Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and Task Force Build Back Better (TFBBB) co-chair Roy A. Cimatu said the government is all set for the removal of sandbars along the constricted section of Cagayan River called "Magapit Narrows" by late January or early February.

"This is a strategic move in the short-term while medium- and long-term solutions for the flooding in Cagayan Valley are still underway," Cimatu said during the Jan. 7 meeting of the TFBBB, which he co-chairs with Secretary Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The three sandbars are located in Magapit Narrows, which is being described by the DPWH as the "constriction point" in the mid-stream portion of the 500-kilometer Cagayan River.

The DPWH reported that the three sandbars have a total estimated volume of seven million cubic meters, covering 235 hectares of sandbars.

These are located at Barangay Bangag in Lal-lo town covering 11.4 hectares with 334,305 cubic meters of sand; Casicallan Norte, Gattaran that covers 89 hectares with 2.7 million cubic meters of sand; and Dummun, Gattaran covering 174.70 hectares with 4.04 million cubic meters of sand.

Of the 19 priority sandbars, Cimatu explained that the DPWH has recommended the immediate dredging of the three sandbars in the Magapit Narrows as these significantly hinder the flow of flood water to the Aparri Delta and finally to the Babuyan Channel.

The DENR chief said the TFBBB is tapping the resources of other national agencies to fast track the removal of the three sandbars, which the DPWH estimates to be completed after a year.

Six units of dredging equipment, which are modular type for ease of transport and assembly in the dredging sites, will be deployed by the DPWH in Magapit Narrows.

The removal of sandbars will be done in 250-meter segments or blocks, while the use of geotubes is proposed for the management of dredged materials.

"This is another showcase of whole-of-government approach," Cimatu said, stressing that the strategy "will drastically reduce the flooding problem in Cagayan Valley."

Twenty-four dump trucks, five bulldozers, five scoop loaders, four prime movers with long bed, and two backhoe loaders from the Armed Forces of the Philippines are on stand-by for deployment to augment the equipment of the DPWH.

Cimatu also ordered DENR-Cagayan Valley Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan to coordinate with her local counterparts at the Department of Labor and Employment and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to ask for assistance from the beneficiaries of Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Workers program as well as TESDA-trained heavy equipment operators and mechanics in the dredging activities.

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar welcomed Cimatu's move to beef up DPWH’s manpower needs with the project operating in two three-hour shifts. ###