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Gov't boosting disaster preparedness in Cagayan River Basin

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, April 3 – Disaster preparedness will be a major activity in 27,753-square kilometer Cagayan River Basin (CRB) – the biggest of its kind in the country – once its master plan is implemented.

The Cagayan River Basin Control Office (RBCO) spearheads preparation got the guide rehabilitation of this area that covers part of Luzon Island's food basket.

RBCO executive director Dr. Vicente Tuddao Jr. said the master plan prioritized disaster prevention since flooding was a major problem in CRB.

"The plan will particularly address such hazard," he said.

Expected onslaught of more climate change-induced increasingly violent weather disturbances further raised the need to prioritize disaster preparedness in CRB, he said.

Volume of rain is projected to increase from such weather disturbances, further jacking up CRB's risk for worsening floods.

RBCO said CRB covers Region 2 as well as parts of Cordillera Administrative Region and the Philippines' rice granary Region 3.

Among recommended priority strategies to address CRB's flooding woes included reforestation, desilting of Cagayan River, installation of weather forecasting equipment across the river basin and establishment of an early warning system there, Tuddao said.

"River banks need to be stabilized also," he said.

Stabilizing such banks will help lessen soil erosion, which contributes to pollution and siltation in waterways.

Tuddao also said government must build flood control infrastructure in CRB as soon as possible to help save this river basin from more inundation, death and destruction.

Earlier, RBCO presented the CRB master plan to Regional Development Council 2 (RDC 2).

"The plan was approved at RDC 2's executive committee level – its implementation will follow," Tuddao said.

To further help boost CRB's disaster preparedness, Tuddao said authorities concerned must relocate informal settlers from flood-prone areas there.

"They must be resettled in safer ground as soon as possible," he said.

He also said the local government units covering CRB must enforce compliance with proper waste disposal to avoid polluting water bodies so these won't overflow easily.

Tudao cited the state of the Laguna de Bay region, saying rainfall from storm 'Ondoy' in Sept. 2009 raised level of water in polluted Laguna de Bay, causing that lake to overflow.

Such overflow submerged surrounding communities for days.

Authorities reported Laguna de Bay overflowed easily since this water body already lost much of its water-holding capacity due to pollution and siltation.

Such problems reduced the lake's average depth to about two to three meters or a fraction of what this once was, they said. (PNA) RMA/CJT/utb

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