MANILA, JANUARY 16, 2012 (STAR) By Jaime Laude - Small fish of still unknown species mysteriously fell from the skies over Loreto town in Agusan del Sur Friday afternoon during a heavy downpour, leaving residents and officials baffled and amused.

Blance Gobenciong, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) director in Caraga, confirmed the phenomenon but offered no explanation.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Benito Ramos also could not provide an explanation for the strange incident.

“It came with the rain and about a kilo of these live fish is in the aquarium now,” Gobenciong said. Surprised residents went out of their houses despite the heavy rain to collect the fish that landed on rooftops and on the streets.

Lt. Col. Niel Patricio, commanding officer of the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion whose unit has operational jurisdiction over Loreto town, said one his men witnessed the incident. “He reported back to me about what he witnessed and I instructed him to get or secure even a single sample for us to see and examine,” Patricio said.

He said troops and militiamen were in Loreto to monitor possible flooding as it has been raining heavily in the area. The nearby Bunawan River is reportedly in danger of overflowing.

Patricio said the phenomenon might have been triggered by a twister that sucked out a school of mudfish fingerlings from the Agusan Marsh, which is a breeding ground for mudfish.

“That’s the most logical explanation for now,” he said.

Saltwater fish shunned

In a related development, residents of Iligan City are now switching to freshwater fishes such as tilapia and bangus in the wake of reports that saltwater fish have feasted on uncollected victims of tropical storm “Sendong” off Northern Mindanao.

Dr. Livey Villarin, city health official, said local residents have also avoided eating “kinilaw.” Fish vendors in the two public markets in the city are complaining of low sales of saltwater fish – even those sourced from far-flung areas such as Zamboanga del Sur.

Villarin assured the public that it is safe to eat saltwater fish as long as their internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed and the fish are thoroughly washed.

Private sector tapped

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay has tapped the private sector for the housing and relocation project of the national government for the victims of Sendong in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete and Iligan.

Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and of the Board of Trustees of the Pag-IBIG Fund, said his office has partnered with SM Development Corp. (SMDC) for the construction of 100 houses for Sendong survivors.

“SM was kind enough to donate 100 housing units to the OVP (Office of the Vice President) for the relocation of families affected by typhoon Sendong. This is public-private partnership and corporate social responsibility at its best and in action,” he said.

The housing units will be turned over to the Vice President in April, along with 6,000 other housing units.

“We have already identified the land which will be developed by DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). This will be ready for the houses before April,” Binay said.

Binay recently created a task force which he also heads for the relocation of all families displaced by the floods.

“Monetary donations will be used by the NHA (National Housing Authority) to construct houses following one design. Donations in kind, or houses, which may come in varying designs will be given a specific area, which the DPWH will also prepare,” Binay said.

Binay flew to Cagayan de Oro City last week to inspect the relocation sites being prepared by the government.

“The houses donated by SM will be permanent structures, unlike the temporary bunk houses built by DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and the Red Cross,” he said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Lino de la Cruz

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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