Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has recommended the widening of Marikina River to increase its flood carrying capacity after Marikina City and nearby areas submerged in deep flood waters during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

“Marikina River has to be widened to reduce the risk of flooding in the area,” Cimatu said during his visit to Marikina City on Saturday (Nov. 21), three days after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte designated him as chair of a task force in charge of rehabilitating areas devastated by recent typhoons.

Cimatu was accompanied by Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro when he toured Provident Village, a subdivision in the city on the banks of Marikina River.

The environment chief noticed that the river channel was narrow, prompting him to call for strict imposition of easement requirements pertaining to rivers.

“We could increase the volume capacity of the river by implementing the easement law,” Cimatu said.

Presidential Decree 1067, also known as the Philippine Water Code, requires riverbank easement of three meters in urban areas.

“Aside from the three-meter easement provided under the law, Marikina City also came up with an ordinance increasing the easement to 40 meters both sides,” Cimatu said.

As part of the planned rehabilitation, Cimatu said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will evaluate the changes in the width of Marikina River based on the data from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.

“We will look into the old river and how the river became narrower through the years,” Cimatu said. “We will restore the original width of the Marikina River.”

At the same time, Cimatu said the DENR will look into the complaint of the Marikina City government over the alleged reclamation project along Marikina River, which has not secured an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the environment department.

“Definitely, there should be no reclamation. I will really implement the easement law,” he said.

Cimatu said he has directed the DENR-National Capital Region office to look into the non-issuance of ECC, the reclamation, and the retaining wall built along the riverbanks.

“If you build a retaining wall there, the water current will be slowed down and the flow of water in the river will be narrower,” he pointed out.

President Duterte recently appointed Cimatu and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar to head the “Build Back Better Task Force” created under Executive Order 120.

The inter-agency task force will focus on post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery phase in typhoon-affected areas, beginning with those hit by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses. #