OPEN DIALOGUE. Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc and provincial administrator Yvette Leynes and Mining Engr. Judith Guinyang answer queries from the media during an open dialogue held at the covered court of Barangay Cabungaan South Thursday (Nov. 24, 2022). Phase 1 of the Padsan river restoration project is set to break ground on Dec. 15, 2022. (Photo by Leilanie Adriano)

LAOAG CITY – A large-scale dredging project starting from the mouth of the Padsan River in Barangay Gabu all the way upstream of more than 5 km., will commence on December 15, Ilocos Norte provincial administrator Yvette Convento-Leynes said Thursday.

During a public dialogue on the Padsan river restoration phase 1 held at the village hall of Barangay Cabungaan South, Leynes said the sand extraction along the heavily-silted river would benefit more Ilocanos through livelihood grants and cash incentives.

She said this would be derived through the collection of extraction fees, as well as the corporate social responsibility programs of Hesha Prime Sand and Gravel Aggregates Philippines, Inc., which was granted a permit to dredge, de-clog, and de-silt the river mouths of the Padsan River.

As the main proponent of the project, Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc assured the 15 affected barangays of Laoag City that they would get the most out of the project as the frequent flooding in the city will be addressed in the long term once the natural state and water flow of the river channels will be desilted, based on a comprehensive dredging plan.

“This is just the start of an open dialogue. If anything unexpected happens, we will ensure that all those affected will be compensated and no one will lose valuable property or livelihood because of this project,” Manotoc said.

With an extraction fee of PHP22 per cubic meter, Leynes said about PHP30 in million in extraction fee is expected to be collected in the first year of operation of the project.

In fact, Leynes reported that at least "50 percent of the extraction fee has already been paid by the dredging contractor (Hesha).”

Under the revenue-sharing agreement, 40 percent of the amount will go to the host barangays while the city and provincial governments will receive a share of 30 percent each.

Even if the project has yet to commence, the villagers who will be affected by the massive dredging project, such as those who derive their livelihood from fishing and gathering freshwater shells, have already received cash assistance on Thursday.

After the distribution of cash assistance and extraction fees, village chief Pablo Martin Jr. of Barangay 33-A, La Paz expressed gratitude to the dredging proponent and contractor for reaching out to them and listening to their concerns.

He assured his constituents that barangay officials would also help monitor the project to ensure that it would strictly follow all the rules and regulations. (PNA)