IMMEDIATE dredging of the Cagayan River must be done and a 20-meter easement rule along the river must be strictly enforced.
This was stressed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu saying these two measures aim to avoid a repeat of massive flooding that submerged the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.
Cimatu’s plans for Cagayan River received a warm reception from four governors and 31 mayors in Cagayan Valley when he met with them on Nov. 23 in Tuguegarao City.
“We will create a working group and conduct a joint meeting to come up with important engineering interventions along the Cagayan River,” said Cimatu, who co-chairs the Build Back Better Task Force created by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to oversee the rehabilitation of areas devastated by recent typhoons.
Cimatu said the planned working group will be comprised of the governors of Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya, as well as the nearby Cordillera Administrative Region.
Aside from the immediate dredging of the heavily silted Cagayan River, Cimatu said strict implementation of the easement rule along its riverbanks is a must.
“We have to follow the 20-meter easement. There should be no building or any structure within the easement zone,” Cimatu said.
Cimatu also asked Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano to address the problem of illegal structures along creeks that block the waterways.
He also instructed DENR Region 2 Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 2 Director Mario Ancheta to work with concerned provincial governments for the relocation of communities living along riverbanks.
Cimatu likewise ordered the MGB to close down small-scale mining operations in a hazard-prone area in Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya, where nine deaths were reported due to landslides during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.
He further instructed the MGB to identify a possible Minahang Bayan site for those who will be displaced by the closure to ensure their safety and continued livelihood, and prevent further destruction of the environment.
At the same time, Cimatu called on local officials whose areas were hit by the recent flooding to ensure the availability of water, electricity, transportation, telecommunication and adequate basic needs.
“Let us first go back to normal,” Cimatu told the local officials.