TABUK CITY, Kalinga – Rep. Allen Jessie C. Mangaoang lashed back at critics of the proposed P5.5 billion Chico River Development project being implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways – Lower Kalinga District Engineering Office (DPWH-LKDEO), saying the project is a lasting solution to the perennial flooding that always threaten the 16 barangays of lower Tabuk and five barangays of Pinukpuk during rainy season onslaught of typhoons.
Mangaoang, who personally lobbied with Public Works Secretary Mark Villar for the multi-year funding of the project, underscored the importance of the putting up of the 18-kilometer long and more than 330-meter wide mega-dike on the critical portion of the Chico River considering that it will translate to the wiser use of local funds for high impact development projects instead of the money being wasted to fund dredging activities along the river which is considered as a mere stop-gap measure to the perennial flooding in the said area.
“We respect the position of the critics of the project but the put up of the mega-dike project must be viewed not on its face value but on its significant impact to the preservation of the sources of livelihood of the people in the affected barangays and the protection of private and public infrastructure from unnecessary damages during the rainy season and the onslaught of typhoons. We want well planned development to be implemented in the city and the province as a whole that is why we initiated the preparation of the feasibility study of the project and the subsequent preparation of the Chico River master development plan that will serve as the blueprint for whatever projects that will be undertaken in the area,” Rep. Mangaoang stressed.
The lawmaker explained that the situation of the river was properly documented, especially before, during and after the onslaught of super typhoon Lawin in October last year, that is why there was merit in the putting in place of a mega-dike that will serve as a long-term solution to effectively and efficiently address whatever flooding that will affect nearly 1,000 hectares of agricultural farms in the threatened barangays, aside from the area becoming an ecotourism and investment haven for potential businessmen wanting to put up their various businesses in the city and the province.
He narrated that sometime in 2004 when he was still the mayor of Balbalan, he was invited to meet former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Barangay Cabaruan here for an ocular inspection on the effects of the flooding in the area due to the occurrence of a typhoon considering that her visit was after the wrath of a typhoon and she ordered concerned local officials to immediately prepare the master development plan for the Chico River, which was never done to date.
According to him, the feasibility study of the project was based primarily on the data obtained by the DPWH-LKDEO from the Tabuk City government and the Pinukpuk municipal government, particularly their comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs) and other technical sources, thus, there is no truth to the allegations by the critics of the project that the preparation of the study was done without the knowledge of the concerned local officials.
LKDEO District Engineer Ireneo S. Gallato pointed out that the conduct of the feasibility study of the project was done above board and it was even an in-house study performed by the unified Project Management Office (PMO) of the department in coordination with the concerned local governments of Tabuk and Pinukpuk.
He claimed through the initiative of Rep. Mangaoang, the DPWH central office was convinced to implement the project through a multi-year funding considering the huge amount required to complete the mega-dike and other facilities of the Chico River development plan.
Aside from the mega-dike as a lasting solution for the perennial flooding in the area, other components of the plan include the put up of an airport, recreational facilities such as bike lanes, bird sanctuary, business and government centers, and regreening of the various portions of the forest reservation, among others.
Initially, the DPWH central office included in its annual budget for this year the amount of P100 million to start the implementation of the mega-dike project while another P200 million was sourced out by Mangaoang from the calamity fund to allow the completion of a bigger portion of the mega-dike.
Mangaoang assured concerned stakeholders that there will be consultations once the comprehensive master development plan will be completed to gather their inputs on how to further improve the plan which will be beneficial to the people of Tabuk and Pinukpuk considering that their fear that their sources of livelihood will be affected will no longer happen plus its value added relative to tourism among others.