Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has proposed the immediate dredging of Cagayan River and planting of some 200 million tree seedlings on low-lying agricultural areas in Cagayan after the province suffered its worst flooding in decades due to heavy rains brought by Typhoon Ulysses.

Cimatu made the twin proposals during a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in Tuguegarao City last Sunday. The President and his Cabinet flew to Cagayan’s capital city to personally assess the damage caused by the typhoon.

“These are the interventions which we can already start. I think if we do these, we can already make a difference, Mr. President,” Cimatu told Duterte during the Cabinet meeting.

The Chief Executive signified full backing for Cimatu’s twin proposals with his response. “Go for it and I will support you all the way,” the President said.

Cimatu said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been conducting reforestation activities in Cagayan through the Enhanced National Greening Program (ENGP) with focus on upland areas.

He said low-lying agricultural areas, including privately-owned lands, should now be included in the coverage of ENGP.

Cimatu attributed the intensity and frequency of typhoons and their unusual volume of rainfall to climate change.

The DENR chief said he has already approved the request of Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba for the dredging of the Cagayan River covering some 30 kilometers.

According to Cimatu, dredging will solve the existence of a constricted section of Cagayan River called Magapit Narrows. This Narrows snakes through the towns of Alcala, Lal-lo and Gattaran.

He noted that 18 major rivers in Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and the Cordillera Administrative Region drain into the Cagayan River, making the province prone to flooding.

Cimatu explained that the bottleneck sites in the Magapit Narrows significantly hinders flow of flood water to the Aparri Delta and finally to the Babuyan Channel.

He said the dredging will improve the volume capacity of Cagayan River “at no cost on the part of the government” as the provincial government is now looking for a contractor.

The contractor will be allowed to sell the dredged minerals, with the government earning revenues from the dredging at the same time as stipulated in DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2020-07 titled “Rationalizing Dredging Activities in Heavily-Silted River Channels Pursuant to the DENR-DPWH-DILG-DOTR Joint Memorandum Circular No.1 Series of 2019”.

The DAO rationalized dredging activities in heavily-silted river channels across the country to help restore their natural state and flow and reduce flooding.

It requires the contractor to shoulder all the expenses of the dredging operation in exchange for whatever minerals it may recover, provided it pays the required national and local taxes. #