Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB) chairperson Roy A. Cimatu is pushing for the early completion of the removal of sandbars in Bicol River from 2025 to 2023, and in the Cagayan River from 2028 to 2025.

To accomplish these, Cimatu requested the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for additional P1.45 billion and P3.2 billion funding assistance to purchase new equipment for the dredging operations in Bicol and Cagayan River Basins, respectively.

Part of the proposed funding for the Cagayan River dredging activity is for the restoration and replacement of 40 floodgates along the Naga-Calabanga embankment worth P64.1 million.

Cimatu said the TF BBB's achievements in the restoration of the river basins of Cagayan, Bicol, and Marikina are proof that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can finish the project faster and more cost-effective than by hiring private contractors.

"This is really a big policy shift and I hope the next administration will continue this. They cannot afford not to continue this," Cimatu said.

"You can just imagine if we bid these out to contractors, baka wala pa sa kalahati nagagawa natin ngayon," he added.

Cimatu, who likewise heads the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction said that while priority funding should be made to address the pandemic crisis, "priority should likewise be given to equally important efforts on climate change and disaster mitigation programs meant to assure the country of its food security and prevent, or at least minimize loss of precious infrastructures due to flooding."

"If we invest now, the best option is to already have these pieces of equipment this year," Cimatu said noting the TF BBB’s initiatives "will go a long way in accelerating the recovery of the country from the social and economic disruptions from the global pandemic."

The Cagayan River Dredging Plan consists of eight phases with projected completion within the first quarter of 2025 with the additional equipment. The undertaking, however, will likely extend until 2028 if limited to DPWH’s existing fleet.

Meanwhile, the Bicol River Dredging Plan is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2025 using the present fleet of DPWH equipment but can be shortened by two years if request for additional equipment is granted. ###