Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB) chairperson Roy A. Cimatu said that the dredging activities in one of the three priority sandbars along the Cagayan River will be completed by July this year.

"We are pressing on to stay on track despite the roadblocks brought about by the onset of the rainy season and the logistical hurdles posed by the coronavirus pandemic. But we are pushing forward to finish clearing the sandbar in Lal-lo, Cagayan by the second or third week of July," Cimatu said.

He noted that 253,743 cubic meters (cu. m.) or 74 percent of 44,304 cu. m. that make up the 11.4-hectare sandbar in Lal-lo, Cagayan has already been dredged.

The dredging operations in two other critical sandbars in the constricted portion of Cagayan River called the "Magapit Narrows" is also being fast-tracked.

"We will more than double our current dredging capacity at Lal-lo sandbar from 308 cubic meters per hour to 713 cubic meters at a six-hours-a-day dredging schedule to dredge the remaining 90,558 cubic meters," Cimatu said.

He pointed out that the dredging of the sandbar in Brgy. Dummun, Gattarran town has already started on June 14 involving an estimated volume of 882,707 cu. m. to be dredged within the projected project period of 170 dredging days.

The third priority sandbar is located at Brgy. Casicallan Norte, also in Gattaran town.

Cimatu noted that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has already deployed its biggest excavating equipment.

The 474.42-horsepower Doosan DX800LC-5 crawler excavator has a bucket capacity of 4.5 cu. m. with a maximum digging depth and a digging reach of some seven meters and 11.5 meters, respectively.

According to DPWH-Bureau of Equipment Director Noel Ilao, the convoy transporting the giant excavator from Bicutan City is expected to reach Lal-lo either on June 16 or 17.

He said the DPWH is also planning to deploy up to five more high-capacity dredging equipment to the priority areas along the Cagayan River.

"With Secretary Mark Villar at the helm, the DPWH has incredibly played its part in the Task Force beyond expectations on top of its being able to keep President Duterte’s 'Build, Build, Build' program on track despite the pandemic," Cimatu said.

"It is really our good fortune at the task force that we have Secretary Villar as my co-chairperson," he added.

Of the 19 sandbars constricting the Cagayan River, Cimatu said the DPWH had recommended the immediate dredging of the three sandbars in the Magapit Narrows as these significantly hinder the flow of floodwater to the Aparri Delta and finally to the Babuyan Channel. ###