Bicol river is an awesome gift of nature to the Bicolanos. It is located encompassing a wide swathe of hills, valleys and mountain ranges in the southern Luzon island. It has a total drainage area that averages up to 1,456 sq. miles (3,771 sq. kms) and an influence size of 6,247 sq. miles (10,054 sq. kms) in the region.
It is easily discernable from the air, “as the crow flies.” The drainage basin properly locates`itself on the central portion of the provinces of Camarines Sur, a little bit of Camarines Norte and the northern part of Albay.
The big river feeds from small creeks and streams that partially traces its source from the lakes of Bato, Buhi and Baao. These lakes are catch basins of the run-off from the waters of nearby mountains of Iriga, Mayon, Masaraga and Malinao.
Tributaries from the Isarog mountain also converge its flow to the river together with the minor Sipocot waterway which source could be traced from the Bicol national park, a close neighbor to, and perhaps an extension of, the Sierra Madre mountain ranges.
Easily, then, Bicol river is both the queen and mother of all rivers in southern Luzon due to its size and influence. It holds sway and impact on the fertile and floodplains of the provinces, dictating the state of economic well-being and status affecting thousands of lives of people- including farmers, fisherfolks, travellers, etc., around its sphere of natural terrain.
In two instances, the national govenment was prompted to implement ambitious agro-economic infrastructure programs in the region owing its name from the river.
The first project aptly named Bicol River Basin Development Program (BRBDP) was a mammoth stride (during the height of Ferdinand Marcos’ presidency and the first year of president Corazon Aquino’s) that ran between 1978 and 1987.
The project was anchored at the division of areas within the basin into Integrated Area Development (IAD) teams geared at improving the socio-economic well-being of the people thru agricultural infrastructure supports, among others.
The project banded together the cooperation of vital regional government agencies to attain its mandated objectives. Worth mentioning here is that the program’s U. S. dollars came from international funding agencies and became more of a milking cow to those who made the most of it.
No remarkable change or impact on the lives of intended beneficiaries was ever attained on this bungled, white elephant-like program.
BRBDP first headquartered at the provincial public works office at barangay Haring in Canaman town until it was relocated at the capital town of Pili.
The buildings there are what stands to be the monument of the government’s ineptness of handling the project, tolerance for corruption, divisive and lack of incisive leadership. Maybe, one current city official of Naga can attest to this.
(Last part of this series, below:)
Bicol River Basin is a Repository of Failed Programs