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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Maritime police seek community approval of Cagayan river-dredging project amid community quarantine

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TUGUEGARAO CITY – The Regional Maritime Unit 2 conducted a Fisherfolks Meeting on April 14, 2021 in Aparri town, Cagayan province. Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in the province, police gathered 20 residents from the barangays of Punta, Dodan and Toran.

However, some residents expressed fear that the assembly might be used as consent to the Cagayan River dredging project.

“They took pictures of us and made us sign an attendance form,” disclosed one of the fisherfolk who attended the said meeting.

During the open forum, the police cited heavy siltation as the reason for the Cagayan river dredging. Police further insisted that it is a “purely dredging project, not black sand mining.”

When asked about what will happen to the dredged materials, the police merely said that it is the “foreign contractor’s concern.”

The dredging is part of the Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project led by the Taskforce Build Back Better composed of key national government agencies and the provincial government. The project aims to reduce disaster impacts, such as flooding, through the rehabilitation and restoration programs.

Various environmental groups oppose the said project, saying that dredging is used as a convenient excuse for the illegal extraction of black sand which contains magnetite, a valuable mineral used in steel production. Dredging is also feared to destroy the marine ecosystem and the lives of fishing communities whose main livelihood depend on these waters.

Residents of Aparri gathered 12,000 signatures petitioning the Local Government of Aparri to stop black sand mining operations in the Cagayan River. The petition was submitted to the House of Representatives last December 2019 and to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last year.#

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