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Need to revisit protocols on releasing dam water cited

LAWMAKERS on Tuesday underscored the need to revisit protocols on releasing water in dams to prevent a repeat of the devastating floods that inundated Cagayan and Isabela during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

This came up during the hearing conducted by the House committee on agriculture and food and the special committee on North Luzon growth quadrangle on the resolution filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano seeking to investigate the cause of the deadly Ulysses floods.

Velasco, in his opening statement, said it was important to review dam protocols and other preventive measures to mitigate the destructive power of tropical cyclones as brought about by climate change.

The Speaker 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 is climate change. Because of the heating of water, talagang pinapasok po tayo ng iba’t ibang typhoon sa ating bansa,” Velasco said.

He added 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 Magat Dam,” Velasco said.

During the hearing, House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera pointed out the possibility of outdated protocols contributing to the massive floods that killed at least 29 people in Cagayan Valley.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, who also filed her own resolution seeking an inquiry into the “untimely and irresponsible” of opening of floodgates of dams and watersheds in Luzon when Ulysses hit.

“There doesn’t seem to be one agency that can account for what truly caused the floodings, nor analyze forecasts and recommend measures to mitigate damages in the future,” she stressed.

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.

Agriculture panel chair and Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga said that there seems to be 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 inter agency 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.

“I understand that the NDRRMC enabled us to save money as opposed to creating a department, but as we have seen in this investigation, it is not as effective as we’ve once hoped,” Enverga stressed.

The joint investigation was held via a hybrid of virtual and physical hearing. Present were officials of the National Irrigation Administration headed by Administrator Ricardo Visaya, PAGASA Administrator Vicente Malano, NDRRMC Executive Director Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, DPWH Project Director of Flood Control Ramon Arriola, and representatives of concerned local governments units.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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