By Juan Escandor Jr.
NAGA CITY --- With desilting projects scrapped from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) line of projects, Vice President Leni Robredo and local government units from the third district of Camarines Sur are to ask to implement desilting projects following the occurrence of severe flooding in several localities here.
In a meeting Friday of the technical working group (TWG) composed of the DPWH, LGUs, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the Office of the Vice President and the Office of the Third Congressional District of Camarines Sur, the group resolved to ask the DPWH to revive the desilting projects in order to dredge the Bicol River, a major waterway in Camarines Sur.
“We are going to pass a collective resolution of flood-prone municipalities to justify to the DPWH the desilting projects and why they are needed here,” Robredo said.
She said among the localities that suffered severe flooding never experienced before last January include Naga City, Magarao, Calabanga, Milaor, Minalabac, San Fernando, Gainza and other towns along the Bicol River.
Richard Ragrario, DPWH assistant district engineer in the second district here, said that the desilting projects had been banned by the DPWH since the time of former DPWH Secretary Singson because of instances that these projects were abused and used to make money.
Regrario said for more than six years now the DPWH has stopped the desilting projects which resulted in the accumulation of silt in the Bicol River.
He said before Singson scrapped the desilting projects, the DPWH regularly undertakes dredging of the Bicol River through its desilting projects.
Robredo said the flood-prone areas in Camarines Sur are part of the Bicol River Basin where the run-off water from Albay passes through the Bicol River.
“But Bicol River is severely silted including its smaller rivers and creeks which resulted in flooding we never experienced before,” she said.
Robredo said the ban on desilting projects happened because these projects were used as “milking cows” and abuses were aplenty since these are difficult to check.
She said it is now necessary to implement desilting projects of the Bicol River because no amount of dredging of smaller waterways would help resolve the severe flooding if the main waterway is heavily silted.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)(in a paper: Formulation of Integrated Bicol River Basin Management and Development Master Plan, Executive Summary, Vol. 1, July 2015), 81 percent of Bicol River Basin’s 317,103 ha that straddles from the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte comprised of flatlands.
It is drained by two major rivers, the Bicol River and Libmanan River which meet in Libamanan town before they finally empty into the San Miguel Bay.