The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has formalized its alliance with 22 national government agencies to sustain the gains made in the restoration and rehabilitation of the Cagayan River even after the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ends in June 2022.
The signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on February 2 highlighted the first anniversary of the Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project (CRRP) under the Task Force Build Back Better (TF BBB) chaired by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu.
“Let us hope that what this administration has started to build back better, the mighty Cagayan River will be built upon by the next administration," Cimatu said in his virtual address to the regional directors representing the 23 national agencies comprising the TF BBB.
He added that the "immediate, impactful, and doable solutions" undertaken by the regional TF BBB member agencies have provided a guide and roadmap to the task force's other priorities on the use of limited resources and has made the first year of the CRRP successful.
DENR Undersecretary for Enforcement and TF BBB focal person for Region 2 Benito Antonio de Leon said the rollout of projects in Cagayan Valley is a "pioneer" in the establishment of a regional task force in light of Cimatu’s recent order for the creation of regional task forces starting in typhoon Odette-stricken regions, namely Mimaropa, Caraga, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao.
"Region-2 TF BBB served as the template for the other TF BBB areas to follow," De Leon said, noting the prompt response of Region 2 member-agencies to convene after President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 20 on November 18, 2020, for the creation of the TF BBB.
At least 19 sandbars have been identified by TF BBB for clearing, of which three are for priority dredging as they obstruct the floodwater flow to the Aparri Delta and to the Babuyan Channel, which is its final destination.
 Phase 1 of TF BBB’s project on flood mitigation in Cagayan River covered the dredging of a sandbar in the Magapit Narrows in Bangag, Lal-lo which was done in nine months, from February to October last year, exceeding its target of 344,304 cubic meters by 17,229 cubic meters.
 The installation of geo-tubes one-kilometer-long is expected to be completed this month as an added engineering measure to protect the 257-meter long Magapit Suspension Bridge in Lal-lo which connects the east and west sides of the Cagayan River.
Phase 2 of the sandbar clearing operation is now at Barangay Dummun in Gattaran with some 112,120 cubic meters dredged as of January 10 or 11.55 percent of the targeted 970,962 cubic meters.
Other salient accomplishments of the TF BBB, through the Region 2 TF BBB, include the establishment of 585 hectares of bamboo plantation along the riverbanks.
About 820.62 hectares were also planted with various tree species through the Enhanced National Greening Program.
So far, 1,580 kilometers have been surveyed in coordination with the Registry of Deeds to facilitate the delineation and easement recovery of the 20-meter easement along the Cagayan River and its tributaries.
For soil and water conservation measures, 250 cubic meters have been built for the small water impounding structures and 5,000 cubic meters for gabions and ripraps in Baggao, Cagayan; San Guillermo and San Agustin in Isabela; and Aglipay and Cabarroguis in Quirino. ###