Maguindanao solon speaks about resilience: 'The spirit is willing, but the pocket is weak'

Maguindanao and Cotabato City 1st district Rep. Bai Dimple Mastura delivered a poignant privilege speech Monday afternoon, Nov. 7 regarding disaster response and resilience after her district was brought to its knees by severe tropical storm (STS) "Paeng".

(4Ps Party-list Rep. Marcelino Libanan's Facebook)

"Indeed, it is easy to say that we need to be resilient. The spirit is willing, but the pocket is weak," Mastura told the plenary Monday, which marked the first House session since Sept. 30.

In the interim, Paeng battered different parts of the country, triggering flash floods and landslides that killed over 150 people.

Mastura said that 64 people perished from her district alone. Paeng's wrath destroyed 998 homes there, affecting over 500,000 of her constituents.

"With all humility, Mr. Speaker, honorable volleagues, this representation admits that we were not prepared. The track of the typhoon plotted on the map did not show that we were at the center of the storm," she said.

"Moreover, our local governments did not have sufficient funds to ensure their resilience to calamities. We must take note that my district is part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which used to receive only from P10 billion to 35 billion while other regions have been enjoying more than P70 billion pesos of annual funding," noted Mastura, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Muslim Affairs.

She said the P70-billion funding was only recently granted to BARMM. It wasn't enough to reverse decades worth of poverty and lack of capacity in the region, she noted.

"Kulang ang aming mga pasilidad. Wala kaming mga rubber boats para itawid ang mga apektadong residente sa mga ligtas na lugar; o di kaya’y sagipin ang mga nalulunod na mga bata at mga matatandang tinatangay ng rumaragsang tubig-baha (We lacked the facilities. We don't have rubber boats that we can use to ferry affect residents to safety, or to rescue the drowning children and elders who were swept away by flash floods)," she lamented.

"We waited, Mr. Speaker. We waded in muddy waters for hours, not knowing that we have been cut off from the source of aid...For several days, my district was inundated...Nothing was spared. Lahat kami, apektado (All of us were affected)," Mastura further recalled her district's ordeal.

"Mr. Speaker, honorable colleagues, we know that in the past, typhoons rarely visited Mindanao. Perhaps, because of climate change, we are now frequently at risk. As my district which includes Cotabato City and Maguindanao del Norte is the recipient of waters coming from as far as Bukidnon, and North and South Cotabato, there is a need to revisit the status of the Mindanao River Basin Project. We want to know, while we are still alive, when will it be completed?" she asked.

Moving forward, Mastura backed the suggestion of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to bring the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) district office to BARMM.

"Sa pamamagitan nito ay mas mapabilis at mapadali ang pagtugon sa mga suliranin sa mga kalye at impastraktura lalo na sa gitna ng krisis tulad ng naranasan natin kay Bagyong Paeng (With this, we can hasten response to problems concerning roads and infrastructure in the middle of crises like the one caused by STS Paeng).

"I therefore appeal to this august body to look into this matter and act upon this very important call immediately," she said.