MANILA — The government's disaster recovery task force on Wednesday started the dredging activities in Marikina River, in a bid to prevent future flooding in the city that was inundated by recent typhoons.
The Task Force Build Back Better, chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also found out that 25 lot parcels, with a total area of 27 hectares, were illegally reclaimed.
The pilot site for the dredging was held at a portion of the river near the Olandes Sewage Treatment Plant.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the 27 hectares were reclaimed without the necessary permits, with some completely encroaching into the Marikina River.
Eight of the lot parcels were found to have been reclaimed with no titles or claimants. Five titled lots were also found partially encroaching into the river, while 16 titled properties were constructed in the river itself.
Cimatu said the illegally reclaimed portions reduced the river’s capacity to carry excess water during typhoons and heavy rainfall.
“Sa easement law, no structure will be built 3 meters from the banks of the river. ‘Yan ang titingnan namin. Likewise, to find out paano sila nagkaroon ng titulo dito. We are coordinating with LRA (Land Registration Authority) at DENR,” Cimatu said.
(We are looking into possible violations of the easement law. We will also look into how they were able to get titles.)
“Dalawang bagay ‘yan kung paano sila nagkatitulo. Unahin namin sa DENR mismo. We will be doing an investigation kung sino ba nand'yan noon. How come they were able to get a title? Hindi pwede patitulohan diyan eh. Pangalawa, tingnan din what happened along the way,” he added.
(We are looking at two things regarding the titles. We want to investigate the people involved. You cannot have a title for that. Secondly, we will look into what happened.)
DENR-National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) director Jacqueline Caancan clarified that the initial phase of the restoration will only cover unclaimed and untitled areas.
“Yung inidentify po... mahabang proseso ang ginawa ng DENR-NCR... Inuna namin ang untitled areas. Yung untitled ay public land, yan ang pinrioritize, ang 3 sites. The others would be dealt with, reconciled, harmonized. May tinitignan tayong parameters. Yung inaksyunan ngayon are untitled properties which belong to the government,” Caancan explained.
(We only identified and prioritized untitled areas, going through the long process with the DENR-NCR. The untitled areas are public lands, comprising 3 sites. Those are the parameters we are looking at.)
“May portions na nasa tubig na na-identify. So we are still harmonizing all the records from the LRA and Assessor’s Office,” she said.
(Some portions on the water were identified.)
The Marikina River Restoration project aims to widen the river to its original 90-meter width and 10-meter depth.
Cimatu said the river had become narrower, with the Marikina-Pasig boundary having a width of 80 meters and becoming uneven, varying from 46 to 78 meters. The river’s depth has also dropped, he added.
The task force initially identified 3 priority sites where dredging and excavation would be done.
Cimatu said the task force targets to finish the Marikina River restoration in the city three months or until April.
The task force will also dredge the downstream portion of the Marikina River, particularly in the Pasig area where the riverbank is narrower due to the reclamations and presence of illegal structures.
But Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro has mixed emotions about the dredging activity, stressing this should follow the natural topography of the body of water.
“Mayroon kaming cautious optimism. Optimistic kami na kailangan mapalapad at mapalalim ang ilog para mabawasan ang pagbaha sa city,” Teodoro told ABS-CBN News.
“Cautious, kailangan maging maingat dahil kailangan makuha ang tamang alignment ng Marikina River at tamang lapad na 100 meters para sa ganon, yung tubig sa upstream areas ay hindi mae-embudo sa isang lugar na kumipot ang ilog na ito,” he added.
The mayor said the DENR and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) must follow the proper alignment of the river.
One of the task force’s priority areas is a portion of the river in the Olandes area. Because of this, a large chunk of land where residents of the community plant their vegetables will be hit by the government’s dredging project.
Teodoro said that instead of dredging on the said land, the DENR and DPWH should instead remove the reclamation project at BF City opposite Olandes.
“Kailangan ang mga na-reclaim na area ay matanggal nang walang takot at pinipili at kinikilingan,” he said.
“Kailangan mapanatili ang natural topography, kung saan ang tatanggalin ay ang nasa kabilang bahagi ng embankment, yung tinambak. Hindi yung natural lupa na nandoon.”
(The reclaimed areas should be removed. The river’s natural topography should be maintained as the other part of the embankment would be removed. The landmass there is not natural.)
The local chief executive said he would appeal the issue to the task force.
“Nagbibigay kabuhayan ito sa lugar sa pamamagitan ng pagtatanim. Kaya sinasama natin sila sa proseso. Dapat grassroots ang maging basehan ng desisyon,” Teodoro said.
“Makikipag-usap ako sa DENR at DPWH. Inaasahan ko na with proper representation and correct consultation process ay maitama ang alignment na kailangan,” he said.
(Planting brought livelihood to our residents, that’s why we included them in the process. The opinion of the people on the grassroots level should be the basis for every decision.)
Public Works Undersecretary Roberto Bernardo said his department would wait for DENR on the areas that could also be affected by the dredging, noting that the project is in its initial phase.
“Kung yun ay pumasok sa linya, kasama iyon sa idi-dredge. Ang basehan natin ngayon, ang survey natin. Hindi ko masasabi na ang alignment ng river, base sa survey, yun ang datos at aming basehan. Hindi kung saan dumadaan ang tubig,” said Bernardo.
(If the area falls within the line of dredging, it will be included. Our basis is our survey. I cannot comment on the alignment of the river because we are basing our decision on the data and the survey.)
After dredging the waterway, restored riverbanks will be planted with bamboo to help prevent soil erosion and siltation.
Teodoro had said that the floods brought by typhoon Ulysses last year caught them by surprise, as the water level from the Marikina River peaked to 22 meters on Nov. 12, higher than the peak of 21.5 meters set during Tropical Storm Ondoy's onslaught in 2009.