THE dredging of the Cagayan River will begin next week to prevent the flooding that hit the region after major typhoons last year, an economic planner said.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Region 2 Director Dionisio C. Ledres, Jr. said the removal of sandbars will begin next week. The sandbars have been constricting the river waters, contributing to the flooding problem.

“On Feb. 2… the DPWH (the Department of Public Works and Highways), the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), and Task Force BBB (Task Build Back Better) will start the dredging operations downstream,” he said.

He added that the major sandbars were in priority locations like Concepcion, in the municipality of Amulung; San Isidro, in Iguig; and Dassun in Solana.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said in a statement that the dredging “is the culmination of weeks of meticulous planning and detailed coordination to ensure that each of the dredging equipment is safely transported to the sandbar sites and that bamboo is grown at critical portions of the riverbank needing immediate measures to address stream bank erosion and instability.”

The Cagayan River overflowed in various locations in November. Dredging is a long-standing request by local governments.

Mr. Ledres helped present NEDA’s report on the Cagayan Valley Floor and Mitigation program at a joint hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Special Committee on the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle.

“We have this plan… and we are lucky that agencies are working together. We proposed structural and vegetative measures to control the flooding,” he said. Structural actions will be done by the DPWH while vegetative plans will be DENR’s responsibility.

Besides dredging, some other measures proposed by NEDA include desilting the Magat Dam in Isabela province, channel widening, opening of secondary channels, channel realignment, and construction of dams and dikes.

The Office of Civil Defense, at the same hearing, said it is proposing the creation of a National Dam Safety Council, in emulation of the practice in other countries, where a specialized agency is in charge of the upkeep and the regular assessment of dams.

The release of water from the Magat Dam contributed to the flooding in the region during typhoons in November. — Gillian M. Cortez