Dredging operations to open an eight-kilometer common navigational channel from the mouth of Cagayan River have officially started on June 25.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB) chair Roy A. Cimatu said the extraction of silt will enable the rehabilitation and reopening of the Aparri port, which has not been operational for over 10 years.

"This forms part of the Duterte Administration's program to rehabilitate the country’s important vital river systems in disaster prevention while restoring their importance as vehicles of progress to the country’s economy," Cimatu said during the groundbreaking ceremony in Barangay Toran in Aparri, Cagayan.

Last February 17, the DENR through the Inter-Agency Committee on the Restoration of the Cagayan River has signed a tripartite memorandum of agreement with the Great River North Consortium and Riverfront Construction for the dredging and maintenance of the navigational lane.

"The dredging activity targets to deepen the mouth of Cagayan River to about 12 meters from its present depth of only four meters to significantly improve the river flow from the upstream portion. Consequently, it will prevent or minimize the likelihood of flooding in areas along its path covering the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela, and Cagayan," Cimatu said.

Cimatu said the operation also complements TF BBB’s efforts to clear the Cagayan River of sandbars, three of which are prioritized to be fully removed by August.

The DENR chief, together with Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary and TF BBB co-chair Mark Villar, inspected the sandbar clearing operations in Lal-lo, Cagayan before proceeding to the groundbreaking ceremony in Aparri.

The DPWH had identified a total of 19 sandbars for removal but immediate dredging was recommended for three sandbars, which considerably obstruct the flow of floodwater 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 Brgy. Bangag in Lal-lo town covering 11.4 hectares with 334,305 cubic meters of sand; Brgy. Casicallan Norte in Gattaran town covering 89 hectares with 2.7 million cubic meters of sand; and Brgy Dummun, also in Gattaran town, covering 174.70 hectares with 4.04 million cubic meters of sand.

"Granting favorable weather conditions, we are optimistic to finish the removal of all three sandbars within the year or in August, at the earliest," Cimatu said.

The removal of sandbars started in February 2021.

Cimatu said 86.33 percent of the sandbar in the Magapit Narrows in Lal-lo, Cagayan has been finished.

Meanwhile, the removal of sandbar in Dummun, Cagayan started last June 14. This involves the removal of an estimated 882,707 cubic meters of silt, which is expected to be completed within 170 days. ###