From a tropical depression, ‘Paeng’, the 16th storm to hit the country this year, escalated into a tropical storm on Thursday, Oct. 27. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) forecasted light to moderate and at times heavy rain. It further projected that the Bangsamoro region was not along Paeng’s path. However, despite these scientific calculations, the aftermath of Paeng is one of the worst that the Bangsamoro region has seen in recent years.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) issued a memorandum on Oct. 26, directing its members, including the Bangsamoro Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (BDRRMC), to activate Bravo Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) protocol immediately. The region’s DRRM was directed to send warnings and advisories, and cascade emergency preparedness and response protocols in connection with the then-tropical depression Paeng.
On the same day, the BDRRMC immediately adhered to the directives of NDRRMC and issued a memorandum to all Provincial/City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Centers (P/CDRRMOCs), directing them to activate their respective Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) and raise the alert level status from Code White to Code Blue effective 8:00 PM.
BDRRMC coordinated with the P/CDRRMOCs to monitor flooding incidents, especially in those areas near the riverbanks. After this, initial briefings were conducted and EOC resources were prepositioned.
OCTOBER 27 – 28
Early in the morning of Friday Oct. 28, the Bangsamoro Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READi) received reports of flooding incidents and landslides from Cotabato City, parts of Maguindanao del Norte and Sur, and the Special Geographic Area (SGA) due to non-stop rain which started from the previous night of Oct. 27.
This prompted READi to deploy rescue teams to affected areas and coordinated with the 6th Infantry Division, BARMM’s Police Regional Office (PRO-BAR), and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP-BARMM) to augment the search and rescue operations. At the same time, the Emergency Operating Center (EOC) was activated in the Bangsamoro Government Center. During the EOC activation, assessment was conducted on the available resources for emergency response and it was determined that these were sufficient.
The unprecedented situation also prompted the BDRRMC to raise its status from Code Blue to Code Red. This was followed by a humanitarian response meeting with the BARMM ministries and non-government organizations to collaborate and better prepare for the situation on the ground.
The BARMM’s education cluster, led by the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE), was activated and permitted a number of schools to be used as temporary evacuation sites.
The Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) also dispatched food and non-food items such as malong, trapal, health, and dignity kits. Additionally, the prepositioned supplies made it easier to setup a community kitchen to provide hot meals to the affected residents.
OCTOBER 29, onwards
A day after TS Paeng submerged and destroyed different areas, including properties and infrastructures in Cotabato City, Maguindanao del Sur, and Maguindanao del Norte, Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, as the chairperson of BDRRMC, declared a state of calamity in the Bangsamoro region.
Ebrahim asked his constituents for cooperation and hoped for the immediate abatement of this calamity, saying: “patuloy po ang ating panawagan sa mga komunidad na malapit sa mga ilog at dagat na lumikas nang mas maaga sa tulong ng ating mga rescuers patungo sa mga evacuation centers.”
On the same day, the BDRRMC set up the Incident Command Post (ICP) led by the 6th Infantry Division of the AFP to focus on the search, rescue, and retrieval operations in Brgy. Kusiong in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao del Norte which was considered as Ground Zero.
Brgy. Kusiong is said to be Paeng’s hardest-hit area after a vast muddy mound covered the site due to flash floods and landslides which buried people and houses.
To further intensify the relief operations and humanitarian aid on the ground, the Office of the Chief Minister’s (OCM) Project Tulong Alay sa Bangsamorong Nangangailangan (TABANG) provided clothes, food, and medicines to the emergency health stations in the different evacuation centers at the barangays of Dinaig, Kusiong, Broce, and Dimapatoy in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao del Norte.
The BARMM’s Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) also provided rice aid to the affected residents of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Datu Blah Sinsuat, where flash floods and landslides occurred.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) raised its status to Code Red which was followed and observed by the Integrated Provincial Health Offices (IPHOs), Rural Health Units (RHUs), and all other hospitals within BARMM, while also preparing the land and sea ambulances.
The devastated coastal areas of Brgy. Kusiong was inspected by the Ministry of Public Works (MPW). The Ministry deployed heavy equipment to assist in road clearing and rescue operations.
Also, through the Maguindanao 1st District Engineering Office (DEO), the MPW deployed teams on Oct. 31 to remove water hyacinths clogged under the Delta Bridge in Cotabato City. This is to prevent a substantial increase in water level in this area that causes floods in the city and other nearby areas. Accordingly, the water hyacinths hamper the water flowing along the Rio Grande de Mindanao from the Ligawasan Marsh.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) monitored air and seaport and said Cotabato port is being used as an evacuation center, while the Ministry of Trade, Investments, and Tourism (MTIT) implemented Price Freeze for all basic necessity products across the region.
Flooding incidents were also reported in the five towns of Lanao del Sur; sea surge and flash flood in Bangungui and Patikul, sea level rise and strong waves in Maimbung, Sulu; strong winds (wave surges) in Tawi-Tawi; and damage to livestock and agriculture was reported in Maguindanao and Basilan.
Minister of Interior and Local Government Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo said that after the rescue and retrieval operations, the regional government is in the process of transitioning to early recovery—a week after Paeng’s onslaught.
Based on the data released by BDRRMC on Nov. 4, the TS Paeng left the Bangsamoro region with 570,285 individuals affected, including 53 death casualties, 12 missing, and 38 injured.
A total of 371 houses were damaged and 480 were partially damaged. Moreover, BARMM’s infrastructure and agriculture logged an estimated cost of damages amounting to Php585,602,426.33.
Sinarimbo said the Bangsamoro Government’s relief assistance for the affected residents is continuous despite the threat of another tropical depression.
“In a few days time, kung walang ibang disturbances, mag-po-proceed na tayo sa early recovery, but given the threat of another tropical depression—Queenie, we are prepositioning our rescue teams and equipment just to make sure na kaya pa rin nating mag-respond sa emergencies beyond sa ginagawa nating relief assistance ngayon,” Sinarimbo said. (Datu Norhamidin Mamasainged/BIO)