The ceremonial sandbar dredging and bamboo planting along Bicol River on March 23 signaled the massive rehabilitation of the country's eighth largest waterway, under the Bicol River Restoration Project led by the Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB).

The TF BBB, chaired by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, was tasked by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to conduct post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery programs in areas struck by four successive destructive cyclones in 2020.

DENR Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia, who represented Cimatu during the project launch on March 23, announced the approval of President Duterte to construct seven flood control projects and rehabilitate flood gates and pumping stations along the Bicol River system.

"To provide long-term protection to the people of Bicol region is the reason why we are pursuing the construction of flood control projects, a sustainable dredging program and river bank restoration in the Bicol River," Garcia said.

The event held in Camaligan, Camarines Sur was also attended by TF BBB-Bicol Region ground commander and National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr., Camarines Sur Gov. Miguel Luis Villafuerte, and Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr.

"Our short, medium, and long-term plans for these areas are already in place," Garcia said, referring to TF BBB's rehabilitation and recovery initiatives in Cagayan River and Marikina River since February, and now, the Bicol River.

Jerry Fano, head of the Project Office of the Flood Control Management Cluster of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), explained that the drainage capacity of Bicol River has been greatly reduced, especially in its downstream section.

Bicol River's average width of 80 meters has narrowed to 55 meters, which significantly contributed to the widespread flooding in the region's outlying areas.

The DPWH has identified 10 sites for immediate dredging of an estimated total volume of 1.63 million cubic meters of sandbars, Fano said.

"This dredged material is equivalent to 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools," he said.

An Olympic-sized pool measures 50 meters long, 25 meters wide and has a minimum depth of two meters.

Fano said the DPWH will also dredge 9.4 million cubic meters of silt along Lake Bato, specifically at the junction of Naporog River and Quinale “A” River.

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

Ninety percent (90%) of Bicol River is in Camarines Sur and Albay, while the rest lies in Camarines Norte. ###