THE PUBLIC Works department plans to build six dams along the Cagayan river in northern Philippines to improve flood control, officials on Wednesday told a Senate committee investigating heavy floods that submerged many parts of Luzon island after it was hit by a typhoon this month.
“Out of these six dams, two are planned to be a flood control dam, so that not all the water will go straight to the Cagayan river,” Jerry A. Fano, an agency engineer, told senators in mixed English and Filipino.
This was part of the 2002 master plan for the Cagayan river, which recommended dams in Cagayan, Magat, Ilagan, Alimit, Siffu, and Mallig towns, he said. The river only has one flood control dam, which is Magat dam.
The recommendations also included a 450-kilometer dike system, three cut-off channels in Gabut, San Isidro and Tuguegarao and riverbank protection in 73 locations.
The construction of a 150-km dike system, three cutoff channels and river bank protection in 21 locations were among the priority projects this year, Mr. Fano said.
Public Works Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain said they would review and update the 2002 master plan after recent floods.
National Irrigation Administration Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya on Tuesday blamed illegal logging for the floods that submerged many parts of Luzon.
He said water from Magat Dam was not the major cause of flooding in Cagayan Valley and Isabela provinces at the height of Typhoon Vamco, locally named Ulysses.
The agency had also followed protocols and gave enough information to local governments before water from the dam was released, he told a House of Representatives hearing.
Think-tank Infrawatch PH earlier said Magat dam had failed to make the sufficient water drawdown two to three days before the typhoon hit.
Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said idle and unoccupied units in resettlement sites should be used to house residents in hazard-prone areas.
“There are at least 13,000 housing units in government resettlement sites that are idle,” she said. “We can use these units to help the residents in vulnerable and hazard-prone areas to start anew.”
She also asked the local disaster agency to look at how some public housing facilities were located in danger zones.
Meanwhile, the House minority bloc has sought another hearing where the mayors of Cagayan and Isabela and other Cabinet secretaries will be invited.
“The legislative inquiry on the severe flooding brought about by typhoon Ulysses has given us a glimpse of how our current system of disaster preparedness and response inadequately works,” House Minority leader Joseph Stephen S. Paduano told a news briefing. “Instead of getting answers, we now have more questions than answers.”
Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo blamed the lack of coordination among agencies for the floods.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) owns and operates the Magat Dam. It generates revenue by supplying water to privately owned hydroelectric power plants.
“Even if NIA is a government-owned and -controlled corporation, it is still incumbent upon them to exercise extra diligence in ensuring that water releases during heavy rainfall will not put the surrounding communities at risk of death and property destruction,” Ms. Quimbo said. “Ultimately, we should begin to re-think dam management in the country.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza