To control Butuanon, Cebu City to check haulers, quarry operators

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FOLLOWING the floods that hit Mandaue last Friday, the cities of Cebu and Mandaue are working together to address the flow of water in the Butuanon River, with Mandaue looking to clear the banks of dwellers and build mega dikes, and Cebu looking to put quarry operators under greater scrutiny.

Butuanon River starts in Cebu City, flows through Mandaue City, then drains into the Mactan Channel.

So Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera said the city government is looking into how to address or mitigate the flow and volume of water in the upstream areas of the Butuanon River.

Garganera, who chairs the committee on disaster risk reduction, management and safety, was present at a round-table discussion Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022 with Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes and representatives of national government agencies including the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Office of Civil Defense at the Mandaue City Cultural and Sports Complex.

The councilor said the city government plans to revisit and regulate the hauling and quarrying in the upstream barangays in Cebu City, which he noted as something they had to be serious about.

Garganera said he already met with the mining board Tuesday, Sept. 13, and that he had secured the list of names of those who had been issued hauling and quarrying permits.

The councilor, however, is yet to disclose the number of companies involved in quarrying in the upland barangays in the city.

“Wala man ta moingon nga atong hunungon. We have to regulate nga dili na siya contributory nga magrabihan na nuon ang atong sitwasyon,” he said.

(We’re not saying we will stop their operations. We just have to regulate them so they don’t worsen the situation.)

“I have nothing against quarrying because if you’re against that, we won’t have anything with which to build houses and infrastructure. We just need to regulate the activity because if the digging becomes too much, the level of the digging might already be lower than the foundation of the riprap,” Garganera added, stressing this could be more dangerous once the foundations are weakened and destroyed.

Quarrying involves the clearing of land for the removal of aggregates, such as sand and gravel, for use in the construction industry. Quarrying leaves the land bereft of trees, increasing surface runoff during rains. Sediment influx from quarrying can also contribute to siltation, which reduces the holding capacity of rivers.

The councilor said this is not a time for blaming or pointing fingers but instead a time to sit down and work together.

Garganera also revealed that what the City had so far done upstream, with DPWH and congressional funds, was riprapping.

“There’s nothing we can do. Whatever God has given us, we have to accept. But we can put some infrastructure to mitigate the flow so that it is not damaging and will not expose residents to uncertain situations,” said Garganera.

He said these include proposals to construct a gabion dam, riprap, and strictly implement the water catchment system.

Garganera vowed to continue to coordinate with and support Mandaue City on managing the Butuanon River.

He is also set to discuss the proposed measures for the Butuanon River with Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

“The state of our river is a reflection of the true state of our city. So, if our river is dirty and small, if you’re not able to use the maximum capacity of our river, then forget it, our problems about flood will never be solved. We have to restore our waterways because it’s the way to go,” he said.

Settlers must go

Following the round-table discussion Wednesday, Mandaue City Mayor Cortes said they will no longer allow the informal settlers to return to the riverside.

Based on their discussion, Cortes noted that it is not only the infrastructure component that contributed to the flooding but also the solid waste and informal settlers living within the three-meter easement zone along the Butuanon River.

Over 650 informal settlers live inside the three-meter easement zone along the Butuanon River in Mandaue City, said Johnbee Biton, head of the City Housing and Urban Development Office.

Biton said most of the informal settlers living within the easement zone are from Barangay Paknaan, 296 households; Casuntingan, 114; Tingub, 110; Tabok, 97; and Maguikay, 37.

Cortes said the city government already prepared financial aid of P20,000 for each household that will be displaced.

He said the affected households will also be included in the priority list to occupy the medium-rise housing that the city government will build in Barangays Tipolo and Looc.

This move was welcomed by some people living inside the three-meter easement zone along Butuanon River in Mandaue City.

Walter Flores, a 50-year-old resident of Zone Tangkong in Barangay Paknaan, told SunStar Cebu Thursday, Sept. 15, that they will not object to the city government’s plan to relocate them to medium-rise housing so long as the area is not also prone to flooding.

“That’s better, because with the constant floods here, we’d still have to keep on swimming. We hope the government will take pity on us. That would be much better,” Flores said on relocating.

Flores, who has six children, said he and his wife have no other place to relocate themselves, so it would be best if the city government secured a place for them to live.

Flores, who has lived by the riverside for over 40 years now, said last Friday’s flood was the “worst” he had experienced, as it swept away the two houses of his aunts, which were just a few meters away from his but nearest to the river.

Neighbors Ruel Magdadaro and Josephine Tariman, who reside inside the three-easement zone along the river in Zone Batong, Barangay Paknaan, said they had nothing against the removal of their houses.

“We would leave if there was a proper relocation, but not one that’s far from here. It would be good if it would still be here in Paknaan,” said Magdadaro, who has lived riverside for about 20 years.

Magdadaro said his means of living is fishing, particularly in Cansaga Bay. He said they had also been used to living in Barangay Paknaan despite the flooding.

Cortes wants to clear an area greater than the three-meter easement zone, though.

The mayor revealed that their initial plan with the City Planning and Development Office is to build mega dikes, wherein the slope protection along the Butuanon River will be a bit higher to control the flood once the water rises.

The mayor also wants to strictly implement the city’s ordinance requiring the putting up of water catchments in establishments to help prevent rainwater from going to the streets.