit by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (Nalgae).

Marcos also led the distribution of relief goods to the affected families, particularly those who were in evacuation centers.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm) was placed under a state of calamity following the onslaught of Paeng that resulted in massive flooding and landslides.

As of Tuesday, the Paeng death toll in Maguindanao was at 61, in which 42 were in Datu Odin Sinsuat, eight in Upi, seven in Datu Blah Sinsuat, three in Barira, and one in South Upi.

Maguindanao Governor Bai Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu said 30 out of the 36 municipalities and 370 out of the 508 barangays in the province were affected by the weather system.

A total of 124,501 families or 622,605 individuals were displaced.

During the situation briefing with officials of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, and other local executives in Datu Odin Sinsuat, as well as other national government officials, Marcos raised the need for improved coordination between local and national governments for the immediate response to the affected population.

“I notice na yung Barmm saka yung LGU, wala kayong joint operation (I notice that the Barmm and the LGU, you do not have a joint operation). You have to have joint operation to maximize all of your assets. There is only so much, kaya kailangan naka-focus (it must be focused),” he said.

“The different areas, siyempre mayroong lugar mas maraming tao ang Barmm, mayroong lugar mas maraming tao ang LGU, so i-join ninyo ang forces ninyo para ma-maximize natin. Kailangan gandahan natin ‘yung coordination,” he added.

(The different areas, of course Barmm has an area with more people, LGU has an area with more people, so join your forces so that we can maximize. We need to have good coordination.)

Marcos expressed disappointment over the number of deaths in the region.

The President also wanted the inclusion of medicines, such as paracetamol and anti-diarrheal medicines, in relief packages in times of calamities and emergencies.

Marcos also urged the Bangsamoro region to establish its own public works and highways office for the immediate repair of damaged infrastructure during times of calamities.

“You should look into that because you’ll make everything much easier kapag may (DPWH) district office that is designated to the Barmm area. That’s why I asked about the bridges kasi ‘yan ang pinakamahirap ayusin e (because that’s the hardest thing to fix). Generally speaking, more or less kalsada nagagawa ‘yan (the road can do that),” he said.

Two critical bridges have been damaged in the region due to Paeng: the Nituan Bridge in Parang, and the Sarakan Bridge in Matanog.

The two bridges are now passable to light vehicles.

Marcos blamed deforestation and climate change that fueled the Maguindanao floods and landslides.

“Noong nasa helicopter kami ni [Maguindanao Governor] Bai Mariam, na notice ko lahat ng gumuho kalbo ang bundok. That’s the problem. And I was pointing out to the governor, sabi ko sa kanya: Tingnan mo ‘yung may kahoy hindi gumalaw ‘yung lupa, lahat nung sugat na makita mo sa bundok dahil kalbo,” he said.

(When [Maguindanao Governor] Bai Mariam and I were in the helicopter, I noticed that the entire mountain collapsed. That’s the problem. And I was pointing out to the governor, I said to him: Look at the one with the tree, the earth did not move. All the wounds you see on the mountain are because they are bald.)

“So we have to include tree planting in our flood control. Dapat kasama ‘yan. Kung gagastos tayo sa flood control, kailangan may tree planting. So that’s one thing that we need to do. But that one alam na natin ‘yun, we have been hearing this over and over again, pero patuloy pa rin tayo nagpuputol ng kahoy, ‘yan ang nangyayari nagkaka-landslide ng ganyan,” he added.

(So we have to include tree planting in our flood control. That should be included. If we are going to spend on flood control, there must be tree planting. So that’s one thing that we need to do. But that one we already know, we have been hearing this over and over again, but we keep cutting wood, that’s what happens when landslides like that happen.) (SunStar Philippines)