Bulacao River rehabilitation to displace 500 households

In this photo taken on April 24, 2023, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama leads the groundbreaking ceremony for the three-meter easement project in Barangay Bulacao. The project is one effort of the City Government to restore the city’s major waterways.
In this photo taken on April 24, 2023, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama leads the groundbreaking ceremony for the three-meter easement project in Barangay Bulacao. The project is one effort of the City Government to restore the city’s major waterways. File photo

MORE than 500 households within the three-meter easement zone of the Bulacao River in Cebu City are advised to prepare for relocation as part of the City Government’s project to restore the city’s eight major waterways.

In an interview with the “Gubat sa Baha” teleradyo program of the Cebu City Government on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, retired colonel Jefferson Omandam, Bulacao river commander, said they have completed tagging the affected houses along Bulacao River and are now involved in river upkeep and maintenance of a biofence, which is a garbage-collecting barriers.

After the October 2023 barangay elections, Omandam and his team met with the elected officials from the barangays covering the Bulacao River to brief them on the City Government’s project on rehabilitating rivers and waterways.

The Cebu City Government launched its three-meter easement development project on April 12, 2023, as a restoration program for Bulacao River, Estero de Parian, Lahug River, Mahiga River, Tagunol Creek, Guadalupe River, Kinalumsan River and Butuanon River.

Bulacao River, which stretches over more than 27 kilometers, covers four barangays: Pamutan, Toong, Bulacao and Inayawan.

Omandam said at least 12 to 15 families in Pamutan will be affected by the clearing operations, while over a hundred families in Bulacao and Inayawan will require relocation.

However, he clarified that there are no affected families in Toong since no one resides within the easement zone.

Omdam said three-meter easement zones are considered non-buildable areas by law and are deemed beyond the reach of commercial activities.

The rehabilitation of the city’s rivers is part of Rama’s vision of a Singapore-like Cebu City. The initiative, involving the clearing of the three-meter easement along rivers of informal settlers and illegal structures, is also expected to mitigate flooding.

The City Government and the Department of Public Works and Highways are working on providing facilities for those who will be displaced.

Pamutan bridge redesign

Meanwhile, Omandam said they also conducted a thorough study in redesigning a bridge in Barangay Pamutan which is identified as a contributing factor to the overflow in Bulacao River during downpour.

He said they already informed the barangay captain, including the city’s Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW), to pay attention to the redesign of the bridge.

“Ang katong atong gihimo na tulay didto, di na siya applicable karon. Aduna nay climate change. Tungod sa volume of water that cascades from the hilly portion of that area, di na makaya maong maglunop didto sa Bulacao River,” he said.

(The bridge we constructed there is no longer applicable. There is already climate change. Due to the volume of water cascading from the hilly portion of that area, it can no longer withstand it, thus causing flooding in Bulacao River.)

Omandam said they have yet to receive updates from the DEPW.

Biofence maintenance

Omandam said the river troopers in Bulacao River are currently engaged in river upkeep and maintaining the river’s biofence intended to hold waste drifted during floods.

He said negotiations are underway with specific establishments, including Visayan Electric, found to be encroaching on the easement zone.

Omandam said they did not give a deadline to the company since the structure does not obstruct water flow.

However, some of Visayan Electric’s structures in the area have already been dismantled as part of ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with regulations.

Cash-for-work program

Meanwhile, Omdam said at least 63 families have already benefited from the National Government’s cash-for-work program, aimed at assisting affected families in river cleanup efforts.

He said the program, facilitated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, provided employment opportunities for the affected families.

He said they expect that within this year, another batch will be able to work under the program.

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