THE National Irrigation Administration (NIA) clarified that the heavy siltation of the Magat River, the Cagayan River and their tributaries and the heavy rainfall brought by Super Typhoon ‘Ulysses’ were behind the recent massive flooding that hit Cagayan Valley and nearby provinces.
Former Armed Forces chief and NIA administrator, Ricardo ‘Bong’ Visaya, in a statement sent to People’s Tonight, also stressed that people in the affected areas were already notified two days before Ulysses (international code name, ‘Vamco’) struck to vacate to safer grounds as Magat Dam would have to release its water to protect the dam’s integrity and to prevent a bigger catastrophe.
Visaya said the public notice was already sent out on November 9, 48 hours before Ulysses made initial landfall in the province of Quezon on the evening of November 11.
“NIA-MARIIS (Magat River Integrated Irrigation System) officials have warned residents living near low-lying areas, particularly those adjacent to and along Magat River and Cagayan River to move to higher and safer places as the dam continues to release water starting November 9.
“It is necessary to release water from the reservoir for purposes of preventing the dam from reaching its critical level of 193 meter above sea level as not doing so may compromise its structural integrity and may result to a catastrophe to nearby municipalities and more impact on a widespread flooding in Region II,” the official explained further.
Edgar dela Cruz, hydrometerologist at PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), in a media interview last November 15, also confirmed that the heavy flooding in Region II was not due to the water released by Magat Dam but due to the heavy downpour caused by the typhoon.
Visaya also pointed to earlier studies showing that the Cagayan River basin is already “shallow” due to siltation caused by land erosion.
This, in turn, was due to the continued operation of illegal logging in the province and nearby areas.
“We need everybody’s cooperation to stop illegal logging and to take care of our watersheds if we are to mitigate flooding not only in Cagayan but in other parts of the country as well,” Visaya told this reporter.