While Cagayan Valley was still reeling from the devastation caused by destructive typhoons this month, monstrous rains from the tail-end of a frontal system caused flooding in the rice-rich area and a landslide in Mountain Province, according to a report on 24 Oras News Alert on Saturday.
The flooding coincided with a warning from the National Irrigation Administration-Magat River Integrated Irrigation System (NIA-MRIIS) on Saturday of possible flooding, announcing it would discharge almost 800 cubic meters per second (cms) of water.
Residents of upper, middle, and lower Cagayan were warned of possible flooding due to the release of water from Magat Dam.
NIA received criticisms that the release of water from Magat Dam caused widespread flooding in Cagayan and Isabela two weeks ago.
In San Mateo, Isabela, 50 families had their houses flooded after the irrigation canal nearby overflowed its banks.
In a related development, a congressional leader called on the government to convene what she described as a “flood summit” to prevent flooding similar to what occurred in Metro Manila and Cagayan Valley during the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses.
“We have not learned our lesson from Ondoy and past destructive typhoons that visited the country. There must be a comprehensive, holistic and well-coordinated effort to avert flooding,” Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo said.
Castelo, vice chair of the House committee on Metro Manila Development, said the extensive damage and flooding caused by Ondoy was repeated on the same communities by Ulysses like Marikina and low-lying parts of Quezon City’s second district, which she represents.
“Eleven years after, we faced the same problem. Many of those flooded by Ondoy swear that Ulysses was even worse. What have we done during those 11 years? What measures have we taken to prevent similar flooding?” Castelo asked.
Meanwhile, a rescue van from Cagayan got stranded in mud and was hit by rocks after a landslide occurred in Mountain Province.
About 40 families on Saturday were evacuated from a barangay in Tuguegarao after the city in Cagayan experienced flooding anew resulting from incessant rains brought by the tail-end of a cold front.
PAGASA said the tail-end of a frontal system would bring rains over the eastern side of Northern Luzon on Saturday.
NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya however said the gates of Magat Dam had to be opened amid heavy rains from Ulysses to prevent the dam from breaking and causing a bigger catastrophe.
Visaya also maintained that the opening of the water gates of Magat Dam was not the major cause of the flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.
The House Committee on Agriculture and Food thus conducted an investigation to look into the decision of NIA to open the spillway gates of Magat Dam, and if such a move was done following established guidelines and protocols.
At the hearing, Visaya said the Magat Dam was not designed for flood control, as he cited their operations manual that said “[i]t is emphasized that there is no provision for the storage of floodwater in the Magat reservoir unless the reservoir is below the full supply level of 193 (meters) when the flood arrives.”
Visaya added the P5 to P10-million annual budget for the maintenance of the Magat Dam is not enough.
Castelo said the damage to lives, property and the economy in general caused by recent typhoons Rolly and Ulysses “is catastrophic, especially considering that these monsters struck us at a time when we are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We cannot afford disasters like that. The economy and our people will suffer further, “ she stressed.
She proposed that the flood summit involve all concerned agencies, like the Office of Civil Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Department of National Defense, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Metro Manila Development Authority, and the Office of the President.
“Local government officials should be involved in a comprehensive flooding and disaster response program because they are the implementers and foot soldiers on the ground,” Castelo said.
She said the national government could pattern its flood prevention measures after the programs of some European countries that have successfully contained flooding.
She said it was possible that some of the concerned agencies had sent personnel to these countries to study their programs and the flood containment structures they have built.
“We can even ask them to lend us some of their engineers and experts. We have to solve this problem once and for all, or at least lessen flooding in the future,” she added.
Earlier, Castelo urged the government work out a plan for the calibrated release of water in dams during typhoons.
She said it’s not too late to address the issue of releasing water in dams and who makes the decision.
“The matter is apparently left to the operators of the dams and the power plants in them who want to protect their facilities at the cost of losing lives and property of people in low-lying areas like many communities in Quezon City,” she said.
She said there should be a single agency of experts, including meteorologists, engineers, geologists, and hydrologists, that would determine and decide if and when to open a dam’s spillway in case.
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