NOT the opening of Magat Dam gates but illegal logging and quarrying are the main culprits in the massive flooding in the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.
This was pointed out by National Irrigation Administration (NIA) chief Ricardo Visaya stressing that the agency had followed the protocol in releasing water from the Magat Dam when it reached the spilling level.
Visaya yesterday testified in the congressional hearing spearheaded by the committee on agriculture and special committee on North Luzon Quadrangle.
At the hearing, Visaya presented a document and matrix which showed that from November 9 to 14, 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.
Meanwhile, the water level at Buntun Bridge, which measures the water level of Cagayan River, was at 13.2 meters.
Back in 2009, Visaya said, during Typhoon Emong Magat Dam’s maximum water discharge was at 8,068 cubic meters per second (cms) with the water level at Buntun bridge reaching 9.82 meters.
In monsoon event back in November 2010, the same dam released a maximum of 1,351 cms, lower than during Typhoon Emong. However, the Buntun bridge level reached 12.70 meters
Based on this matrix, Visaya said it could already be concluded that the opening of the water gates of Magat Dam was done gradually and could not be blamed for 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. Nakita natin, it’s very clear that ‘yung contribution ng Magat Dam sa flooding ng Cagayan was not really the major cause,” Visaya said.
Visaya told the members of the panel that other factors should also be looked into as these contributed to the flooding.
The official further said that Magat River is more than 130 kilometers away from Tuguegarao City in Cagayan and therefore, it would take 20 to 24 hours to reach the river in the event that Magat dam discharges water.
Visaya also assured lawmakers that concerned offices and individuals who may be affected by the release of water are warned ahead of time before the release of the water from Magat Dam.
“Six hours before release, activate the warning stations. As much as possible, hindi tayo magre-release ng tubig in any dam after 5 o’clock. Ang tina-target natin dito 3 o’clock.
“We are giving a lead time to all concerned including government offices, LGUs, radio stations, et cetera, six hours para makapag-react sila,” he said.
According to Visaya the massive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela could have been prevented had there been better implementation of anti-illegal logging, mining and quarrying measures.
“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 illegal mining, illegal quarrying, maybe we can prevent the flooding of Cagayan River,” he said.
Visaya earlier said that the gates of Magat Dam had to be opened amid heavy rain from the typhoon to prevent the dam from bursting and causing a bigger catastrophe.