Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has approved the dredging of sandbars in 19 priority sites along Cagayan River as one of the immediate solutions to prevent another destructive flooding in Cagayan Valley.
“Removing these obstructions is the most immediate measure that should be undertaken to avoid a repeat of massive flooding in the region, particularly the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela,” Cimatu said during a meeting of the members of the Build Back Better Task Force on Dec. 4.
The DENR chief co-chairs the task force with Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar.
Cimatu said the dredging of sandbars “will bring immediate results in terms of improved water flow velocity while medium- and long-term solutions are being laid down.”
He added that among the medium- and long-term solutions being eyed for Cagayan River are construction of flood control dams, installation of revetment structures along its slopes, and reforestation of its watershed and easement areas.
During the meeting, DPWH Undersecretary Roberto Bernardo assured the availability of 35 dredging and excavation equipment for the effort, four of these were already deployed in Tuguegarao City.
Of the 19 sandbars recommended by the DPWH as priority sites for dredging, four are in Alcala town and two each in Tuguegarao City and the towns of Enrile, Solana, Gattaran, Iguig, and Amulung. The municipalities of Aparri, Lallo, and Sto. Nino have one sandbar each.
Collectively, the 19 sandbars can yield a total volume of around 8.1 million cubic meters with a coverage area of 2.7 million square meter or 270 hectares, the DENR said.
“We should already begin removing these sandbars even while awaiting the selection of private contractors to do the dredging of the river,” Cimatu said.
According to DPWH-Unified Project Management Office Engineer Jerry Fano, Cagayan River has an average width of 400 meters.
However, in areas with sandbars, the width averages to only 180 meters. The depth at the mouth of the river in Aparri now stands at three meters to as shallow as one meter in its estuary area, the DENR cited the DPWH report.
The Cagayan River traverses the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan. Its major tributaries include the Addalam River, Magat River, Ilagan River, Siffu-Mallig River, Dummun River, Pared River, Pinacanauan River, and Chico River.
In the same meeting, Cimatu also called on the need to re-focus anti-illegal logging operations on prevention and detection instead of confiscation.
He pointed out that authorities should regard confiscated illegally cut trees “not as trophies but indications of failures to protect the forests.”