Bicol River basin project starts

By Charen Vera


ON Tuesday, March 23, 2021, government officials convened to kick-start the dredging of the Bicol River Basin. The Bicol River Restoration Launch: Ceremonial Dredging and Bamboo Planting Activity was held in Camaligan, Camarines Sur. The event was graced by Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad of Office of Civil Defense, Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia of Department of Environment and Natural Resources, General Manager Marcelino P. Escalada, Jr. of the National Housing Authority, Camarines Sur Governor Miguel Luis “Migz” Villafuerte, and 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund “Lray” Villafuerte,


“Today is a special event for Camarines Sur. Being your Governor, this was only once a vision, but it is now a reality,” said Governor Migz during the event. “It is important that we build back better the Bicol River, not only because it is the eighth largest river in the entire Philippines, but especially because hundreds of lives in Camarines Sur and other provinces in Bicol are benefitting from the river.”


It can be noted that due to its location, the Bicol Region is highly susceptible to typhoon and flooding. In the Province of Camarines Sur, flooding has been a perennial problem. Even without typhoon, consistent heavy rains can already submerge towns in floodwater, damaging agricultural lands, houses, and infrastructures.


Last year, while all were coping with the measures enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, three typhoons hit the province of Camarines Sur. On October 26, 2020, Typhoon Quinta hit the province with heavy rains causing severe flooding in multiple towns. Only a week after, Super Typhoon Rolly battered Camarines Sur on November 1, 2020, further submerging towns and leaving heavy damages in the homes and livelihoods of the Camarinenses. The entire province was put under a state of calamity in wake of STY Rolly.


Still trying to recover from the onslaught of STY Rolly, Camarines Sur was yet again hit by Typhoon Ulysses on November 11, 2020. A total of 17 towns and Iriga City out of the 35 towns of Camarines Sur were inundated. Hundreds of millions worth of infrastructures, crops, and homes were severely damaged.


In order to curb the flooding in the province and to fast track its rehabilitation and restoration, Governor Migz wrote a letter of intent to undertake river restoration through dredging activities.


Pursuant to the Executive Order No. 120 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on November 18, 2020, the task force Build Back Better was formed to strengthen the rehabilitation and recovery efforts in typhoon-hit areas.


“Camarines Sur, unlike Albay and Camarines Norte, is in a low-lying area. That’s what makes us the catch basin of floodwaters from neighboring provinces,” said Congressman Lray. “And to think, it has been almost 50 years since the last dredging of the Bicol River, that is why we really have to work together and make this a priority program of the government.”


The dredging and rehabilitation plans and resettlement projects were presented and explained during launching. The location of areas for dredging in Camarines Sur are in Cabusao, Libmanan, Calabanga, Pamplona, Milaor, Minalabac, Gainza, Canaman, Camaligan, Lake Bato, and in Naga City. The dredging of the Bicol River will be followed by a bamboo planting activity and the resettlement of typhoon-victim families.


The Province of Camarines Sur will acquire by July this year two units of a cutter suction dredger with a dredging capacity of 2,000 cubic meters per hour. On a 12-hour operation per day, the two cutter dredging boats can dredge 48,000 cubic meters daily.


Since the Province of Camarines Sur is prone to flooding, it is imperative to come up with actions that will improve the waterways of the Bicol River Basin and will help mitigate flooding. It is also vital for the growth and progress of the province to have sustainable programs that will help promote agriculture, tourism, environment, and housing along the Bicol River.