Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB) Chairman Roy A. Cimatu has announced the dredging of sandbars along a narrow section of the 94-kilometer Bicol River starting March 23.

"TF BBB's rehabilitation efforts on the Bicol River completes the triumvirate targets to which we have committed ourselves to complete within the term of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for Cagayan River, Marikina River, and Bicol River," Cimatu said.

Cimatu pointed out that the TF BBB has early on mounted activities, such as easement recovery and river bank stabilization efforts through planting and raising of bamboos, prior to the March 23 launch.

"In fact, 49,509 bamboo seedlings have already been planted by some 850 beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which provided some 1,000 food packs for these planter-volunteers," Cimatu said.

The area planted with bamboo covers a total of 173 hectares located in 33 barangays--one in Catanduanes, 24 in Camarines Sur, four in Camarines Norte, and four in Albay.

The DSWD is also expected to provide additional 1,000 food packs for its beneficiaries tapped for the planting activity through its food-for-work initiative under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

The beneficiaries will receive family food packs on the last day of planting activities.

Cimatu added that at least 171 lots have been identified by the National Housing Authority (NHA) for resettlement of informal settlers affected by the Bicol River flooding during the onslaught of typhoons Ulysses and Rolly in 2020.

The environment chief will be represented by DENR Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia during the ceremonial launch of dredging and massive bamboo planting activities in Camaligan, Camarines Sur.

Garcia will be joined by Camarines Sur Gov. Miguel Luis Villafuerte and NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr., who also heads the TF BBB in Bicol region.

The Department of Public and Highways (DPWH) has estimated around 58,235 cubic meters of deposited sand materials that will be dredged from the middle section of Bicol River.

Citing the DPWH figures, DENR Regional Executive Director for Region 5 Antonio Abawag said the constricted portion of Bicol River in Camaligan is currently 31 meters wide from its ideal width of 80 meters.

He said the sandbar to be dredged is about 49 meters wide and 500 meters long.

DPWH-Bicol Region Assistant Director Gerald Pacanan said the dredging will also require a depth of five meters to restore the river’s natural flow rate.

Pacanan reported that the dredging activity will require 281 days using two amphibious excavators, which have a capacity of 17.28 cubic meters per hour each, for a total of 1,686 working hours at six hours per day.

He said the completion can be achieved in 52 days if a bigger multi-purpose amphibious excavator with a capacity of 153 cubic meters per hour can be added to the two excavators, resulting in reduced total working hours of 311 hours at six hours per day.

The Bicol River is the eighth largest river in the country in terms of drainage basin size.

It encompasses 90 percent of Camarines Sur and Albay, while the rest lies in Camarines Norte. ###