Cagayan de Oro City

Cagayan de Oro river quarrying bad for whitewater rafting, group warns

JB R. Deveza

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Cagayan de Oro river quarrying bad for whitewater rafting, group warns

WET ADVENTURE. Whitewater rafting adventure-seekers enjoying the rapids of the Cagayan River.

JBD

A local whitewater rafting group says they are not getting enough support from the city government, despite the activity being a long-standing tourism attraction in the city

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Organized whitewater rafting outfitters in Cagayan de Oro are sounding the alarm over the quarrying of sand and gravel at the Cagayan River, saying these activities are drastically altering the features of the river.  

Chisum Christopher Factura, president of the Oro Association of Rafters (OAR) and co-owner of Kagay Outdoors, said they feel they are not getting enough support from the city government, despite the activity being a long-standing tourism attraction in the city.

It is estimated that some 20,000 tourists come to Cagayan de Oro City annually for whitewater rafting.

Factura said at least four quarry operators extract sand and gravel from the Cagayan River both from Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon.

He said that, unlike the periodic flooding that naturally shapes and reshapes the river, mechanized man-made activities permanently alter the river.

“It is ironic that we promote rafting as the OTOP of Cagayan de Oro and yet the city does not seem to object to these projects,” Factura said.  The OTOP, which stands for One Town, One Product, is a government program aimed at promoting local entrepreneurship and boosting economic development in various localities by focusing on unique products or industries that a place specializes in.

Factura also said quarry operators as well as other human activities in the area also seem to have made wildlife sightings more rare.

Grinding noise

“We used to see monkeys, monitor lizards, snakes, and other wildlife as we paddle along the river,” Factura said.

Factura said the grinding noise made by backhoes has also dampened the experience.

“Before you used to only hear the river and various birds but now machines are what you hear,” he said.

Factura said while they understand the need for sand and gravel, he said the city should at least identify which areas for quarrying and which stretches of the river should be protected so ecotourism activities can continue to prosper.

Monitor

Asked for comment, Engineer Armen Cuenca of the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office said his office has been monitoring the quarrying activities, at least those that fall within the city’s jurisdiction.

Cuenca identified two quarry firms from Cagayan de Oro operating in the Cagayan River. 

Records show one of the two was granted a permit to operate in 2022, valid until January 17, 2024. The other firm’s permit, given in 2023, is also set to expire on March 14, 2024. Both are allowed to extract sand and gravel from the riverbed.

But Cuenca said while they have been regulating the operations of both, they are powerless when it comes to quarry firms operating from the other side of the riverbank.

The Cagayan River, which has its headwaters in the Kalatungan Mountain Range and Kitanglad Mountain Range, traverses the municipalities of Talakag, Baungon, and Libona in Bukidnon and empties into Macajalar Bay in Cagayan de Oro.

To craft a common understanding of allowable activities in the river, Cuenca said it may be best to gather the different stakeholders, like local government units and other interested parties, under one roof.

Cagayan de Oro Councilor Jay Roa Pascual, who chairs the city council’s Committee on Tourism, said he agrees with Cuenca and added that he also plans to hold a committee hearing in the coming months.

Pascual said he hopes Bukidnon officials, especially from Talakag and Baungon towns, will take part in the hearing. – Rappler.com

JB Deveza is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.

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