After typhoon, Mindoro Mangyans in the dumps
Not much has been said or written about the state of affairs in Mindoro Oriental, one of the most badly hit provinces by Typhoon “Tisoy” that barreled through parts of Southern Luzon last week.
My sources told me that it was only last Monday, or almost a week after Tisoy struck, that contact was made with the Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Mangyan Alangan (Sanama) through a Mangyan leader in Balite, one of the biggest among the seven Mangyan barangays within the municipalities of Baco and Naujan.
The Mangyan leader reportedly lamented that their sitios near Bagto River where the Catuiran Hydroelectric Power Plant was built were so flooded that all families in these sitios had to evacuate to a lowland barangay some distance away. “Dumapa po ang maraming bahay at halos lahat nawalan ng bubong. Lahat ng mga pananim ay sirang sira. Ang kapitan ng barangay ay nagpunta sa munisipyo para abisuhan sila kung ano ang nangyari sa aming mga Mangyan. Wala pa pong nakakarating tulong.” That was exactly nine days after the disaster.
He feared that all villages near Dulangan river (dividing Baco and Naujan), Bagto (Catuiran), Bucayao and Magasawang-Tubig had suffered severe flooding this time.
From different sources, we learned that since Typhoon “Nona” in 2015, all four municipalities of San Teodoro, Baco, Naujan, Victoria and the city of Calapan have been constantly under water.
Mangyans attest that villages near these rivers were always flooded after every rain. The heavily silted river beds are now much more elevated than the adjacent villages. From just six of the 44 big and smaller settlements of the Mangyan Alangan villages, 1,958 families are severely affected, and this time, their fruit-bearing trees as well as subsistence crops were totally destroyed.
When Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu came to Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, after Mangyan appeals had remained unheeded, he received a copy of the letter of Mangyan communities near the hydropower plant asking for an assessment of the condition of their immediate environment, to assure the safety not only of the Mangyan communities but also of the lowland communities that will surely be affected. It will be good for all to know the results of a study, if one has been made at all.
One could argue that climate change has much to do with the extreme weather changes that we experience these days. But one must know the hazards that naturally go with a project that had for years subjected the fragile mountains to continuous blasting to create a 6-kilometer tunnel. A very thorough review of environmental impact assessments before environmental clearance certificates are issued to proponents of the other 12 or so hydropower projects approved for Oriental Mindoro is imperative.
Rivers are silted and need dredging. And, may the Mangyans’ wish for a solar-powered unit in every barangay come true. They need electricity, not only for light but also for communication.
Excerpts from a letter from Mary Agada R. Isidro, a Mangyan residing in Barangay Balite, Naujan, Mindoro Oriental:
“Marami po sa aming tirahan ay nasira at labis po na naapektuhan ang aming kabundukan na pinagkukunan ng paghahanap buhay ng mga ka tribo kung Mangyan. Marami din pong mga tanim ang nasira. May dalawang bahay po ang natabunan ng gumuhong lupa.
“Dati ang ilog ay napakaganda, dinadayo pa po ng mga turista. Ngayon ay sira na. Simula po nang itinayo ang Santa Clara Hydro Power palagi na lang bumabaha kada umuulan, kahit walang bagyo. Kaya sa tuwing umuulan nangangamba na ang aming pamayanan. Hindi lang aming barangay ang naapektuhan ng Sta. Clara, pati mga kalapit na barangay…
“Dati napakaganda po ng aming kabundukan. Naaalaala ko noong bata pa ako, napakasaya naming mga magkababata, palagi kaming nasa ilog. Ang dating masayang pamayanan ngayon may pangamba na.
“Sa aming sitio may ni-rescue pong ilang pamilya dahil na ang tubig sa ilog ay tumaas. At nakakalungkot po ang nangyari sa aking mga katribo na ni-rescue ay hindi po sila pinatuloy sa evacuation center nila dahil po mga Mangyan sila. Sabi ng isang namamahala madududumihan daw po ang kanilang evacuation center.”
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