Posted on November 17, 2020
THE government is now considering dredging portions of the Cagayan River to prevent it from overflowing during typhoons.
This after a large portion of the Cagayan valley region suffered heavy flooding from the torrential rains brought about by typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco).
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) proposed dredging the mouth of the Cagayan river, which has now become shallow after years of heavy siltation.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the mouth of the Cagayan river has become a “bottleneck,” citing a study from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).
He noted that Jica had proposed widening the mouth of the river. However, due to the bridge in the said area, this may not be possible; thus, they will be dredging 30 kilometers from the mouth of the river instead.
“If we don’t touch the width of the river, we will make it deeper through dredging so its volume [of water] will just be the same as widening it,” Cimatu explained during the situation briefing of President Duterte in Tuguegarao on Sunday.
He said they plan to make the dredging free of charge to the government by allowing the contractor to sell the harvested silt.
“But they have to pay as what the mining company is paying, 4 percent excise tax as a revenue of the government,” Cimatu said.
Similar dredging activities are currently also being proposed in Camarines Sur and other parts of the country, which also regularly suffer flooding due to heavily silted rivers.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said another possible long-term solution for the perennial flooding of Cagayan river is the building of an “upstream dam” ahead of Magat dam.
Cusi said there is currently an existing dam construction project, which DOE certified as “project of national of national significance” due to its energy production and flood mitigation potential.
He said the project was approved by affected LGUs, but is being opposed by indigenous people.
DENR attributed the recent heavy flooding, that hit many parts of Cagayan Region, to the high volume of water gushing from the tributary rivers of Cagayan River, swollen by typhoon Ulysses.
“I was talking to my geologist a while ago that the volume of water, which came [from typhoon Ulysses] is more than the capacity or capability of the Cagayan River,” Cimatu said.
Duterte said he sees nothing wrong with the release of Magat dam’s water during typhoon Ulysses.
“It’s a dam. They have to release it. Otherwise, we’ll have a catastrophe. You have to release,” Duterte said in an ambush interview during his visit to Camarines Sur on Sunday.
Cimatu, however, said at the Tuguegarao situation briefing they will nonetheless look into allegations that the flood was caused by Magat dam’s releasing water at the height of typhoon Ulysses.
The allegation has prompted the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to push for centralized protocols for the release of water for dams in times of calamity.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said he will submit his proposal at the next National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council(NDRRMC).
While the cause of the recent massive flooding in Cagayan is being probed, President Duterte asked DENR to stop illegal logging and mining in areas surrounding Cagayan Valley.
Cimatu said he already issued a cease and desist order against the small-scale illegal miners in the area and also filed cases against its operators.
As for reforestation efforts in the mountains of Cagayan, he said they will be coordinating with other government agencies on this initiative.