Mine dams safe amid heavy rains in BenguetInquirer Northern Luzon
BAGUIO CITY–Philex Mining Corp. and other mining firms operating in the Cordillera declared on Thursday that their tailings dams remain safe and stable contrary to reports that have panicked lowland communities as heavy rains pounded the region.
Fay Apil, acting Cordillera director of Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said a text message traced to a sender in Barangay Ampucao in Itogon, Benguet, claimed that an explosion had damaged Philex’s tailings dam on Thursday.
Anything discharged from the tailings dam would have been swept down to the San Roque Dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan, through the Agno River, she said.
Operators of San Roque Dam as well as Pangasinan officials have inquired about the reports, Apil said.
But the reports turned out to be false. Philex engineers inspected the firm’s facilities and reported that their tailings pond remains intact, said Felizardo Gacad, MGB Cordillera mines division chief.
The only unusual report coming out of the mining areas in Benguet was that sustained rains had filled up an idle open pit mine in Itogon town. The open pit is about 25 meters high and spans 30 meters, Gacad said.
“The open pit is already half-filled with water, so the rains may have added another 150 cubic meters of water,” he said.
Salvador Olinares, chief of the Baguio weather station, said the summer capital received 464 millimeters of rain from 8 a.m. Wednesday to 8 a.m. Thursday, about double the 246 mm rainfall volume recorded from Tuesday to Wednesday. The Monday to Tuesday rainfall volume was recorded at 242 mm.
But the volume of rain that fell over the summer capital has not exceeded the rains accompanying Typhoon “Pepeng” in 2009, which was recorded at 600 mm for a 24-hour period, Olinares said.
“Thursday’s rains were not even dumped by Typhoon ‘Gener’ anymore. We have been experiencing enhanced monsoon rains. It is the rainy season after all,” he said.
The rains also flooded the City Camp Lagoon, a residential area that serves as a catch basin of the city. Floods rose to 10 feet in sections of the community on Wednesday, but the water soon receded.
Apil said the faster rate by which water in the City Camp Lagoon subsided meant that an improved discharge tunnel, that cuts through a nearby mountain, has been working.
“We inspected the tunnel last week to see if government engineers had followed our advise about reinforcing certain underground tunnel foundations. The community also cleaned the area last week before Gener struck,” she said.
The city disaster risk reduction and management council recorded minor landslides and toppled trees around the city since Monday, which caused power outages, but power has been restored by the Benguet Electric Cooperative in most parts of the city.
In the Cordillera, the Office of Civil Defense added another fatality in the aftermath of Gener’s wrath. Two residents of Itogon, Benguet, died Tuesday after they were buried by landslides.
Rescue workers recovered the body of 34-year-old farmer Efren Forawit, who disappeared on July 31 after he crossed the Chico River in Sadanga, Mountain Province to visit his farm. His body was recovered in Barangay Mapacu in Pinukpuk, Kalinga on Wednesday.
OCD Cordillera said two 15-year-old boys from Buguias, Benguet, identified as Jerry Turo and John Regueros, were reported missing.
Two persons–Jennilyn Palo, 38, of Mt. Province, and Veronica Bautista, 19, of Benguet–were hurt in separate landslides.
OCD said authorities evacuated 127 families, composed of 598 people, from La Trinidad, Benguet and Baguio City.
OCD said the following Cordillera roads remain closed to traffic on Thursday while work crews rush repairs or clearing operations: the Mapalong section of the Abra-Kalinga Road in Abra; the Shilan-Beckel Road and the Topdac section of the Baguio-Bontoc Road in Benguet; the Pantikian section of the Kalinga-Abra Road in Kalinga; the Mabaay-Sadsadan section of the Baguio-Bontoc Road, the Mt.Province-Ilocos Sur Road via Tue and via Kayan, and the Mt. Province-Cagayan Road via the Tabuk-Enrile Road in Mt. Province.
In Pangasinan, heavy rains kept submerged at least 20 villages in two towns and in Dagupan City, prompting school officials to suspend classes in the grade school levels in those areas.
Reports from the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council PDRRMC said four villages in Sta. Barbara town and four villages in Calasiao town were flooded due the swollen Sinocalan and Marusay Rivers that traverse the towns.
Twelve villages were also under water in Dagupan City because of the high tide.
Calasiao administrator Vivencio Vallo said classes have been suspended in the elementary schools of Talibaew, Lasip, San Vicente and Banaoag.
He said flood water level in the villages rose as high as 3 feet, making its roads impassable to vehicles.
Classes in four public schools in Dagupan City also remained suspended.
Gov. Amado Espino Jr. said no typhoon-related casualties were reported on Thursday noon.
During the PDRRMC meeting, Philippine Coast Guard officials reported that two barges ran aground on July 31 in Barangay Aloleng in Agno town.
No one has claimed the two barges, which were marked Soekawati 2709 and Soekawati 2708.
Senior Supt. Mariano Versoza Jr., Pangasinan police director, said the Coast Guard was still establishing the registry of the barges.
“If the owners are identified and the barges are determined to be illegal entrants, we will file appropriate charges against them. If the barges were were swept accidentally by the typhoon, we will just let them tow the barges,” Versoza said.
He said Coast Guard personnel could not yet go near the barges to investigate because of heavy rains and huge waves in the area.
At 4 a.m. Thursday, the Agno River Basin Flood Forecasting and Warning Center in Rosales town recorded an average rainfall of 116.5 mm in the past 60 hours, causing the province’s three river systems to swell.
As of noon Thursday, the water elevation at the San Roque Dam in San Manuel town was 274.51 meters above sea level (masl), which is only 5.49 meters from its spilling level of 280 masl.
The Ambuklao and Binga dams in Benguet have been discharging water due to heavy rains in the province. Ambuklao has four gates open at six meters while Binga has six gates open at 10 meters.
Water released by both dams flows into the San Roque reservoir. (Reports from Vincent Cabreza, Frank Cimatu, Gabriel Cardinoza and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon)