NIA eyes new protocols for Magat dam after record-flooding in Cagayan

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2021 04:28 PM

NIA eyes new protocols for Magat dam after record-flooding in Cagayan 1
Screengrab from video with Magat Dam releasing water days after Typhoon Ulysses passed Luzon, November 13, 2020. Cagayan PIO

MANILA— The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) on Thursday said it planned to implement new protocols for Magat Dam, including earlier warnings, after massive flooding in Cagayan and nearby provinces in the wake of typhoons last year. 

Under the proposed new protocols, NIA would have a 24-hour lead time before the preemptive release of water from the Magat dam. The current lead time is 6 hours, NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya explained to the House Committee on Agriculture and Food. 

The Magat River is a major tributary of the Cagayan River.

Visaya added that the agency would also activate the warning stations and incorporate public announcement through text messaging.

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Preemptive release, meanwhile, will be done when the dam reaches 190 meters above sea level and when a typhoon is expected to make landfall within 3 to 4 days in the Cordillera Autonomous Region and Regions 1, 2 and 3. 

The amount of water to be discharged from the dam will depend on the amount of flood expected in the locality based on rain forecast, he explained. 

The proposed protocols, he pointed out, would also show the drawdown of the Magat Reservoir water level 3 to 4 days before the expected typhoon landfall. 

Government agencies will also be informed of the preemptive release at least 3 times. 

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) operations center, on the other hand, will also be asked to issue emergency alert and warning messages aside from information dissemination through mainstream and local media.

NIA, before the arrival of the typhoon, will also coordinate with state weather bureau PAGASA to verify if there are any other weather disturbances or phenomenon, and will also be tasked to check if the typhoon landfall will affect the region. 

Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the UP Resilience Institute, earlier said dam operators could have used the weather agency’s "more or less accurate" forecast to prepare for the dam's water release. 

PAGASA will also update the NIA for the typhoon’s forecast on when it will hit the area, and will verify the rainfall intensity, among others. 

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba had blamed the heavily silted Cagayan River, Ulysses' rainfall, and water released from Magat Dam for the massive floods that submerged his province in November, leaving at least 9 dead.

A disaster official also said more than 13,000 families or 47,000 residents in Cagayan were severely affected by the floods caused by Ulysses and monsoon rains.

The NDRRMC, however, said dams would break if it did not release water to prevent overtopping.

— Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News