MANILA - Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba on Wednesday urged the national government to improve the Cagayan river to save the province from destructive flooding and spur economic activities in northern Luzon.
If the Cagayan River can be "restored" to its "old glory," Filipinos in the northern part of Luzon can benefit from tourism and trade from neighboring countries in East Asia, Mamba said during a Senate hearing on flood control projects.
This came in the wake of historic flooding that inundated most of the province in the wake of Typhoon Ulysses, leaving people begging for rescue atop the roofs of their homes.
"I hope you could help us out now because our province in northern Luzon... we do not even enjoy kahit mga Chinese lang sana na turista dito sa amin (even the arrival of Chinese tourists here)," he said.
"If we only restore the Cagayan river to its old glory, I think Cagayan and the north will enjoy as far as economic activities are concerned," he said.
He said in earlier interviews that the river was heavily silted, limiting its water holding capacity.
Reopening the port in Aparri, situated in the northern tip of mainland Luzon, can easily boost trade and tourism in the Cagayan Valley region, the governor said.
"We could see the interest of the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Korean and even the Japanese on the agriculture, aquaculture and livestock of our province," he said.
Mamba also urged the national government to constitute an agency or task force dedicated to the development of the Cagayan river basin, one of the largest and longest rivers in the country.
The Cagayan river spans 520 kilometers and flows through 122 cities and towns in the provinces of Cagayan, Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Aurora, according to data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
"There was never a superbody that would take care of the Cagayan river basin," he said.
The governor said he tried to craft that body when he was still a lawmaker, but the proposed measure did not hurdle the committee level.
The usually 4-meter-deep Cagayan river swelled to nearly 14 meters after the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses as rainwater from nearby provinces washed down to the river and the Magat Dam released water.
Cagayan incurred P4.95 billion in damage because of the floods, which left 2,200 families either trapped on roofs or forced to flee to evacuation centers.