The government task force dealing with the recovery of typhoon-stricken communities has made significant gains in pursuing rehabilitation and post-recovery initiatives since its creation three months ago.

"In the months since we set out to work in November last year, we have now set into motion significant post-disaster recovery initiatives in three priority geographic areas involving the restoration of Cagayan, Marikina, and Bicol river basins," said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB) chair Roy A. Cimatu.

Cimatu and TF BBB co-chairperson Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark A. Villar led the ceremonial dredging of sandbars along Magapit Narrows in the river’s constricted midstream, and planting of bamboo propagules on the riverbank of Brgy. Bangag, Lal-lo town in Cagayan province last February 2.

The first phase of the dredging operations entails the removal of three priority sandbars along the Magapit Narrows, which significantly hinder the flow of flood water to the Aparri Delta draining to the Babuyan Channel. The sandbars cover a total of 235 hectares with a volume of seven million cubic meters.

Based on the TF BBB's latest report, about 10,000 cubic meters of sand and silt were already removed from Magapit Narrows in Barangay Bangag and Fugu sandbar in Barangay Dummun.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority-trained local residents were hired as laborers and equipment operators to help carry out the dredging operations.

Aside from the rehabilitation of Cagayan River, the DENR has also engaged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to provide employment assistance to 120 local residents for the planting and nurturing of bamboo trees in Tuguegarao City, and the towns of Alcala, Enrile, and Gattaran.

This will be implemented through DOLE's "Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers" or TUPAD program.

So far, 3,672 bamboo seedlings have been planted covering 18 hectares along the riverbank of Cagayan River.

Moreover, the TF BBB has started work on the enhancement of forest protection activities in Region 1 (Ilocos Region), Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), and Cordillera Administrative Region through a tripartite memorandum of agreement signed by the DENR regional offices in these areas last February 5.

The task force is also set to begin the widening and dredging of some portions of Marikina River on February 17.

The pilot dredging will be in the portion of the river near Marcos Highway in Barangay Kalumpang, while a simultaneous bamboo planting activity will take place on the banks of Barangay Industrial Valley Complex, both in Marikina City.

Cimatu said the restored riverbanks will be planted with bamboo to help prevent riverbank erosion and siltation, one of the strategies that the TF BBB has adopted in the rehabilitation of Cagayan River.

The DENR chief also pointed out that efforts are now underway to commence the dredging and desilting of Bicol River and Lake Bato, as well as the rehabilitation of floodgates and rivers around Mayon Volcano.

He explained that the dredging program for Marikina River and Bicol River are also coupled with nature-based solutions, such as the planting of bamboo in stabilizing the river banks.

"We are also looking at the development of bamboo plantations so we can provide livelihood opportunities to communities in outlying areas near these waterways," Cimatu said.

From February 9-12, a total of 49,509 bamboo culms have been planted, covering approximately 173 hectares, on the river banks of Albay (8,500 bamboo culms), Camarines Sur (30,000 culms), Camarines Norte (10,000 culms), and Catanduanes (1,009 culms).

Some 151,381 bamboo seedlings are now being prepared at the DENR Bicol field offices in time for the planting season in May.

The river bank stabilization activity, through the planting of bamboo culms in Bicol region was a program of the regional TF BBB led by the DENR, in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Around 815 beneficiaries of DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program were tapped during the planting activity.

The beneficiaries received family food packs through DSWD's food-for-work program on the last day of the planting.

Along with the identified beneficiaries, DPWH, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and local governments, including the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Housing Authority (NHA), Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Army, also participated in the bamboo planting.

Cimatu attributed these initiatives to the "whole-of-society approach" pursuant to Executive Order (EO) No. 120 signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on November 18, 2020.


He pointed out that the initiatives reflect the Duterte administration's priority on disaster risk reduction and environmental resilience, livelihood restoration, national-level support to response systems at the community level, and support to local governments for managing recovery.

"Beyond restoring these areas to their pre-disaster state, our marching order from President Duterte is to enable affected families and communities to spring back stronger and better than ever,” Cimatu said.

President Duterte signed EO 120 creating the TF BBB to ensure post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery efforts of typhoon-hit areas.

The task force is a high-level institutional platform and a more permanent body that will streamline and expedite post-disaster efforts in a sustained and integrated manner, with a clear unity of command.

Members of the task force include the chairperson of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and secretary of Defense; secretaries of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, National Economic and Development Authority, Transportation, Interior and Local Government, Energy, Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Budget and Management, Finance, Education, Health, Social Welfare and Development, Labor and Employment, and Science and Technology; and general manager of the NHA.

Administrators of NIA; Land Registration Authority; Local Water Utilities Administration; National Electrification Administration; Philippine Coconut Authority; and chair of the Cooperative Development Authority are also among the members. #