Tuguegarao City—Cagayan’s decades-old problem on illegal black sand (magnetite) mining may finally end with Tuesday’s launch of the Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project, institutionalizing government’s regulation while plugging the perennial flooding in the area.
The Build Back Better Task Force, a multi-agency mechanism spearheading the Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project in Lal-lo, Cagayan, kicked off the Cagayan River upkeep coinciding with the 25th World Wetlands Day.
Dredging of the sandbar along the Magapit Narrows in Barangay Bangag, Lal-lo town began Tuesday with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar leading the start of the river rehabilitation.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Gilbert Gapay joined the ceremonial start of the dredging.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cagayan Valley director Gwendolyn Bambalan, who personally conducted site assessment of the sandbar along the Magapit Narrows a week ago, said of the 19 total sandbars identified by the BBB Task Force, the sandbars in Barangay Bangag and Barangays Casicallan Norte and Dummun in Gattaran are the priority sites for immediate dredging as these obstruct the floodwater flow to the Aparri Delta and to the Babuyan Channel as its final destination.
The government identified dredging to plug the perennial flooding in Cagayan and nearby Isabela, both earlier devastated with the release of massive rainwater from the Magat Dam in Isabela that drains down to the Cagayan River and its tributaries that had been heavily silted since.
The Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Customs seized last week an undocumented Chinese dredging vessel off Orion Point in Bataan province.
The DENR said Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project is a pilot implementation of a landmark game-changing river restoration policy for the environment and river ecosystem protection while undertaking flood control river dredging.
Seen to be copied all over the country’s river systems as a pro-forma strategy in river protection and rehabilitation, the river rehabilitation program that President Rodrigo Duterte himself fully supports, promises to solve the perennial illegal black sand mining on rivers around the country done by unscrupulous groups.
The only mining allowed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Cagayan province is the first-ever large-scale offshore magnetite mining being conducted by JDVC Resources controlled by listed Apollo Global Capital which is set to start this month off the mouth of the Cagayan River in the Babuyan Strait off Gonzaga, Cagayan.
As the first large-scale deep-sea mining in the Philippines, JDVC obtained environment, mining and social permits, licenses and certifications and “secured satisfactory community acceptance” from nearby local government and communities.
The deep-sea mining and exploration will be within JDVC’s 1,897 hectares of mining tenement, located 14 kilometers offshore from the municipality of Gonzaga.