With support from Bulacan LGUs, stakeholders: SMC sets massive river dredging program in Bulacan

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has committed to help solve the flooding problem in Bulacan by dredging, widening, and cleaning up major rivers in the province, as it gears up for the construction of its P734 billion Manila International Airport in Bulakan town, the biggest airport development in the Philippines.

SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said the company had been in talks with local government units and other stakeholders the past few weeks, to outline the company’s flood mitigation strategy.

The LGUs and stakeholders had been requesting for SMC to replicate its ongoing P1-billion Tullahan-Tinajeros River System dredging project in Bulacan, to help mitigate flooding which has affected Bulacan residents, particularly those living in the low-lying areas of the province.

“Cleaning up major rivers in Bulacan is really part of our plan. That is why many stakeholders, led by the provincial government and local government units, welcome the project. We have committed to help with this issue and show that this airport project will not only provide jobs and boost the economy, but will also provide a long-term solution to the perennial flooding in Bulacan,” Ang said.

To be subjected to river channel improvement, according to Ang, will be tributaries belonging to the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System (MMORS). The plan, he said, is to dredge, widen, and deepen the Alipit or Taliptip River, Sta. Maria River, and the Meycauayan River, to address the risk of upstream flooding.

For the Alipit River, Ang said the target is to achieve a bottom width of 60 meters and a depth of 2.5 meters, mean sea level (MSL) throughout its 7.21-kilometer length. For the Sta. Maria River, target is a bottom width of 90m, dredged depth of 5.0m MSL, and length of 0.50 km.

Meanwhile, for the Meycauayan River, the target bottom width is 80m; dredged depth, 4.5m MSL, and length of 4.46 km.

Ang said the company has also studied future improvements to alleviate the potential risk of flooding, as continued urban development can increase surface runoff volumes. These include further dredging the rivers to increase their top width and dredged depth.

“Constant dredging and cleanup is important for these tributaries leading to the Manila Bay as silt, trash, and other obstructions restrict the free flow of water, caused heavy flooding, and affecting the marine ecosystem and traditional fishing grounds,” he said.

“By dredging, cleaning, and widening these tributaries both in Bulacan along with the Tullahan River System, we can increase their capacity to carry excess rainwater and thus reduce flooding,” he added.

SMC’s flood mitigation strategy will complement the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan Area Drainage System Improvement Project, further improving overall flood mitigation in the province.

Early this year, SMC launched its five-year,P1-billion initiative to dredge and clean the Tullahan River. Some 600 metric tons of dredged soil and solid wastes are being collected daily from initial 5.25 km. stretch from Navotas to Malabon City.

As of October 25, a total of 49,281 metric tons of silt and solid wastes have been extracted. The entire project spans 27 kilometers from the La Mesa Dam to Navotas City leading to the Manila Bay.

The Tullahan River dredging project is in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and is part of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate the Manila Bay. Tullahan River, also acts as a spillway for water coming from Angat and Ipo Dams.

“Our flood mitigation initiatives in Bulacan and Tullahan are part of, and will complement, the government’s long-term flood control projects. We want everyone to benefit from the airport project, particularly the communities around it. As soon as we have completed all government requirements and clearances for the airport and start construction, we will also commence the cleaning and dredging of these Bulacan rivers,” Ang said.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, SMC has committed to pursue various infrastructure projects to help stimulate the economy, including building the airport, which is seen to generate millions of direct and indirect jobs. At P734 billion, it is the largest single-item investment in the history of the Philippines.

SMC acquired larger excavators, a fleet of barges, tugboats, cranes, and dump trucks for the project, and is looking to acquire more as the project progresses.

In two years, SMC is looking to complete the Navotas-Malabon section and dredge a total of 1 million cubic meters from this section alone. The Valenzuela and Caloocan section of the Tullahan River will be next in the pipeline.

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