Velasco Seeks Review Of Dam Protocols

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Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday emphasized the need to review dam protocols to prevent a repeat of devastating floods that swamped Isabela and Cagayan provinces during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

During the House hearing on the cause of the deadly “Ulysses” floods, Velasco pointed to climate change and the release of water from Magat Dam as potential causes for massive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela during the typhoon.

“One of the causes na nakikita po natin dito (that we see here) is climate change. Because of the heating of water, talagang pinapasok po tayo ng iba’t ibang typhoon sa ating bansa (several typhoons enter the country),” Velasco said.

He noted that the water discharge from the dam worsened flooding situations in Cagayan and Isabela at the height of Ulysses.

“On top of that (climate change), na-aggravate po ito nung pag-release ng water mula sa (this was further aggravated by the release of water from) Magat Dam,” Velasco said.

House Deputy Majority Leader Bernadette Herrera, meanwhile, said outdated protocols have possibly contributed to the massive floods that killed at least 29 people in Cagayan Valley.

“We need to look at the current structural framework as it seems to me that we are merely acting on early warnings and not being proactive in times of critical danger,” said Herrera.

Herrera argued that there is no single agency that can account for what truly caused the flooding, nor analyze forecasts and recommend measures to mitigate damages in the future.

It was bared during the hearing that protocols for releasing waters from dams were based on protocols set in 2006.

It was also discovered that the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) can only predict up to 50 percent accuracy the amount of rainfall on incoming storms.

House agriculture panel chair Mark Enverga highlighted several lapses in the coordination of concerned agencies within the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) during the onslaught of “Ulysses”.

“We will need to take a closer look at the way the interagency council coordinates with the different departments because it is apparent that what they’ve done was not enough to prevent deaths and destruction from happening,” Enverga said.

National Irrigation Administration chief Ricardo Visaya, however, maintained that the opening of the water gates of Magat Dam was not the major cause of the flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.

Visaya presented a matrix showing that from Nov. 9 to 14 amid the typhoon, the peak water inflow at Magat Dam was at 7,128 cubic meters per second, but the dam released only at 6,706 cubic meters per second.

He said the water level at Buntun Bridge, which measures the water level of Cagayan River, was at 13.2 meters.

Visaya said it could already be concluded based on the matrix that the opening of the water gates of Magat Dam was not the major cause of the flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.

“Can we draw now a conclusion from this matrix? Yes. Is it really Magat Dam that provided or the major cause of the flooding in Cagayan? I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s very clear that ‘yung (the) contribution ng (of) Magat Dam sa (to the) flooding ng (in) Cagayan was not really the major cause.”

The severe flooding, he added, could have been prevented with better implementation of anti-illegal logging, mining, and quarrying activities.

“We have to look into the other factors that could have contributed to the flooding of Cagayan. Kung ini-implement lang nang mabuti ang anti-illegal logging activities, ‘yung sa (If we have only properly implemented anti-illegal activities, the) illegal mining, illegal quarrying, maybe we can prevent the flooding of Cagayan River,” he said. (PNA)

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