The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is making it possible for local government units (LGUs) to undertake dredging and river restoration projects without spending taxpayers’ money.

This developed as DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu recently issued an administrative order rationalizing dredging activities in heavily silted river channels across the country in a bid to restore their natural state and flow, and reduce flooding.

DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2020-07 provides that private contractors shall cover all expenses of dredging operations in river dredging zones (RDZ) to be identified by a provincial inter-agency committee created under the directive.

“No funding from the government shall be made for the conduct of dredging activities by the private sector,” Cimatu said in the order.

“Holders of dredging clearance shall provide the financing, technology, management and personnel necessary to implement dredging activities within the exclusive RDZ,” he added.

Under the DAO, only duly registered companies with technical and financial capabilities to undertake large-scale flood control dredging and desilting operations may apply for a dredging clearance with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The private contractor will have 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.

Prior to engaging private contractors, LGUs that are interested in undertaking river restoration through dredging activities within their jurisdiction must submit a letter of intent to the Office of the DENR Secretary.

The administrative order creates a provincial inter-agency committee composed of the governor as chair, DENR regional executive director as vice-chair, and regional directors of DPWH, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Environmental Management Bureau as members.

By removing the accumulated debris, dredging can restore the waterway to its original depth and condition, thus preventing floods. It also removes dead vegetation, pollutants, and trash that have gathered in these areas.

Cimatu’s latest order is pursuant to the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2019, issued by the DENR, DPWH, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Transportation.

The joint circular seeks to protect and restore to their natural state and water flow the heavily silted river channels in the country.

Last year, Cimatu issued four DAOs in relation to the restoration of silted rivers through dredging, based on the separate requests of the provincial governments of Zambales, Oriental Mindoro and Negros Occidental. #