QUEZON CITY, Nov. 18 (PIA) - Alcala, Cagayan town mayor Cristina Antonio shared the findings of a study that connects environmental deterioration to the severe flooding brought by Typhoon Ulysses on November 13 during Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque's press briefing held in Alcala, Tuesday, November 17.
The research described several factors that led to the increase in the level of flooding that occurs specifically in the towns near the Cagayan River in the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan.
One of the findings said the Cagayan River, which widens up to 400 meters, abruptly narrows down to 180 meters from Barangay Tupang in Alcala and up to Barangay Magapit in the town of Lallo, Cagayan. A tributary, the Pared River, flows into the Cagayan River at a point before the 180 constriction, thus causing the rise in the water volume and the backflow of the current at the area where the two rivers meet.
As narrated by Mayor Antonio, other factors that contributed to the abnormal flooding are the loss of forests along the mountains and watersheds in the whole of Cagayan Valley, which naturally regulate water flow and prevent soil erosion.
The cutting of trees was attributed not only to illegal logging but also to agriculture along the mountain slopes, specifically yellow corn farming and the use of herbicides that destroy all vegetation that make the soil firm.
Earlier, Mayor Antonio stated in a Facebook post that several responses were already implemented in Alcala, such as the shift from yellow corn farming to agro-forestry and the planting of native trees within their watersheds, communities and along their roadways. The local government is also preparing to plant trees as flood barriers in highly vulnerable communities.
However, the most urgent but difficult countermeasure to the disastrous flooding as recommended by the study is the widening of the narrow segment of the Cagayan river from Alcala to Lallo. According to the mayor, this was already recommended before in the 1987 Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) report on the flooding of the Cagayan River. However, it was not carried out.
The research was conducted by Fernando Siringan, former director of the UP Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) and among the foremost river and marine geologists in the Philippines, along with fellow scientist Keanu Jershon Sarmiento.
From July to October this year, the geologists have studied the rocks, banks, vegetation, the bending or meandering of the rivers, the width of the channel and flood plain, the rivers' depths, the flow of water, as well as the communities that are continuously affected by flood and erosion.
Almost five days after Typhoon Ulysses, the Cagayan River is still swollen with floodwaters. The typhoon has claimed several lives, most of which are from the Cagayan Valley. (JKC/PIA-IDPD)