Magat Dam operation manual 'blind' to possible flooding downstream - Legarda

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2020 09:57 AM | Updated as of Nov 26 2020 04:42 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) - The operation manual of the Magat Dam is "blind" to possible flooding downstream as its managers prioritize its safekeeping, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda said Thursday.

Legarda said the National Irrigation Authority said as early as around 2002 that the Magat Dam has "no provision for the storage of flood water" in its reservoir and therefore cannot perform its flood mitigation role.

"Clearly, the manual is made to manage the flood in the dam, but does not consider preventive flooding downstream. I believe…it is blind to the existing conditions downstream and will release water to protect the dam no matter what," she told ANC's Headstart.

"You cannot use a dam for irrigation at the risk of killing the people downstream when there are extreme weather events. You cannot use a dam for electricity, for hydro and not care for people downstream," she said.

Residents of Cagayan want to pursue the filing of charges against operators of Magat Dam after the province was submerged in flood water at the height of Typhoon Ulysses' onslaught two weeks ago.

Legarda, who says not one agency is to blame for the floods in several parts of the country, wants an inquiry into the protocols observed by the dam operators and have it "updated based on science."

Different agencies should come together to create this comprehensive plan, which would cover also the release of water from dams, she said. 

She also noted that some P50 billion was allocated back in 2012 for a national reforestation program which could have helped preserve the Magat watershed. It is imperative that the right species of trees be planted and that illegal logging be stopped, she said.

Separate resolutions have been filed before the House of Representatives and the Senate to seek investigations into the deadly flooding in Luzon. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a state of calamity over Luzon, which will allow local officials to tap calamity funds and impose a price freeze on basic goods. 

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