The removal of sandbars to clear the constricted section of Cagayan River, known as the Magapit Narrows, and the massive planting of bamboo along its bank will begin on February 2, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and Task Force Build Back Better chair Roy A. Cimatu announced on Wednesday.

"This is the culmination of weeks of meticulous planning and detailed coordination to ensure that each of the dredging equipment is safely transported to the sandbar sites and that bamboos are grown at critical portions of the riverbank needing immediate measures to address stream bank erosion and instability.

Almost a kilometer length of the riverbank in Barangay Bangag in Lallo will be planted with 925 bamboo propagules during the launch.

Cimatu stressed that the sandbar clearing and growing of bamboos “are inseperable twins” that TFBBB has adopted as a strategy to protect nearby agricultural lands and crops from damage during typhoons.

On top of the six amphibious dredgers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), a total of 40 dredging equipment are expected to be deployed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which consists of dump trucks, bulldozers, tractors, and scoop loaders.

The launch will formally open the first phase of the dredging operations, which entails the removal of three priority sandbars along the Magapit Narrows covering a total of 235 hectares with a volume of seven million cubic meters.

A total of 19 sandbars have been identified by the DPWH but immediate dredging was recommended for the three sandbars, which significantly hinder the flow of flood water to the Aparri Delta draining to the Babuyan Channel.

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

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.

The planting operation will hire as laborers some 100 local residents who are beneficiaries of Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Workers program of the Department of Labor and Employment.

The dredging operation will include 48 laborers and operators trained by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

"This is whole-of-government at its best, with the support from almost all national agencies and the Cagayan provincial government," Cimatu said.

The DENR chief is expected to be joined by TFBBB co-chair DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and AFP Chief of Staff General Gilbert Gapay during the launch of the first phase of dredging activities on February 2.

Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba, Isabela Gov. Rodolfo Albano, Quirino Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua, Cagayan local chief executives Matthew Nolasco of Gattaran and Oliver Pascual of Lallo, DENR-Cagayan Valley Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan, and DPWH-Cagayan Valley Director Loreta Malaluan have also collectively worked on the programs. ###