Malacañang announced on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet okayed plans to build infrastructure that would help prevent flooding in Marikina and Cagayan province, after typhoon Ulysses in November had trapped residents on top of their rooftops as they waited for rescue from floods.
In a meeting held last Monday, the Cabinet approved recommendations of the Build Back Better task force in charge of typhoon rehabilitation efforts, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
The plans include the widening of the Magapit narrows and the removal of 19 sandbars in Cagayan River; removal of illegal structures in Marikina river; fast-tracking proposed DPWH flood mitigation projects including the Upper Marikina Dam and the Parañaque Spillway Rehabilitation of existing floodgates and pumping stations and construction of seven flood control projects along Bicol River.
According to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who co-leads the task force, the contractors would dredge the heavily-silted rivers for free, in exchange for being allowed to sell or use sand from there. They will be required to pay a 4-percent excise tax, he said.
Contractors should be Filipino firms, but will be allowed to sell the sand to China.
China is undertaking massive reclamation projects including in the disputed South China Sea, where it has denied Philippine claims and encroached upon the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“There is an agreement there that the sand they got cannot go to some places like the West Philippine Sea, the Scarborough Shoal. There are specified areas where they could go,” he said.
The West Philippine Sea is the country’s EEZ in the South China Sea.
China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the international waterway believed to be rich not only in marine resources but also of gas and minerals.
China claims over almost the entire South China Sea, where it reclaimed disputed features and fortified those with military installations, but this has been invalidated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016.