Government should ensure continuous dredging of the Cagayan River and the reforestation efforts in the area if it wants to prevent a repeat of the massive flooding in the area early this week that left nine dead (as of November 14 according to Governor Manuel Mamba) and thousands of people more displaced.
Almost 100,000 people from Cagayan and Isabela in Cagayan Valley Province were forced to flee their homes due to the massive flooding triggered by typhoon “Ulysses” that made landfall late night of November 11.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, who hails from the Municipality of Claveria, Cagayan in Cagayan Valley, stressed this during today’s situation briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte in Cagayan.
“Sa pagpupulong-pulong po, nakita ko nakakalbo ang kagubatan at talaga ‘hong nag-overflow ‘yung sa Buntun Bridge, ‘yung sa Cagayan River. Mapapakita ‘ho dito ‘yung dalawang pangangailangan: Number 1 ‘ho, ‘yung pagtigil ng pagputol ng puno dito o ‘yung reforestation program ‘ho kailangang ituloy ‘yun. Pangalawa, dredging sa Cagayan River. Kung ‘di magagawa ang mga ito, paulit-ulit pong mangyayari ‘yung pagbaha dito (The province needs a continuous reforestation program and dredging of the Cagayan River to avoid massive and dealdy flooding in the area)” Tugade said.
Tugade said the mandatory planting of a specific number of trees should be mandatory for individuals and public transport cooperatives before they are granted a franchise or license. This will help reforestation in various flood-prone areas in the country, he added.
Reports show that the flood reached over 13 meters high in some areas. Flooding is not new to the areas being the catch basin of the tributaries of the Cagayan River. However, many agree that this is the worst flood to hit Cagayan Valley in 4o years.
The release of water from the Magat Dam, one of the largest dams in the Philippines, is also being eyed as one of the reasons for the flooding.
Magat Dam, which was built on the Magat River in 1982, was built for irrigation of agricultural lands and for power generation of the Magat Hydroelectric Power Plant. Ironically, it was also built to control flooding.
Tugade said DOTr will closely coordinate with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local government units to identify areas that require reforestation nationwide.
Tugade also reported on the continuous rescue and relief operations conducted by its attached agency, the PCG, headed by its commandant, Admiral George Ursabia Jr., before, during, and even after the devastation of Typhoon “Ulysses”.
“The Philippine Coast Guard leads the transportation department in Cagayan Valley Region where they work almost non-stop. PCG commandant Ursabia sent floaters, like boat and trucks. We also used choppers and airplanes of the Philippine Coast Guard to help in rescue, retrieval and relief operations,” Tugade said.
DOTr is also set to participate in the distribution of relief goods, including food and water, to typhoon victims.
DOTr and the Department of Labor and Employment, DOTr is also set to donate 100 fiber glass boats to coastal communities. These boats will not only help fisherfolk in their livelihood, but will also serve as rescue equipment when needed.
The Philippine Coast Guard has so far deployed 120 personnel to the heavily-flooded areas in the province.