TUGUEGARAO CITY: People living along the Cagayan River on Sunday opposed a planned multi-billion dredging which they claimed will disturb and destroy an endemic fish sanctuary and deprive them of livelihood.
Residents of Amulung, Alcala, Gattaran, Lallo and Camalaniugan towns feared that established areas for fishing will be destroyed as soon as the dredging commences.
Alejandro Abad of Gattaran town who earns a living from fishing said the dredging activities will “surely disturb and even displace endemic fish resources”.
Abad said a villager can catch at least three kilos of fish and shellfish daily and sells it for a good price to support his family.
He said that if the project proceeds, it will disturb the habitats of variety of endemic species particularly siganids (malaga), shrimps and shellfishes as well as crabs and crablings in the wild.
A very recent geo-hazard mapping and study was conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) which recommended the dredging of the “heavily silted” Cagayan River “to avoid further erosions”.
MGB senior geologist Felicitas Piligan said they have alerted concerned local government units of the river’s siltation which prevents the flow of water when there are flashfloods.
“We observed that there are islet formations in the middle of the river which usually alter the direction of the flow of water, thereby, causing continuous erosions along the Cagayan River banks,” Piligan explained.
Piligan said that during the mapping, they have warned affected communities based on the initial results of the assessment conducted in their areas which are vulnerable to landslides and floods.
“We have also recommended some measures to avoid any untoward incident during calamities. But it is up to the communities if they adopt these measures or not,” Piligan said.
MGB regional director Mario Ancheta said that they have repeatedly advised communities and local officials to relocate to safer grounds or establish a resilient evacuation centers during calamities.
Ancheta also allayed fears of fishing ground disturbance saying it is best to dredge Cagayan River so that endemic fish species can come in to thrive and propagate.
University of the Philippines marine geologist Dr. Fernando Siringan, after conducting a bathymetric study in the lower Cagayan River, recommended to the provincial government the need to dredge the silted parts of the river.
Siringan also discovered constriction of channel due to sand bar growth which causes severe flooding during rainy seasons.
“Dredging will lessen flooding problem and reduce river bank erosion. The geomorphic study of the Cagayan River also helps evaluate potential sites for the establishment of a port in the mouth of the river,” Siringan explained.
He said a large area of the lower part of Cagayan River is prone to rapid geomorphic changes “which is why dredging is very necessary to remove siltation and to eventually help solve flooding in some parts of the province”.
But dredging cannot be a long term solution on the flooding problem.
“Local officials need to associate some programs which help prevent soil erosions such as tree planting in the upland and mangrove planting along the seashore,” Siringan said.
Meanwhile, Siringan said that there is a huge reserve of black sand in the whole stretch of lower Cagayan River but warned government officials to use it for the benefit of the people and economic growth without sacrificing the environment and the marine resources.
“There is a need therefore for the provincial government to put up a black sand processing plant as there are enough resources in the province instead of selling them to other countries in a very minimal cost,” he said.
The Cagayan River is the longest and largest river in the Philippine Archipelago. It is located in the Cagayan Valley region in northeastern part of Luzon island and traverses the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan.
The river’s headwaters are at the Caraballo Mountains of the Central Luzon at an elevation of approximately 1,524 meters. The river flows north for some 505 kilometers to its mouth at the Babuyan Channel near the town of Aparri, Cagayan.
The river drops rapidly to 91 meters above sea level some 227 kilometers from the river mouth. Its principal tributaries are the Chico, Siffu, Mallig, Magat and Ilagan Rivers.