OPINION: “Submerged Valley Theory”

JAN 6-12, 2011


By Cha Monforte

As heavy rains pounded on since over the weekend to Tuesday, the sort of “conspiracy theory” about the submerging of the fertile valley of the present Compostela Valley Province came back to my mind. Sort of a “bad dream” coming back. But I should now share. The valley consists of the plains of the towns of the erstwhile First District of the undivided Davao del Norte, less the highland Maragusan, or particularly the plains of the towns of Mawab, Nabunturan, Montevista, Compostela, New Bataan and Monkayo. (The six towns plus Maragusan can be lumped to be called as the Comval mainland to differentiate to Comval’s 3 coastal towns- Maco, Mabini and Pantukan, and the separated upland town of Laak. Really, the province has this geographical infirmity when it was created in 1998 by act of gerrymandering. The geographical infirmity is like its own birth defects). A day after the worst bardown-landslide-fire calamity that struck Diwalwal on May 30, 1989, as a young covering reporter-editor of the defunct weekly Northern Star of Cesar Sotto Jr, father of now Nabunturan Councilor Mario Angelo “Dodong” Sotto I got the opportunity to ride a military chopper and in the process got a wholesome view of the fertile valley.

The valley looks like a stretched kawa where the poblaciones are and is dotted inside by smaller mountains and hills while enclosing it are the towering mountains of Montevista going to Canidkid connecting to New Corella’s high mountains then to the Masaraline (Mawab) mountains connecting to the apex of Maragusan and highland boundaries of Cateel then to the high mountain ranges where the present Mt. Diwata sits and bordering Agusan del Sur. About 90 percent of this enclosing high forest ranges, east of the national highway, is primarily threatened now by small scale mining as it is known to be a mineralized, gold-rich region. Small scale mining via hardrock tunnelling has timber requirements to buttress portals and adits (destinos), while often gold strikes happen in higher portions or top of the mountains where there is freezing temperature.

Needless to say, timber poachings and illegal cutting of trees have been happening inside and around small scale mining areas. Against the poverty and lack of work and livelihood opportunities in the lowlands, and considering the higher stage of development that the small scale mining has attained after over two decades of mining beginning in the known Diwalwal and Boringot gold rushes, with the vast army of miners and even their children already knowing so much of the trade, small scale mining will continue to scour, explore and mine Comval mainland’s mineralized forest ranges. The march of the small scale industry to denude the mainland’s dominant eastern region is irreversible. This as illegal logging activities and kaingin farming have been going on in the area.

On the other hand, the mainland’s western region, about 10 percent only, is also threatened by illegal logging and kaingin farming. There is also now the propensity of the rural farmers and landowners in the highlands to go for the production of cash crops- cardava bananas, coconuts while Stanfilco has long been on cavendish and senorita banana plantation farming up there in Maragusan. It’s the natural tendency of the highland farmers to respond to their stomachs by planting immediate cash crops. This propensity ultimately results to topsoil erosion, landslides and river siltations that reach the downland communities in the mainland.

 Back to my theory on submerged valley. It was in the 90s that backflows of riverwaters of the major Manat River and Batoto River was first reported, I recall, and this submerged low lying areas of Monkayo, Compostela, New Bataan and as far as the Barangay Magsaysay of Nabunturan. It was a portent of more floods to come caused by the backflows almost yearly especially when heavy rains struck continuously for many days. Most of the mainland rainwaters drain to Agusan river down to coast of Butuan City. Rainwaters from Masaraline (Mawab) highland areas drain to Hijo River down to the coast of Tagum City, to Davao Gulf.

Now if the mainland’s dominant highland, mineralized region and forest are badly denuded in the future, more volume of rainwaters from the mainland’s highlands would rush down overflowing the silted rivers but these could not further surge on for an exit to Butuan’s coast as backflows have been happening already, with the water overflows and water backflows meeting to create one Big Flood that would submerge the valley and what remains not submerged are the dotting smaller hills and mountains inside the stretched kawa.

The Big Flood would strike like a thief in so disastrous scale victimizing millions of residents, giving high death tolls with many climbing over their houses’ roofs, damaging billions of pesos for destroyed private properties, valley farms and government infrastructures and installations- a worst scale the many never imagined. The Big Flood is the flood that simultaneously hit the towns of Mawab, Nabunturan, Montevista, Compostela, New Bataan and Monkayo, with the floodwaters covering almost the plains of the valley. Great heaven forbid- this should not happen. I’m no Nostradamus.  I just venture to pose my “Submerged Valley Theory” You may buy it or not. But my challenge now to authorities is to put this in simulations via geographic information system (GIS) by UP urban planning experts now before it’s too late. And we’ll see if this isn’t farfetched. (e-mail: chamonforte@yahoo.com)


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