The Unprecedented Deluge in Agusan: A Call for Solidarity

As an archipelago located along the “typhoon belt,” the Philippines is not unfamiliar with tropical cyclones, typhoons, heavy rains, and flooding.

Not all areas in the country, however, get to experience heavy downpours. The Davao and Agusan regions, though they experience rain, have not had immense flooding ever since.

Recently, the combination of the Northeast Monsoon and a Low-Pressure Area (LPA) from January 28 to February 2, 2024, has caused unprecedented flooding, overflow of the Agusan River, and various landslides.

Rains brought by a northeast monsoon and a low-pressure area for almost a week caused flooding, burying communities under water.

These events have led to the casualties of about 17 people and millions worth of damages to properties and livelihoods. The calamity also did not spare communities and families including SVD Mission areas such as La Paz, Loreto, Binucayan, Sinubong, Sampaguita, Veruela, and Sta. Maria.

As early as January 31, some communities in Loreto, La Paz, and Veruela were already underwater. As in the deluge of old, rice and corn fields that looked like vast oceans. Water levels in some residential areas also reached up to two meters high which caused inundation even of elevated houses.

Houses and everything inside them have been covered with flood waters.

It is important to note that the livelihood of most people in these areas is either farming or fishing. Most farmers already took out loans for their farms earlier this year. Unfortunately, their farmlands are now flooded due to the heavy rains. 

On the other hand, fisherfolks usually obtain their fish traps and nets through loans. This calamity has worsened the socio-economic circumstances of the families in these communities.

On the morning of February 1, local government units ordered mass evacuations of families, which brought their economic activities to a complete standstill.

The national government already declared Agusan and other affected areas under a state of calamity. Emergency relief operations organized by different government agencies and local government units are underway.

Rice fields and crops are lost to the massive flooding. Most farmers already took out loans for their farms earlier this year and are now in dire straits.

To give focus to our efforts, we appeal to concentrate our interventions on the different SVD Mission areas in seven (7) parishes composed of 8,331 affected families. 

To be responsive to their needs, below is a list of what would be most helpful:

  1. All victims need food, toiletries, mats, mosquito nets, blankets, and kitchen utensils.
  2. Farmers need seedlings and fertilizers.
  3. Fishermen need fish traps, fishing nets, and boats/canoes. 

The devastation of the deluge is overwhelming and our brothers and sisters need help to bounce back. 

We belong to one humanity and we are called to be in solidarity with those in need. Most importantly, we are missionaries and we are led to bear witness to the mission of going “forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium no. 20) even when we, ourselves, are frail and distracted, poor and battered. 

by Fr. Romeo Cagatin, SVD (SVD PHS JPIC Coordinator), Fr. Jimmy Durado Sales, SVD (Agusan District Superior), Brenette Abrenica (USC ERIO Director)

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