RIVER REHAB. Dredging of sandbars was launched on Tuesday (Feb. 1, 2021) as one of the restoration activities at the Cagayan River (shown in photo) in Lal-lo, Cagayan. The river beds are already heavily silted, causing massive flooding during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses in November last year. (Photo by DENR-Region 2) 

TUGUEGARAO CITY – Hoping to end flooding in Cagayan and Isabela provinces, the Build Back Better (BBB) Task Force formally launched on Tuesday the Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project through ceremonial dredging of sandbars along the Magapit Narrows and bamboo planting along the riverbank in Barangay Bangag in Lal-lo, Cagayan.

The event coincided with the Feb. 2 celebration of the 25th World Wetlands Day.

The task force identified 19 sandbars through the Department of Public Works and Highways, which include those in the said village and Barangays Casicallan Norte and Dummun in Gattaran as the priority sites for immediate dredging as these obstruct floodwater flow to the Aparri Delta and the Babuyan Channel as its final destination.

These three sandbars covering a total of 275 hectares have a total estimated volume of seven million cubic meters.

As a measure to rehabilitate the Cagayan River, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) led the planting of bamboos and other suitable species for riverbank stabilization.

During the launch, 185 bamboo propagules were planted in the 925-meter stretch of Cagayan Riverbank along Barangay Bangag.

The traditional “patuno” or groundbreaking was led by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, the BBB Task Force chair and co-chair, respectively; Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, General Gilbert Gapay.

Environment forester Pablo Agustin has cited the bamboos’ help in curbing flooding by protecting riverbanks against erosion.

“This is a whole-of-government at its best with the support from almost all national agencies and the Cagayan provincial government,” Cimatu said, adding that the “reduced disaster impacts” would be seen through the rehabilitation and restoration programs.

Cimatu also cited six key-result areas which include resilient infrastructure through management, dredging and desilting and construction of structural measures for flood control; delineation of areas prone to climate-related hazards, relocation of affected families and construction of evacuation centers; provision of basic needs, medical services, electricity, road lines, sewers, telecommunication and transportation that can be mobilized during typhoons; sustainable livelihood programs; improved land-use planning and enforcement of Building Code, and intensive watershed management.     

DENR-Cagayan Valley Regional Director Gwendolyn Bambalan said the dredging has been just one of the restoration activities because the river beds are already heavily silted.

“The intention of the dredging activity is to deepen, widen and protect Cagayan River from further destruction, and not mining," she said. “If there are mineral contents to be assessed in the materials to be dredged, the dredging companies will pay the corresponding taxes due to the government."   

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and Isabela Governor Rodolfo Albano III were also present during the event.

Earlier, the DENR and DPWH officials initiated a site assessment of the sandbar along the Magapit Narrows.

Mayor Florence Oliver Pascual assured the DENR and the DPWH of the full support of the local government of Lal-lo to the rehabilitation program.

The Regional BBB Task Force has earlier announced that livelihood assistance will be provided to local residents that will be affected by the Cagayan River Rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, at least 100 villagers were initially hired for bamboo planting and maintenance in Tuguegarao City and the towns of Alcala, Enrile and Gattaran under the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Twenty residents of Barangay Bangag were also contracted to engage in bamboo planting.

Forty-eight laborers and operators trained by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority were likewise tapped for the project.

As the lead agency in the activity, the DENR identified families living within or adjacent to the easement areas of Cagayan River and its tributaries displaced workers to initiate planting activity and maintenance. It will provide the bamboo seedlings for planting along the Cagayan River and its tributaries.

The department has started capacitation works for the local government units in the implementation of sustainable environment and natural resource management interventions within the Cagayan River.

The DOLE will provide financial assistance in a form of daily subsidy to the selected planters for 14 days.

The DSWD will provide financial assistance through food packs to the planters for the protection and rehabilitation of the Cagayan River. It will also allocate funds for necessary and urgent projects within the Cagayan River under its Risk Resiliency Program–Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.

The Cagayan and Isabela local governments and the cities and municipalities have been tasked to provide technical, financial, and legislative support to the initiatives and will also take charge of removing obstructions such as illegal encroachments within the Cagayan River and the river easements with the assistance of concerned agencies.

The barangay local government unit will conduct periodic maintenance and protection activities of planted seedlings along the Cagayan River and submit a report to the nearest Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of any disturbance and the need for replanting. (PNA)