MANILA, Philippines - More than a million people have been affected by flooding in several provinces and cities in the country, as tropical depression 'Egay' and the southwest monsoon brought days of incessant rains to large areas of Luzon and Mindanao.
Rains eased in Cotabato City on Monday, but thousands of people are still struggling to cope with massive flooding.
Six out of ten residents are affected by floods, and it may take several more days before evacuees can return to their homes.
Barangay Poblacion in Cotabato City, which has never been flooded, is now underwater. There are no more evacuation centers in the village. Some schools are also flooded while the rest are already full.
An estimated 160,000 residents are affected in Cotabato City alone, and nearly a million in the entire Region 12.
Water hyacinths, which have been clogging the Rio Grande de Mindanao, have been blamed for the flooding. Clearing the hyacinths is slow work.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) expects the operation to pick up with the arrival of a large barge and water pumps from Cagayan de Oro City.
"We have to stop the project in Cagayan de Oro and bring it here… 2 or 3 days starting tomorrow matanggal na yung mga water hyacinths," DPWH Undersecretary Romeo Momo said.
But Task Force Mindanao River Basin said this is just the start of the problem.
An estimated 20,000 hectares of water hyacinths could soon be coming downstream, pushed by the high tide and another storm.
"We have set in motion a network of people that will be giving warnings to the people here 'pag dumadating itong mga water lilies," said Bishop Orlando Quevedo, chief of the task force.
23 towns affected in Maguindanao
Floods have also hit Maguindanao province.
Rice and corn fields in the town of Mother Kabuntalan are now underwater after 2 weeks of rains. Houses, schools and mosques are also submerged in floods.
"'Di na kami makapunta sa poblacion kasi mataas ang tubig, wala narin kaming pananim," said Amir Badar, chairman of Barangay Katidtuan.
Residents though are hesitant to leave their homes and stay in evacuation centers, which is why soldiers and personel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are going around to distribute relief goods. Others have to take boats to get their share.
"Sana matulungan kami ng mga agencies tulad ng DepEd kasi ang mga eskwelahan lubog sa baha, at sa Department of Agriculture kasi ang matagal pa [itong baha]," said Mayor Salaban Diocolano of Mother Kabuntalan.
The skies were clear Monday, but should the rains return, residents may have to be forcibly evacuated.
The flooding has affected 77,000 families in 23 towns in Maguindanao.
Central, northern Luzon rains
Days of rains have also triggered landslides and flooding in Central Luzon, but life continues for many. While some used makeshift rafts to move about, others had to wade through knee-high waters.
In Olongapo City, four barangays were flooded: Mabayuan, Santa Rita, Gordon Heights, and New Ilalim.
One of the residents was nearly buried in a landslide.
"Kumukuha ng kalapati nang biglang magkalandslide at gumulong siya," said Carlo Regis.
Fifteen-year-old Ariel delos Santos was also reported missing after he was swept away by floodwaters on his way home.
Meanwhile, many areas were also flooded in Pampanga after a river overflowed.
Over in Isabela, some passengers were stranded as the Coast Guard did not allow vessels to go out to sea.
And in Saluysoy, Meycauayan, Bulacan, floodwaters were knee-deep. Some residents made a raft out of plastic bottles, while children were brought to safer ground.
Close eye on dams
Authorities are keeping a close eye on several dams in Luzon as rains continue to pour.
One such reservoir is the La Mesa Dam, which may soon overflow and cause flooding in parts of Quezon City, Navotas, and Malabon.
The dam's water level is currently less than a meter away from overflowing, because excess water from Ipo Dam in Bulacan was dumped at La Mesa Dam after non-stop rains in Bulacan last Sunday.
Aside from Fairview, areas in Navotas and Malabon also get flooded when La Mesa Dam overflows.
Meanwhile, weather bureau PAGASA is also monitoring Bulacan's Angat Dam, where excess water from Ipo Dam is also dumped.
As of Monday morning, Angat's water level is 6 meters away from spilling level.
A new low pressure area is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility Tuesday, and there is a high possibility that this will develop into typhoon Falcon. It is expected to follow the path of Egay and will bring much rain due to the southwest monsoon.
"'Pag tinahak nya yung path ni Egay, it will bring rains to Luzon, [at] baka mag-spill ang Angat... payo namin sa mga nakatira jan, alerto," said Dr. Susan Espinueva, chief of PAGASA's hydrometeorology division.
Eight towns in Bulacan get flooded every time Angat overflows: Norzagaray, Angat, San Rafael, Bustos, Baliuag, Pulilan, Plaridel, and Hagonoy.
Authorities are also releasing waters from the Binga Dam in Pangasinan. They said San Roque Dam can still accommodate the excess from Binga.
Officials are also keeping an eye on Magat Dam in Cagayan and Ambuklao Dam in Benguet. With reports from Ron Gagalac in Cotabato City; Lerio Bompat in Maguindanao; Zyann Ambrosio in Olongapo City; and Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News; and ANC