What good things come after calamities?
After the devastating flood caused by Tropical Storm Sendong on December 17, 2011, people who lived near the Cagayan de Oro River were afraid to see it rise during heavy rains. The rumbling floodwaters, which killed hundreds of people who were trapped in their homes, still haunted those who had seen how the houses along the riverbanks were washed down to the shores, leaving P12,086,284,028 in total estimated damage across sectors and P1,239,837,773 in total
Although Northern Mindanao has major rivers, the area was not considered a typhoon belt. Nonetheless, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had included the Cagayan de Oro River in its River Basin Master Plan for a Flood Risk Management Project (FRIMP), similar to the flood control projects funded under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan facility for the Cagayan River in Cagayan Valley, the Tagoloan River in Misamis Oriental, and the Imus River in Cavite.
Engr. Gil Iturralde, project manager of the DPWH's Unified Project Management Office (UPMO)-Flood Control Management Cluster, said in an interview that the Cagayan de Oro River was not a priority before Tropical Storm Sendong hit the city.
It was only after Sendong that FRIMP-Cagayan de Oro River (CDOR) was fully considered, as JICA made its preparatory survey for the project in 2013–2014.
In March 2014, priority work was identified, followed by the signing of the JICA loan agreement in March 2015. The project’s contract package 1 started in December 2018, contract package 3 in March 2019, and contract package 2 in May 2019.
In December 2022, contract packages 1 and 2 were substantially finished, while contract package 3 is ongoing.
FRIMP-CDOR was made to protect people and property from the bad effects of climate change. It is made up of dikes or flood control structures like road dikes, floodwalls, and bridges. The goal of the project is to make the areas along the Cagayan de Oro River, from Macajalar Bay to the Pelaez Bridge, less likely to flood.
This will help the people who live there be more resilient. It involves the implementation of structural and non-structural measures.
The basic considerations in the design and implementation of the flood risk management works are the topographic, social, and development conditions in the area, as well as the flood damage caused by Typhoon Sendong.
Once completed, this project will protect 614 hectares of commercial and residential areas with some 21,700 buildings and 60,900 people against Sendong-like floodwaters.
Building enormous flood control projects requires billions of pesos. Iturralde estimated that the total cost of the three FRIMP-CDOR packages would be around P8.549 billion for the 12-kilometer stretch of flood control project along the Cagayan de Oro River.
Part of the project is right-of-way (ROW) acquisition and the construction of a resettlement site for affected landowners and residents living near the river. "DPWH spent some P1.448 billion to compensate the affected landowners and residents," Iturralde said.
Promoting interconnectivity and green spaces
FRIMP-CDOR is not only building floodwalls. It has road and bridge components to promote interconnectivity and decongest traffic in the city. For instance, a road dike has been constructed from Barangay Nazareth to Kauswagan and in Barangay Carmen as well.
The vacated lots along the river will be converted into parks and recreation areas, as these are classified as "no building zones." Greening along the riverbanks will also be intensified to protect the structures against soil erosion.
Complementing "Project Lunhaw"
While the DPWH is working on FRIMP-CDOR, the city leaders of Cagayan de Oro have started "Project Lunhaw." This project aims to make the city more resistant to climate change by taking a "ridge-to-reef" and "ecosystem-based" approach.
Eileen San Juan of Project Lunhaw said in an interview that "the green strategy component focuses on nature-based solutions, which emphasize the conservation, sustainable management, and restoration of natural ecosystems and increase their resilience against the impacts of climate change."
As soon as FRIMP-CDOR is finished, the city government plans to put up a boulevard, commercial spaces, and parks inside the river wall.
Lunhaw, which is a Visayan term for green, is being adopted to promote public open green spaces in the city to make it more livable from now on. (FPG/PIA-10)