Cimatu asks additional P4.65 B for faster Bicol, Cagayan Rivers rehabilitation

Published August 26, 2021, 4:40 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has requested the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) an additional P4.65 billion fund assistance for the agency’s ongoing projects that aim to remove the sandbars in Bicol and Cagayan rivers.

Cimatu, who is also the chairman of Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB), said in a statement released on Thursday, Aug. 26, that he is pushing for the early completion of sandbars removal in Bicol River from 2025 to 2023 and in Cagayan River from 2028 to 2025–the reason why an additional fund is necessary.

The fund will be dedicated for the purchase of new equipment for the dredging operations in Bicol and Cagayan River basins. A total of P1.45 will go to Bicol while P3.2 billion to Cagayan, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.

Part of the proposed funding for the Cagayan River dredging activity is also for the restoration and replacement of 40 floodgates along the Naga-Calabanga embankment worth P64.1 million, it added.

Cimatu explained that the task force’s TF achievements in the restoration of the river basins of Cagayan, Bicol, and Marikina prove that “the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can finish the project faster and more cost-effective than by hiring private contractors.”

“You can just imagine if we bid these out to contractors, baka wala pa sa kalahati nagagawa natin ngayon,” he added.

The environment chief said while we need to prioritize the COVID-19 crisis, “priority should likewise be given to equally important efforts on climate change and disaster mitigation programs.”

“If we invest now, the best option is to already have these pieces of equipment this year,” Cimatu said, adding that his task force’s initiatives “will go a long way in accelerating the recovery of the country from the social and economic disruptions from the global pandemic.”

The Cagayan River Dredging Plan consists of eight phases with projected completion within the first quarter of 2025, if provided with the additional equipment. The undertaking, however, will likely extend until 2028 if limited to DPWH’s existing fleet, DENR said.

Meanwhile, the Bicol River Dredging Plan is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2025 using the present fleet of DPWH equipment. However, the project can be finished two years earlier if the request for additional equipment is granted.