Rehabilitation efforts in the Bicol River are now poised to go full blast with the start of the dredging of one of the ten sandbars constricting the 94-kilometer river which snakes through the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Albay.

At the launching of TFBBB’s “Bicol River Restoration Program”   held Tuesday in  barangay San Roque in Camaligan, Camarines Sur,   Department of Environment And Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia bared that the construction of seven flood control projects and the rehabilitation of flood gates and pumping stations along the river system  have already been approved by President Duterte.

“To provide long-term protection to the people of this region,” Garcia said, in reference to the four successive destructive typhoons that crossed  the Bicol region which “is the reason why we are pursuing the construction of flood control projects , a sustainable dredging program and river bank restoration in the Bicol River.”

Garcia, representing  TFBBB chair Roy Cimatu, was joined by TFBBB-Bicol ground commander National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr.,  Camarines Sur Governor Miguel Luis "Migz" Reyes Villafuerte and Camarines Sur, 2nd District Representative  Luis Raymund “Lray” Villafuerte  Jr.

“Our short-, medium-  and long-term plans for these areas are already in place,” Garcia said, referring to the ongoing TFBBB rehabilitation and recovery initiatives that started last February in disaster-affected areas in Cagayan Valley, the Marikina River Basin and Bicol.

According to Engineer Jerry Fano, head  of the Project Office of Flood Control Management Cluster of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH),  the drainage capacity of the river has been greatly reduced  especially the downstream portion of the river where average river width of 80 meters is now reduced to just 55 meters thus contributing to widespread flooding in outlying areas.

Fano, also representing DPWH Secretary and TFBBB co-chair Mark Villar , noted that they have identified priority 10 sandbars that need to be dredged which have  an estimated  total volume of 1.63 million cubic meters.

“This dredged material is equivalent to 200 Olympic-size swimming pools,” Fano said, noting an Olympic-size pool measures 50 meters long, 25 meters  wide and a minimum of  two meters deep.

He likewise said that Lake Bato, from which Bicol River starts, needs to be dredged involving some 9.4 million cubic meters of silt, specifically at the junction of Naporog River and Quinale A River.

Fano noted that despite the smaller amount of rainfall brought by  Typhoon Ulysses that hit Bicol in November 11-12 last year, it caused massive flooding in Bicol because of the amount of rains from three previous successive storms that hit almost the same areas within two weeks (typhoons Quinta  on October 25-26 and  Tonyo  on November 8-9) resulting to the super saturation of the catchment area of Bicol River.  Super Typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni) with the maximum sustained strength of 195 kph – compared to Typhoon Yolanda with strength of 190 kph -  is the strongest typhoon in history to make a landfall (PAGASA).

Citing data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Fano said Bicol bore the brunt of Typhoon  Rolly in terms of damages to infrastructure at P12.2 billion or 97 percent of the total P12.9-billion infrastructure damage in Luzon due to the typhoon.

Fano also added the Bicol region accounted for P3.6 billion  or 72 percent of the total P5-billion  in damages to agriculture in Luzon left by the typhoon. xxxx